If doing ‘good’ is good, then telling people must be good too right? – It is if you do it right. There is probably no other industry that does as much to help its communities both domestic and abroad than the coffee industry. As a group, we spend millions, if not billions, of dollars giving back in time, treasure, and talent.
What we do not do a lot of is bragging about our good deeds. Bragging or being boastful is frowned upon in most societies. The coffee industry is no exception. Nobody likes a person or a company that tries to prove themselves better than others because of their social activities.
This poses a problem to those involved in corporate giving. “How can I celebrate the good deeds our company does without seeming boastful, or worse, self-serving?” The solution requires tricky choices.
A new industry is forming in the background to assist those involved corporate giving to make the tricky choices and navigating the waters of corporate responsibility in the safest, most positive way. A company called Track the Impact invented a cloud-based application called Profits 4 Purpose. Co-Founders Karen Cebreros and Lisa Lindgren put the situation this way, “Businesses wanting to make a difference in their community can excel their effort by partnering with non-profits. Social impact strengthens a company’s integrity, credibility and boosts employee morale. If businesses help their community, in turn, the community will want to help the businesses – it is a cycle from which everyone profits. According to research done by Cone Inc., 85% of Americans would rather do business with a company that is cause-related, and 74% of people are more likely to recommend to others a company that gives back to the community. Track the Impact provides a simplified system to manage community involvement and empowers organizations of all sizes to measure, track, and communicate their social impact with their city.”
As anyone involved in the coffee industry for over a few years will know, Karen Cebreros is one of the pioneers of making a social impact through coffee. To have her as a partner with you to track your efforts in this regard brings instant credibility to your company. Her position on the topic is this, “Social responsibility is a corporate growth strategy. Social investment will influence and shape the future. Track the Impact leverages awareness, involvement, brand equity, and financial contributions. It’s a win-win for all of us.”
Coffee Companies are making good choices about helping the world and their communities. One good choice is to tie corporate giving directly to the product you are selling. This creates a participatory environment where your customers are also participating with you. A couple of examples:
If you retail coffee, you can tie certain ecological or social marks to your product such as Bird Friendly, Organic and Fair Trade. You can also support organizations through product sales that also help the industry such as Coffee Kids and Grounds for Health.
When your corporate giving is done with customer participation, you don’t really have a dilemma about seeming boastful as your customers want to know all of the good being done. They feel personally tied to the supported mark or program. The same holds true when a company donates a portion of sales to help with local groups. If you support the local homeless shelter or the Boys and Girls Club, your customers will want to support you and participate with you in the local giving making it easy to share your good works.
Another good choice is to ask your employees to volunteer hours, on company time or their own, in their communities. Or you can give them opportunities to participate financially by donating money to a cause selected by the company.
The trick is how to track and share that work and donations with others. There are always some skeptics that will say you are only doing it to increase business; these people are irritating but they might have a point. At the very least, they pose a question that you should be asking as a corporate giver. “Why are we supporting this cause?” Somebody made a decision at some time as to what to support. In smaller organizations, that person is easy to find. In a larger corporation, there was a committee somewhere that made a choice. The choice should be frequently evaluated to make sure the charity is still in line with the goals and ethics of your company.
A possible answer to this question of “Why?” is ‘to sell more coffee and make more money.’ While it seems a bit superficial and shallow, it takes a deeper understanding of what this means before it becomes an OK answer in the eyes of your customer. When you peel back the onion layer you see that by supporting this group you will be selling more product. If you sell more you can give more. If you sell more, you may employ more. This is the deeper meaning of good deeds for profit. The person in charge of corporate giving needs a tool to answer this question more delicately. That is where a product like Profits 4 Purpose can help.
Large corporations often have to employ a staff of people to manage and track this corporate giving. It is sometimes required by customers, government contracts, and the IRS to show detailed information about your claims.
Just recently, the first coffee industry company signed up with Track The Impact and started using Profits 4 Purpose. This forward thinking company is Apffels Coffee in Santa Fe Springs California. Their CEO, Darryl Blunk, said this about their participation, “In reviewing our Corporate Responsibility plan we were inspired by other leaders to act immediately rather than to stay on our current course. In addition, we wanted to solidify and ingrain into our culture, now and into the future, a visible and engaging commitment towards leaving the world a better place. Profits 4 Purpose provides this solution and we are excited to embark upon this endeavor and encourage others to join us.”
They are planning to use the tool to meet certain requirements of the company to record corporate giving data, but they will also be using it as a portal that their customers can use to participate more fully in the programs supported by Apffels. This will increase the social impact and build a stronger bond with their customers that choose to participate.
Our industry is full of givers. By organizing, we can increase the footprint of social programs and as a result have a story we can tell to increase our business and profits. This is truly a win for all.
Rocky can be reached at rocky@INTLcoffeeConsulting.com