KANSAS CITY — A company’s narrative is more than just how it was founded; it includes how the business is socially responsible and how it gives back to the world. Food manufacturers are picking charities and social initiatives that resound with consumers not only because of the positive social effect but also because of its effect on the bottom line.
Thirty-seven per cent of adults say they would be more likely to purchase products from companies that donate to charities, according to a 2016 report by Mintel, “Perceptions of Companies that Support Charities/Non-profits.” The study also showed 43% of consumers think businesses can make a positive impact on people’s lives and benefit the local community when they give back. By creating a connection to local, national or international charitable organizations, consumers feel they are making a difference when they purchase a product.
The Campbell Soup Co., which owns Pepperidge Farm, is a category giant that stands out for making corporate social responsibility (C.S.R.) critical to its brand’s value. For example, Campbell Soup’s Healthy Communities program began in its world headquarters of Camden, N.J., a town of 77,000 residents, with the goal to address issues of food security, nutrition education and health. This $10 million, 10-year initiative is directed toward measurably improving the health of young people. During the past five years, the effort has expanded from Camden to Pepperidge Farm’s headquarters in Norwalk, Conn.; two manufacturing facilities in Napoleon, Ohio, and Everett, Wash.; as well as Detroit.
|Megan Maltenfort, senior manager of C.S.R for Campbell Soup|
“C.S.R. is a core part of our DNA and has been threaded through much of our work, from farm to spoon,” said Megan Maltenfort, senior manager of C.S.R for Campbell Soup.
The company encourages year-round volunteerism through its Dollars for Doers program. It tracked more than 12,000 U.S. volunteer hours in fiscal year 2016. For every 25 hours an employee volunteered, the partner nonprofit received a $500 grant. In 2016, 93 Dollars for Doers grants were awarded totaling $159,500.
Campbell Soup also hosts an annual week of service — Make A Difference Week — when employees come together to help local communities. Last year, more than 3,700 workers from 17 U.S. locations participated in 110 projects focused on building healthy communities and driving food access.
Campbell Soup aligns its C.S.R. programs with its culture. While the company promotes better-for-you ingredients in its food, it also works with local communities to feed the hungry and increase access to healthy foods. Campbell Soup defines C.S.R. and sustainability as advancing global nutrition and wellness, helping build a more sustainable environment and honoring Campbell Soup’s role in society as a food producer, Ms. Maltenfort said.
“We live this ideal through various programs that touch our communities,” she said. “Our employees volunteer in various ways across communities where we operate, and our Healthy Communities program works to address food security and nutrition.”
|Thao Pham, vice-president of community and executive director of the Clif Bar Family Foundation|
At Emeryville, Calif.-based Clif Bar & Co., founders built the business around what they call Five Aspirations: sustaining business, brands, people, community and the planet. The company established its goals before consumers could easily research on-line and engage through social media to better understand the values of the brands they choose, according to Thao Pham, vice-president of community and executive director of the Clif Bar Family Foundation. Because of that, Clif Bar can be proactive more often than reactive.
“It’s not enough to avoid bad behavior,” Ms. Pham said. “A company has to engage in positive social and environmental impact. The speed and ease through which consumers can get this information today has certainly upped the game.”
Volunteerism is not only encouraged but also expected at Clif Bar. Recent projects include an effort in Twin Falls, Idaho, to build and maintain the city’s regional recreational trails. At its Indianapolis bakery, employees host an annual pack-a-thon in which they put together meals for underserved members of the community. This year, they assembled more than 1 million meals during the round-the-clock, one-day event.
“We encourage our employees to volunteer in the community on company time,” Ms. Pham said.
Clif Bar will have committed to 14,560 hours (equivalent to seven full-time employees) of volunteerism by the end of 2017. By year's end, employees will have donated more than 110,000 hours to community service since the program began.