As consumers living a busy life, we want cost-effectiveness and convenience. And it’s generally the for-profit brands that place their cost-effective products conveniently at our fingertips. These brands seek to make a profit which makes the brand bigger, allowing them to tantalisingly place more products in front of us, and award more money to the shareholders.
But today we’re seeing a rise of brands putting people and the planet ahead of profit. Their ethos is less about making money by dominating our food cupboards. It’s more about supporting communities, the vulnerable and the environment.
This means that consumers like us are now in the position of power. We can choose the products we want and need from viable businesses that are also socially responsible.
Valuing, and Paying a Premium, for Products That Do Good
Perhaps understandably, there’s often a higher price tag for products that do good.
In the food industry, farming at scale helps to cut production costs. The incentive to do this is great in the face of competition between food producers. But it also means that any personal touch is sorely missed. Animal welfare and the wellbeing of the producers isn’t always a priority.
A business that is invested in environmentally friendly products or the ethical treatment of animals will often have higher costs. Using recyclable or biodegradable packaging costs more than shrink-wrap or impenetrable plastic materials. Providing a product that is organic, or that deals with smallholdings that pay farmers a fair wage can also add to the cost.
Because of this, the final product is likely to be more expensive than the competitors. And those costs will be passed on to the consumer. But even if we choose to purchase socially beneficial products some of the time, we’re doing better by everyone involved.
It’s not just products that we buy that can be socially good. We can donate food to redistribution organisations, or even volunteer with them. These, usually non-profits or charities, help to feed some of the most vulnerable people in the country.
But what exactly do we mean by social good? What’s the difference between a non-profit organisation or a charity, and a social enterprise? What’s an impact brand? What does B-Corp mean?
Let’s sort through confusion and look at some food brands epitomising social good.
Donating Food and Volunteering With Non-Profits and Charities
Despite their name, non-profit organisations do work to make a profit. However, they put the profits they make back into programmes and services that serve the community or group they support.
They usually have a social or an environmental mission and are often funded by government bodies.
Some non-profits are run as charities but either way, there are regulations that must be met. For example, they have to report on what happens to the money made or raised.
Non-profits are transparent about the causes they support so it’s easy for consumers to decide if they align with their own principles.
FareShare are the UK’s longest running food redistribution charity. The save thousands of tonnes of food from going to waste and deliver it to community groups where its made into nutritious meals. These meals help to nourish vulnerable people in refugee centres, kids clubs and homeless hostels.
There are over 100 Tesco stores in the UK with FareShare collection points. If you have surplus store-cupboard items, you can donate them to FareShare by dropping them off at a collection point. Businesses with surplus food can also get involved by organising collections directly with FareShare.
FoodCycle work in a similar way to FareShare and are always on the lookout for volunteers to help cook meals at their community centres. Volunteers and guests sit down to eat together, helping to build conversations, friendships and communities. The social impact of which can be life changing for all involved.
Based in London, City Harvest have rescued food equating to more than two million meals for the hungry so far. Those who need it benefit from a small team of dedicated employees and volunteers. City Harvest are also accredited as a Living Wage Employer, crucial as they’re based in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
You can volunteer your time or knowledge or donate excess food as an individual or a business.
Reducing Food Waste with Social Enterprises
Social Enterprises also operate to make a profit that is used to meet a social or environmental need. But unlike non-profits, the bulk of the money is made through business operations rather than contributions.
They put profits towards supporting their chosen mission. There are more than 80,000 social enterprises in the UK. They help support local, national and global issues, get marginalised workers into work and use their profits to benefit society.
Encouraging us all to be food waste heroes is social enterprise, Oddbox. Oddbox rescues perfectly good fruit and veg from local growers. This fresh produce would otherwise be rejected from supermarkets for being ‘too ugly’. They then package them up into boxes full of seasonal produce and deliver them to the public. The cost of the boxes is around 30% less than the cost of buying ‘prettier’ produce in the shops.
Oddbox donate 10% of the food they rescue to City Harvest to help them supply local food banks. They donate their own surplus to Brixton’s Community Fridge. They also organise Supper Clubs to help spread their message.
Rubies in the Rubble
Turning wonky or surplus fruit and veg into delicious sauces and pickles, Rubies in the Rubble are another social enterprise. Their mission is to encourage us all to reduce our food waste and live more sustainably.
Another brand doing good and turning produce that would be wasted into tasty food is Snact. Their fruit jerky and snack bars are made from rescued fruit, made locally and are packaged in compostable packaging.
Impact Brands and B-Corps: Doing Good Whilst Making a Profit
Impact brands set the pace and lead by example. Consumers like to buy from these companies because they have a proven track record of contributing to the greater good.
An impact brand might be one that uses only Fair Trade products from developing markets. It might be a brand that pays a living wage in markets where that’s not the norm. Or a brand that takes steps to protect the environment – steps that go beyond government regulations. These brands are successful from a profit perspective. They also are recognised for being good corporate citizens.
B-Corps are businesses that are dedicated to having a positive impact on communities and the planet as they earn a profit. Their social and environmental goals are part of the company’s mission. This certification lets consumers know that the company takes the good of society as seriously as their products, services and staff.
Doisy & Dam
Run by chocaholics with a mission to produce chocolate that has a positive impact on the world, Doisy & Dam make chocolate with a healthier twist. Each flavour has an added superfood and its production leaves behind more than it takes. Despite already being a B-Corp and using sustainable cocoa, Doisy & Dam aim to own their own plantation in Columbia by 2020.
Another B-Corp, Rebel Kitchen specialise in dairy-free milks. Committed to sustainability and social and environmental good, they’re also a 1% for the Planet member. This means they donate 1% of their sales to non-profits that are part of the 1% for the Planet network.
Our Choices Add to the Social Good
Within reason, we all have a role to play through the purchasing choices we make. The more we support businesses that are sustainable, ethical or socially good, the more incentive there is for other businesses to follow suit.
Brands doing social good are proud and willingly say so on their websites or packaging. Impact brands are often active in our communities or publically donate to local organisations. This makes it easier for us all to do what we can and put more thought into our purchases to support profits while doing good.
Food brands up and down the UK are doing good while doing business. And that makes good business sense in our book.