There is a lingering mentality that corporate success and social justice are at odds. Though, with a steadfast mission and a vision for a better future, the entrepreneurial aspirations of a lemonade stand or any other food and beverage startup can be a powerful agent for change.
As the food and beverage industry continues to challenge the way we grow, prepare, and consume food, innovation is forging the way to a more sustainable food system. With buzzword terms such as impact-driven business, empowerment marketing, and corporate social responsibility, this ethos of change takes a number of forms.
For some organizations, impact-driven values underpin their very creation. Hot Bread Kitchen, for example, was created as a baking incubator for low-income, immigrant, and minority individuals in New York. With a diverse range of languages and cultures, the bakers at Hot Bread Kitchen are brought together by one commonality, they all bake traditional bread.
With language lessons and management courses added into the mix, this kitchen doubles as a training center and commercial business. Their social mission of creating professional pathways is embedded in their origin.
For other organizations, positive impact is aligned with branding and marketing. Clif Bar and Co., for example, is a leading health and lifestyle energy bar on the market. On a 175 mile bicycle ride, founder Gary Erickson was inspired to seek out a better tasting energy bar. In the 1990s, before organic was popular, they boldly resolved to use organic ingredients despite the added cost of production.
With the slogan ‘Feed Your Adventure’, their energy bars sell messages of empowerment to customers. Contrary to many ads that prey on our insecurities, these bars market positive change and align themselves with a healthy lifestyle by encouraging people to get out and be adventurous.
Lastly for others, social impact neither drives the establishment of a company nor is a marketing strategy. For these businesses, they seek self regulation in the form of corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies. Stonyfield farms, with humble beginnings as a seven cow training school, could have only branded as tasty yogurt company, but they chose a much larger platform of promoting sustainability through their food venture.
As Stonyfield sales increased over the years, so did opportunities to promote their mission of healthy food, healthy people, healthy planet, and healthy business. Stonyfield Farms was the first dairy to use plant-based packaging, develop an interactive supply-chain map to show complete transparency of impact for their customers, and even produce this gem, featuring Gary Hirshberg rapping about the company going organic.
Each of these businesses achieved success and impact in different ways, though they all created a value driven brand. So what’s the takeaway here? Search for the meaning of your company, keeping in mind that whatever your strengths are can be your positive impact. In the wise words of Howard Thurman, "Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”