“CSR is not simply philanthropy or dole outs, it is about sustainable activities that benefit a business while it benefits all stakeholders, and making business itself sustainable”
By Justine P. Castellon
Finding a Cause in the Quest for Barako.
Customers are worn-out with oversaturated messages from different brands touting the EST (best, hottest, newest and cheapest). In this advertising-bloated and customer- centric society, customers’ behaviors and preferences have evolved. They prefer a better relationship with you and eventually want to align themselves to what your brand stands for. And, for entrepreneurs, corporate social responsibility (CSR), also known as corporate stewardship is becoming a best bet alternative to stand out from the crowd and forms instant relationship with the customers.
CSR is generally understood to be the way a company achieves an integration of the business, communities, shareholders, and stakeholders. Its primary focus is the commitment to improve community well-being through discretionary business practices and contributions of corporate resources. It is seen to help improve corporate image and clout, strengthen brand positioning, enhance employee commitment, increase appeal to investors, and strengthen financial performance and profitability.
CSR in the Philippines is becoming an ever more important field for the business. Today's companies are investing in corporate social responsibility as part of their business strategy to become more competitive. However, very few understand the real principle of integrating CSR in the business.
SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY IN THE COFFEE BUSINESS.
The success of the Figaro Coffee Company which started in 1993 is a popular coffee store and a 100 percent Filipino-owned that can compete internationally. Apart from the superior-tasting coffee that a customer can enjoy, Figaro is known for the social cause for saving the coffee industry that gives the coffee an added value to the customers. Figaro’s popularity is not the effort of a public relations spin-doctor; rather, it started from the very core of its business perspective. The CSR came about because of the state of the coffee industry in the country.
The overall coffee industry in the Philippines was in risk and Figaro cannot just sit and relax, and watch as the industry declines. As the company sourced coffee around the country, they discovered that a lot of coffee trees were chopped down due to volatile prices and conversion of lands to golf courses and subdivisions particularly in Batangas and Cavite.
Figaro looked for the variety Liberica or “Barako” and found out that farmers are no longer interested as no one was buying Barako and the tree occupied more land and bore less fruits as compared to Robusta which the instant coffee manufacturers readily bought from farmers”.
In 1999, they formed the Figaro Foundation Corporation to help resuscitate the Philippine industry, and make it a major coffee-producing country. The campaign ‘Save the Barako’ was formed and the company donated part of the sales of the Barako beans to the project. The project also encompasses awareness programs, research, and targeted marketing. Today, Barako is the highest bean seller in all its stores and commands a better price. Now, farmers are back in the farms planting Barako.
ENGAGING CUSTOMERS, EMPLOYEES AND SHAREHOLDERS.
Since CSR agrees with almost everything they (Figaro) do and everyone they deal with, all social responsibility programs are geared toward the business entity. For Figaro, it is not simply philanthropy or dole outs. It is about sustainable activities that benefit a business while it benefits all stakeholders, making business itself sustainable. Most importantly, it is not the sole responsibility of the company’s shareholders; it is the involvement of employees, suppliers, community and the customers.
Figaro holds coffee tree planting and coffee harvest tours twice a year, and engages Figaro coffee club members to join the tours. They continuously conduct tree-planting activities with volunteers from among managers and employees, and with volunteers from among our customers. The announcements were made through newsletter in the stores or it in the website.
When you encourage staff to play an active role in the local community, you are not just developing employee skills, but increasing morale and building successful teams. Employees value the company more if they enjoy your interest and support. You will attract and keep staff who are committed and enthusiastic. Your business, and the way you run it, has an impact in your environment. Your customers, employees, suppliers and the local community are all affected by you and what you do.
INTEGRATING CORE VALUES IN THE BUSINESS.
While CSR’s primary purpose in the beginning is to make a brand differentiation, it eventually evolves in taking responsibility for society. Running a business is not all about making money, it is about moral responsibility to share the blessings, and bringing it back to the community. While the foundation’s agenda is to secure the supply of local coffee, Figaro secure the business first to continue to help farmers and the coffee industry and help address the lack of supply in the market.
ALIGNING THE BRAND AND COMMUNITY PROGRAMS.
At the same time as it deals directly with people in the community, it also aims to nurture them and develop them to become their brand advocates. The consumer’s willingness to act as an advocate gives them a very personal stake in the brand. So it is important that activities must be in tune with brand.
Align your CSR activities to your business. This is also the formula for a sustainable program.
The corporate activities and programs are the extension of the brand message and they play key roles in the company’s overall mission to deliver a competitive and sustainable return to shareholders. Coffee business is Figaro’s business – from raw materials down to the single cup enjoyed by customers. Putting coffee farmers as the top priority in the program is binding.
BALANCING THE BOTTOM LINE CONCERNS.
The most important lesson to be learned in CSR is sustainability. It must be inherent in an organization’s objective strategy, and not just simply to aid the well being of society. It should become part of the way in which a company carries out its business. Further, your business makes a profit first before it can contribute to a society in dire need. Hence, when the business entity is profiting, social integrity can be regarded as preeminent concern. Always remember, without the bottom line concerns, social responsibility cannot be implemented.
The quest of Figaro in looking for Barako, paves its way to a cause which involves the business, its employees, the community it serves and the customers who patronize them. And with the clear vision to give back to the industry it serves, Figaro’s undaunted spirit enables the company to see this project through. The business becomes more profitable, and the brand itself gains its maturity in terms of brand equity.
COMPONENTS OF CSR
Increase awareness and concerns about social cause
Donate a percentage of revenues to a specific cause based on product sales
Corporate Social Marketing
Focus on behavior modification
Create corporate social initiatives that benefit to direct contribution to a charity
Empower and motivate employee to volunteer their time support local community
Socially Responsible Business Practices
Conduct discretionary business practices to improve community well-being