As a business you do have ability to make a difference, and there are more
rewards than just feeling good. Numerous studies and surveys have documented
the connection between corporate social responsibility (CSR) and better returns
for companies and investors. According to Tina Sciabica of Social Venture
Network, a nonprofit that brings companies and organizations together to use
business as a force for positive social change, “Socially responsible business practices can produce a number of great benefits, including higher productivity, better employee morale and improved retention, higher returns for investors and
increased profitability as well as increased customer loyalty and enhanced brand
In his book, Jones grades companies on many factors of CSR, ranging from
human rights and animal protection to environmental stewardship and community involvement, but he says, “Overall it basically boils down to taking responsibility for the power you have to make a difference and being aware of the ripple
effect you have on the world through the actions you take.”
Here are some of the ways that socially conscious companies are causing a
positive ripple effect, both globally and in their own backyards.
Social Responsibility in The Global Market
Organic goji berries from the Himalayas, cocoa from Madagascar, cotton from
Turkey—today, the consumer demand for exotic products grown in far reaches
of the world, along with the lean
domestic supply of many ingredients, has led many companies to
source around the world including
developing areas such as Africa,
Asia and Latin America. However,
as we search the globe for ingredients and manufacturing partners,
we must change the way we look at
the workplace. The labor rights we
have in First World countries don’t
apply in many of these places.
Employees are often subjected to
poor working and living condi-
tions with no access to health care Wholesome Sweeteners’ fair trade premiums provided
or education and wages that on clean water to the Malawi people.
average total less than $2 a day.
But as a business operating in the global market, you can set a positive example for the way that global business should be done. From embracing fair trade
principles and investing in fair trade ingredients, to working with indigenous
communities to protect their natural resources and offering educational and economic opportunities—there are many ways that companies can take action to
make the world a better place.
Fair Trade. In 2007 alone, Mintel forecasted 57 percent growth of fair trade
beverages and a 150 percent increase in fair trade food introductions. Fair trade
guarantees a minimum price for farmers and requires that certified growers
invest in community projects such as health care and education. Certified operations must also meet rigorous environmental standards that include continuous
improvement, prohibitions of the most dangerous chemicals, safe handling of
approved chemicals and incentives to move toward organic certification.
Currently, the selection of fair trade
certified organic ingredients available
includes cocoa, bananas, rice, sugar,
vanilla, coffee, tea and a variety of
extracts including vanilla, coffee and
chocolate. Fair trade organic honey
recently became available as well and
other options are sure to be added as
TransFair, the U.S. fair trade authority,
explores certifying other commodities
such as spices. TransFair has also started working with Under the Canopy,
an eco-textile manufacturer, to establish a pilot program for U.S.-certified
fair trade organic cotton.
So what impact have fair trade programs had on developing countries?
In 2007, fair trade sugar alone provided close to $500,000 in social premiums that have funded the development of everything from health and
dental care clinics, schools, offices,
mills and other infrastructure, to radio
stations (used to communicate vital
data) and crop diversification projects
to promote biodiversity.
One company that has made a positive impact is Wholesome Sweeteners,
one of the largest importers of organic
fair trade sugar, and now organic fair
trade honey. Wholesome pays premiums to a co-op in Malawi, Africa, that
recently used this funding to put in a
well, providing safe water to the entire
village. They also brought electricity to
the village and are working on a community health center and programs to
combat the AIDS epidemic. Malawi
has one of the worst rates of AIDS in
the world. Other operations in Africa,
such as Zambezi Organic Forest
Honey have used fair trade dollars to
provide AIDS education and essential
health promotion items such as mosquito nets to protect against malaria.
Some manufacturers may not have
gone through the official fair trade
certification, but instead have developed other ways of ensuring fair and
sustainable practices. For instance,
Partnerships for a Better World, a sup-