Tag Archives: CSR

Reflections on Corporate Social Responsibility

In my role at Plant With Purpose, I’ve had the opportunity to work very closely with a number of corporate partners who have very generously supported our work. (When I say “corporate” I have in mind here primarily family-owned business rather than publically traded companies.) We have had, and have, some incredible relationships with companies that have been a great blessing to our work, and a few that have been a bit more challenging. What makes for a healthy partnership between a charity and for-profit company? I’ve been thinking about that this week, and so with that in mind, here are my Six Keys to Healthy CSR Relationships: These relationships work great when there is…

  • A Great fit between companies’ values and that of the charity. This goes beyond the obvious things to avoid such as promoting tobacco, casinos, etc. For us as organization that promotes environmental restoration and sustainable agriculture, it means looking for companies that truly share these values. Some of the values we share with our partners include emphasizing organic products, economic justice, environmental sustainability, empowerment and fairness.
  • Reasonable expectation with regard to promotion. It’s great to celebrate the partnership and put the companies logo and contribution on the website and in the newsletter. But business should recognize that charities are not there to drive product sales. This might seem obvious, but…
  • Trust. This relates to values but goes a bit further and speaks of a willingness to take the partners interests into account when making decisions that will have PR implications for the partner. I once had a partner warn me about some unjustified negative press they were getting that they were concerned might reflect badly on us as a their charity partner. It turned out to be nothing, but I was really grateful that they were concerned and gave us a heads up about it.
  • Honesty about the real impact. Charities are always looking for ways to communicate, and dramatize, the impact of our donor’s gifts. It’s part of what we do to express gratitude and encourage deep and lasting partnerships. With corporate partners we are also coordinating that messaging with their marketing strategy and needs. There is nothing wrong with this, as long as the messaging honestly reflects what the charity is able to accomplish with those funds. This need to balance simplicity of message with the reality that development is complex…
  • Corporate program expertise, if appropriate. We were once approached by a company that wanted to build a dam in a country where we work. And they knew how to build dams! But they had no idea how to translate that expertize into a foreign context. In the end, nothing got done, other than waste a lot of time that could have been spent securing funds in a more appropriate way. To give a more positive example, we have had some valuable agricultural training from U.S. experts- the difference was that they were not trying to include us in their money-making venture. If there is appropriate expertize, then that is a bonus to but don’t try too hard to translate a U.S. corporate model into the context of charity’s program.
  • A long-term relationship. It is much healthier for the charity to have consistent, long-term support rather than a big windfall or promises that are never fulfilled. This also gives both sides the opportunity to try different promotions and to test out the partnership. Ideally, both sides benefit and the missions of both the company and the charity are advanced.

This is the first time I’ve tried to write about this topic and I welcome your thoughts and feedback!


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Kellogg Garden Products- Growing veggies and hope in Haiti

This past year has been a great one for Plant With Purpose’s partnership with Kellogg Garden Products. Kellogg has supported us specifically through the sales of their Eden Valley blend of potting soils. Kellogg’s is a great example of corporate partnership that is a great fit for what we do. Kathy Kellogg Johnson has also travelled with us to Tanzania and Oaxaca, Mexico to learn more about our work and see first-hand the impact that it’s making on people’s lives.

I’m going to be speaking tonight at Kellogg’s annual awards dinner and highlighting some of the impact of our shared work.  Here is some of what I’ll be sharing:

Plant With Purpose works with some of the poorest people in the world, subsistence farmers who are completely dependent on their land and what it produces.

This spring a group of us had the opportunity to visit Haiti, and one of the farmers we met was a woman named Edmonde Jules.  We asked her about some of the challenges she faced in her life, and she said, “Last year I was working on my farm and my kids came home in the middle of the school day. And I asked, “Why are you home?  And they said, he teacher told us to come home, because our school fees hadn’t been paid, so we can’t come back until they get paid.

  ImageEdmond Jules

Edmonde is a farmer, she depends on her land. And when that land doesn’t produce, she’s stuck. In fact in Fonds Verrettes, where she lives, the river that runs through town, that ought to be a source of fertility and abundant resources- water for farmers, water for people to drink, and so on, instead has become a deadly threat. Why? Because of the state of the soil, which is so severely eroded, that the town is plagued by deadly flooding and a variety of water-borne illnesses.

The great news, is that together we are helping farmers like Edmonde have a better future. When I asked her what difference Plant With Purpose’s work had made in her life. She said, “Now that I am able to grow more food, and have a safe place to save the money I earn, I know that my children will never be sent home from school again.” Think about that- what that means for her and her family and their dreams.

Let me introduce you to a second farmer in Haiti, Raymond Jean, whom we met that same day. He told us, “I used to have to buy chemical fertilizers to get a decent harvest from my land. I would have to buy bags of fertilizer that cost $7 per bag, but I don’t have to do that any more.”


Raymond Jean, with bunny

We asked, why not? He said,  “Now I make my own compost, I can use that money to do other things- pay my kids school fees, buy medicine when I need it. In fact, I make so much compost now that I have a business selling compost to other people who come through town.”

He’s making money while at the same time doing something good for the environment. He’s farming land that has been devastated by erosion and over-farming, and rather than abandoning it, he’s restoring it, bringing it back to life, making it a place where people will be able to thrive and where their children can have hope of a better future.

This is the heart of Plant With Purpose’s work is to train rural farmers, the poorest of the poor, to meet their immediate needs for food and income, while at the same time restoring their damaged land to insure long-term productivity.

  • Planting trees
  • Teaching Composting and soil conservation
  • Promoting Agroforestry, where trees and green crops are planted together
  • Starting community savings groups

Just this year, specifically with the funds provided by Kellogg, we’ve been able to:

  • Plant 10, 000 trees
  • Train 500 farmers in composting and natural pest control
  • Protect 200 acres of hillside farms
  • Distribute 100 water filters to reduce water-born diseaseImage

One of Raymond Jean’s compost piles

How have these activities changed people’s lives? Human Impact? We have invested a lot of effort in recent years to objectively measure the impact of our activities in the lives of rural farmers. Here’s are some of the positive impacts we have seen:

  • Improved health and nutrition – 50% reduction in water-borne illness
  • Families like Raymond’s see increased income
  • Children like Edmonde’s are able to stay in school
  • Danger from floods and mudslides is dramatically reduced

These are life-changing, community transforming impacts that Kellogg has made possible. Our vision for the future is to continue to strengthen our partnership, to be able to help more people, and to continue to spread the word as to what we are accomplishing together. Kellogg, thank you again for your support!


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