As the old adage goes, “Charity starts at home”, or in this case, “on our doorstep”. Never has there been a better time to consider ways that our businesses can support the communities around us, as we navigate the unpredictable challenges of the pandemic and handle the inevitable fall-out, including unemployment, increased poverty, health issues, etc, sadly the list goes on.
We were pleased to get together last week with our members, virtually of course, for a Sustainability Breakfast focused on how we support our community. Thanks very much to John Lui, International Brand and Marketing Director at PizzaExpress Hong Kong, a pizza brand that is well associated with giving back to the community, Jo Soo Tang, co-founder of new social enterprise and Supplier Member of Food Made Good, Cookie Smiles and Nicky Cardno from Herbert Smith Freehills, our pro bono lawyers, who inspired us with their approach to supporting the community.
This month’s theme ‘Support the Community’ sits under our Society pillar. By taking action in this area you also, in some shape or form, work towards meeting the global UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 1 (No poverty), 2 (Zero hunger), 11 (Sustainable cities and communities) and 12 (Responsible consumption and production).
Who is your Community?
Before we start, it is worth understanding who we are referring to when we talk about ‘supporting the community’. Essentially, our community is everyone around us, and the idea of leaving no one behind, by supporting the most vulnerable when we can. Our first thoughts tend to associate community with charity. Of course, charity and other organisations within our communities who are supporting people in need are of paramount importance. But the welfare of our staff should also be top priority, especially during times like these when people may be feeling vulnerable.
For F&B, serving people is our business, so our customers also form a valuable part of our community, and not forgetting other businesses around us who we work with to ensure a consistent and strong food supply: our farmers, our suppliers, the delivery people, but also our office staff such as our accountants. Our wider community makes up everyone who lives around us, especially those most at risk now, during the pandemic, the homeless and those on zero contract hours and in insecure jobs.
Why support your community?
- Sustainability is about the long-term wellbeing of society
- Kitchens that are connected to their communities are places that have loyal customers, loyal staff, and some of the tastiest food
- Supporting the community can help your business sustain relationships with other local businesses and suppliers
- Your business can provide jobs for people from the local community
- According to a report by Cone Communications, globally, nine out of ten consumers stick with socially responsible businesses
Our virtual breakfast was a great chance to hear some examples of how a restaurant, a social enterprise and a law firm have been supporting their communities.
Helping those in need
There are so many ways to support your chosen charity and/or social enterprise partners. John Lui from PizzaExpress explains the brand’s approach which has always served pizza with purpose, “We have incredibly long-term relationships with our charities and look at ways that we can support them as holistically as possible. So not just about donating money and surplus food, but also volunteering, offering our space and food for events, collecting food and even clothing donations on behalf of our charity partners, offering these partners our platforms for communicating their activities, staff volunteering etc. Our relationships are forged on long term trust and mutually beneficial arrangements.”
When considering charity partners, just like for food sourcing, it is worth thinking small and local! Local charities resonate with our local customers, and we can also identify charitable themes that echo our customers’ and employees’ interests and concerns. It’s not all about financial donations. If this isn’t possible, think about other ways you can help by donating time, skills, spaces or other resources.
Credit: PizzaExpress Hong Kong
Supporting our staff
Lui adds, “At PizzaExpress, our staff are our number one ambassadors. They are also like family and we treat them as such. For example, we have a specific partnership with a Nepalese charity, because we have a high percentage of Nepalese staff. When the earthquake disaster struck in Nepal, we were able to provide additional support to the charity and our staff, immediately.”
Identify opportunities for or better still with, your staff to volunteer with charities. This can be helping to organise a ‘fun day’ at your restaurant or sending staff to volunteer at your charity organisations – these volunteer days are ideally included in their work schedule.
In the case of lawyers, such as Herbert Smith Freehills, offering pro bono professional services to charities and social enterprises has been one of the best ways to give back. As Nicky Cardno explains, “Pro bono legal services to support charity organisations is an important part of our firm’s culture and part of our employee brand appeal. All lawyers are encouraged to get involved in pro bono matters as part of their workload. It is a win-win situation. Our employees feel like they have an opportunity to share their expertise and give back, while the NGO benefits from a valuable service and gets the professional support that they need.”
Credit: Herbert Smith Freehills
Caring for customers
Customers can get involved too! Invite customers to help raise funds. It can simply be purchasing a ‘charity’ dish/drink, joining in volunteering opportunities, dropping off donations at your venues or attending special fundraising events. Customers love to feel that their dollars are making a difference!
Supporting local social enterprises will have multiple benefits
The Cookie Smiles initiative is a great example of this. Co-Founder Jo Soo Tang explains, “We have set up Cookie Smiles with the sole purpose of supporting the community on many levels. We are working with underprivileged workers and provide them with bakery training. The profits from our cookies are then donated to two chosen charity partners in Hong Kong; this year we are supporting Hong Kong Down Syndrome Association and Splash Foundation. Just by purchasing our cookies, you will be putting smiles on the faces of many people in the community”.
There are a growing number of food related social enterprises in Hong Kong offering all types of services which directly support the underprivileged, the quality and price of which are very competitive. Do consider these options when sourcing your local ingredients and supplies.
Credit: Cookie Smiles
Growing the younger generation
By offering apprenticeships, internships and workforce training, you are also supporting the community and providing opportunity for growth for our young people. You can also work with social enterprises and charities in Hong Kong to offer employment training and opportunities for marginalised communities.
As we are in the business of food, many operators may be in a good position to offer cookery and nutrition classes to educate children about healthy eating and provenance of ingredients, in order to positively influence the next generation.
A generous serving of community
We know that true sustainable development (and well illustrated through the Sustainable Development Goals) includes the long-term wellbeing of our society. It is clear that there are many opportunities for us to embed a community spirit at the heart of our food businesses. As we heard through our panel, it is possible to build long-lasting partnerships with local groups and organisations that go beyond simple cash donations. By engaging all stakeholders on community challenges you can find mutually beneficial wins. Supporting our community is one way of making food good.
Get in touch if you are looking for organisations to partner with to support the community! Cookie Smiles would love to help you get some meaningful, great-tasting biscuits into your office pantry or at your coffee shops to accompany hot drinks.