Do food and beverage companies need to be in growth mode to have a positive impact?
This summer Food in Canada and Grant Thornton hosted a series of forums across the country to talk to food and beverage executives about growth. The result of those discussions – in Langley, BC, Edmonton, Toronto and Halifax – is this year’s Executive Forum (starting on pg. 20), which offers myriad insights into successful business growth.
While there are many paths to business expansion, one of the concepts that came up several times during our discussions was the idea of social entrepreneurship. For growing food and beverage companies, that could mean investing in a particular region or country for socially positive purposes, for instance to help with food security or local employment. It could also mean deciding to produce food or drinks that leave a minimal environmental footprint, or which contribute to good health and nutrition. By committing to a company vision that goes beyond monetary rewards, food businesses are in a unique position to have a lasting, beneficial impact on the communities they serve.
While not all companies are able to operate as social entrepreneurs, all food and beverage businesses should now be considering how they can operate in a more transparent, sustainable, socially responsible manner – consumers demand it, and with the amount of conflict and misinformation in the world today, it’s just the right thing to do. It is already a key concern of companies which successfully expand into new markets, to ensure they have the continued support of suppliers, distributors and consumers in those markets.
But you don’t have to be in a growth mode to make a positive impact. Look at the communities in which you currently operate, or in which your products are sold. How are you connected to those communities and the people that comprise them? Do you source from local producers and hire from the community when you can? Do you invest in local initiatives that strengthen community ties and develop positive relationships? Do you participate in youth or new immigrant employment programs? Have you reached out to work with food banks, community kitchens, places of worship, and food reclamation or redistribution programs? Do you and your team get behind causes which align with your business and your corporate vision? Are you involved in local events or charities? Do you mentor other local business owners?
If your answer to these questions is no, ask yourself why not? Most of these initiatives are not costly or overly time consuming, yet they can pay great dividends in terms of boosting your reputation, improving employee morale, and helping to build stronger, healthier communities in Canada and around the world. As Michelle Obama said, “Success isn’t about how much money you make. It’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.”