Effective partnerships create ‘a win all the way around’

Food Banks Canada works with numerous partners on initiatives that range from hosting local food drives and volunteering at local food banks to ensuring surplus food isn’t being wasted. ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

Food Banks Canada works with numerous partners on initiatives that range from hosting local food drives and volunteering at local food banks to ensuring surplus food isn’t being wasted. ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

CONTENT FROM: CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY REPORT 
PUBLISHED NOVEMBER 27, 2017UPDATED NOVEMBER 27, 2017

The most effective CSR initiatives relieve a pressing social need, enrich employee and consumer engagement, and advance business goals. For Canada's corporate leaders, the catalyst is collaborative, committed partnership with organizations making a difference on the ground.

"For us, it's about starting with shared values," says Tania Little, Food Bank Canada's director of development and partnerships. "The win has to be all the way around. That means really investing the time and energy to fully understand each other's objectives and operations, so we can maximize opportunities to have an impact on both business and the cause."

An example is a three-year partnership with The French's Food Company, Food Banks Canada's Donor of the Year for 2016. In 2015, the company introduced the French's Promise, a commitment to using the freshest, most local produce available – without artificial ingredients or high-fructose corn syrup – and to deliver positive change in the communities in which it operates. The Promise was much more than just an aspiration: it led to the reformulation of 85 per cent of the company's products, and a 1 Bottle = 1 Meal campaign with Food Banks Canada that is expected to provide a total of 10 million meals, including 1.7 million in 2016 alone.

French's partnership with Food Banks Canada has been at the heart of its community commitment. "In their planning, our campaigns are a top-line item," says Ms. Little. "It's an example of the way they live their brand promise through this deep, authentic partnership. Every advance in their brand and sales goals is an advance for food banking across Canada. We both have a greater impact."

To fulfil its promise, French's started by first listening to its employees. "They said, 'We work in the communities that we live in, and we should be part of these communities if we're going to be successful'," says Elliott Penner, French's former president.

French's had a history of community outreach, but with the launch of the Promise, it looked for ways to ingrain CSR efforts into its daily operations. "It became, 'How can we engage in our community, every day, in the way we behave, work and market our products?'" says Mr. Penner.

"That led us to understand that, guess what – it's not so easy. The consumer expects a high quality product from a company they can trust, a company that is concerned with more than just the bottom line; at the same time our shareholders want us to be successful. It's a balancing act, and it led to a relationship with Food Banks Canada that has just been outstanding – we're all so proud of it. Their team was motivated, got things done and ultimately taught us all a lot more about hunger, which deeply impacted the power of our co-created messages and campaigns. When we talk to employees about the business results, they're interested, but when we talk about the Promise, they lean in. They actually lean forward. They're engaged. It's allowed us to attract better employees."

Shareholders are also happy: this year, French's business in Canada is on track for growth of about 15 per cent in an industry where one per cent annual growth is usual. "We've had such great consumer support, which translates into great sales, which translates into great results," reports Mr. Penner. "If I look at our last 10 years, net revenue growth was 4.5 percent; profit growth was 6.2 per cent – unheard of numbers in our industry. People recognize there is a difference versus our competitors, and I have to think it has a lot to do with the Promise."

If companies don't do this, their brand equity will not be nearly as strong going forward, he stresses. "It takes effort, but longer term, both businesses and communities will prosper, because there is a big opportunity for companies to help."

As the world's largest food retailer, Walmart believes every family should have access to affordable, safe, nutritious food. Realizing however that for many Canadian families this isn't a reality, the company has partnered with Food Banks Canada to ensure good food in their stores doesn't go to waste and instead ends up with a family who needs it through the National Retail Food Program which matches every single Walmart Canada store with a local food bank. Since 2011, Walmart has donated 9.3 million pounds of good food to food banks across the country and Walmart Canada knows that food donations are only part of the support they can provide.

"Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have taken an extremely thoughtful, 360-degree approach to our partnership," says Ms. Little. In addition to Walmart Canada's food donation programs, the Walmart Foundation is supporting efforts to help build capacity broadly within the food bank network. This means we can accept more good food from more organizations who have food to donate."

The Walmart Foundation set out to really understand the issue of why good food is being wasted in Canada and how they could make a real impact on hunger relief. In partnership with Food Banks Canada, they've looked at the barriers to food donations and come up with solutions that support a common end goal of ensuring Canadians have access to good food. Through $2.4-million in grants, the Foundation is supporting many food banks across Canada to better be able to better accept donations of fresh and perishable foods with essentials such as fridges, freezers and trucks.

For Walmart Canada, this partnership is also an opportunity to engage associates in supporting hunger relief in local communities.  From hosting local food drives and volunteering at their local food bank to raising awareness of hunger and ensuring good food isn't being wasted at the store, Walmart associates are at the heart of this partnership.

This year, Walmart Canada and Food Banks Canada brought Fight Hunger, Spark Change to stores across the country; a nationwide program that generated over 7.8 million meals through customer donations and cause marketing activities.

"Walmart Canada has a significant foot print in Canada and through the Fight Hunger, Spark Change campaign they've helped us increase awareness around food insecurity in Canada," says Ms. Little. "Walmart Canada vendors and customers demonstrated tremendous generosity through this campaign, providing Food Banks Canada with much needed support to help us further build capacity in our network."


BY THE NUMBERS

75% of professional investors consider a company's position on environment, social and governance issues before deciding whether to invest. Nearly the same number also view sustainability management as a way to mitigate risk in an increasingly disrupted market.

Source: Responsible Investment Association Trend Report (2016)


This content was produced by Randall Anthony Communications, in partnership with The Globe and Mail's advertising department. The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation


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Tanya Camp