Making a Difference in Communities

Seven ways companies can promote corporate and communal responsibility

Tim Sinclair is a cofounder of U-Be-Livin-Smart, a Toronto-based company that makes affordable, healthful food products. As an advocate for corporate responsibility, the business is supporting the goal of feeding 88 million underprivileged children and families in North America. In his own words, Sinclair shares the steps that the business is taking to get there.

Keep it local
For consumers to connect to your brand’s cause, giving back needs to happen in their neighbourhood. Oftentimes, problems like feeding undernourished, underprivileged people get aggrandized to the point that consumers can’t see how their choices impact anything. Our product is donated in the same community a purchaser lives in, so individuals see the impact they’re making.

Design a business model focused on giving back
Corporate social-responsibility efforts are often an afterthought for established organizations. If you’re an entrepreneur, you have the fantastic opportunity to build your business model around giving back on multiple levels. How impactful can your brand be to consumers beyond just using your product and service? This is a much more authentic place from which to operate.

Keep it simple
Don’t ask consumers to fill out paperwork, and don’t ask for extra time or money. With our program, for every package of products bought, U-Be-Livin-Smart feeds a needy individual in that community through a nearby food bank. All the consumer has to do is decide to purchase.

Build a strong relationship with your product and your cause
If you make windows, don’t pick a cause like wildlife protection; pick something that aims to increase energy efficiency. Since we make highly nutritious muffins and other nutrient-dense foods, we knew we could impact the health of those who rely on local food banks. With our Feed 88 Million program, we’ve made it our goal to feed 88 million underprivileged and undernourished North Americans within the next decade. We hope to humanize a problem that feels at best marginalized and at worst completely lost in our society.

Make it about the consumer
Let’s face it: without the consumer, there’s no company. By designing a program that’s fueled by the consumers’ purchase decisions, you put the consumer in the position to positively impact their community. Don’t steal their limelight by making it about the company. From our perspective, this is the ultimate form of servant leadership, and it empowers consumers to know that their purchase decisions matter.

Make it personal
Many corporate social-responsibility initiatives are decided based on a committee, but the companies who do it the best, like Patagonia and Toms, approach it from a personal place. In my case, I remember as a child how our local food bank helped my mom as she struggled to raise six of us. So when we launched U-Be-Livin-Smart in January 2013, we knew that a food-donation program was just as important as being profitable. Our donations to food banks began immediately. Since then, with our consumers’ help, we’ve fed 60,000 individuals.

The program will only help to galvanize consumers if they know the positive chain of events they’ve caused. To that end, it’s critical that you communicate—through social media, packaging, point-of-sale, PR, and other marketing activities—how their actions are positively impacting others.