Like many businesses, when we started out, social responsibility wasn’t on our radar. Our focus was just chasing the sale and hoping that something stuck! Once we had some revenue to work with, getting a positive cash flow became our mantra. This alone took us over seven years.
Our journey to a meaningful social platform started when customers asked us what we were doing for the community. When we were first asked we froze up, not really knowing what this meant, or what it would cost…
It prompted us to think about what we could do and sparked our first steps into business social responsibility. We started small with fruit donations to food rescue programs. Overtime, we’ve come to see that social responsibility is not only good for the community; it’s also highly valued by customers, employees and partners.
And we’ve learned that giving in the right way is directly linked to good business which helps growth. Once you have this awareness, there is a real incentive to take action, which is good for everyone.
Here’s what we’ve learnt:
It boosts customer relationships
Customers like working with organisations that do good in the community. Over the last few years, our corporate customers (whether by tenders or informal chats) have increasingly asked what we are doing for the community. As we considered this, we realised that we wanted to be remembered for more than just being a good commercial business.
As an organisation that prides itself on core values of empathy and humility, we asked ourselves ‘can you have true empathy and humility if you are not really connected with the community immediately around you?’ This awareness fired-up our genuine desire to have a social focus.
We now donate 3 tonnes of fruit each week to food share programs. And, in 2017 we launched The One Box, which will see the business donate 25,000 boxes of fresh produce to disadvantaged families across the year.
Social responsibility increases staff engagement
Increasingly, people at all levels are looking for organisations that share their values and have a culture they want to be part of. Having a strong and genuine social responsibility commitment in place can make a difference in attracting and keeping staff. Many young people in particular are looking for companies that make a social difference. And they value the opportunity to get directly involved. Our One Box program gives team members opportunities to participate, like packing boxes for families in need.
It builds community support and partnerships
By helping to support a more equitable community, we are helping to create an environment in which business grows and thrives. The One Box initiative has strengthened our existing community partnerships and helped us create new connections with agencies and individuals. The program has created jobs that support young people growing-up in our local community and increased orders for our farming partners.
Being more connected with the community immediately around us and knowing what is going on now plays a very important part in how we want to go about our business.
It helps drive culture and morale
One of the most powerful and rewarding outcomes of our journey is that we like ourselves more as a business for actually doing something that can have community impact. As an organisation we now walk taller, prouder, much more united. There is a collective energy to see the business grow so we can do more. We want our legacy as an organisation to be more than just a healthy bottom line.
Authenticity is key
To be sustainable, the commitment to social responsibility has to be real and valued by all levels of the organisation. For us, we only started doing something when we genuinely connected with the principles behind our social responsibility programs. As our awareness of the community impacts and our business capacity has grown, so too has our commitment to social responsibility. Once you believe that good business is more than just a healthy bottom line, it’s easy to make social good a part of your organisation.
Every business needs to map its own path. If you’re not doing it for the right reasons at the right time, it’s probably not worth doing.
Martin Halphen is the founder and CEO of The Fruit Box Group. From humble beginnings as a fresh-fruit home-delivery service with 280 customers in 2000, The Fruit Box Group is now Australia’s leading, premium quality, workplace fruit and milk delivery-company. The organisation delivers around 30,000 orders per week of perishable consumables to workplaces nationally; and has a turnover of $50m+. In 2017, the Group is donating 25,000 boxes of fresh produce to disadvantaged families under ‘The One Box’ initiative.