As I am often want to do (pretty much any of my colleagues will confirm), I was tooling around the Internet in search of inspiring videos – something to really get you thinking… I had made the usual stops at TED (incredible resource) and some of my other favorites, but then came across the video below from the Sustainable Brands 2011 Conference.
Here’s the blurb: One year after the first Panera Cares cafe opened in Clayton, MO (a community cafe that charges NO money for food, but rather asks for donations from those that can afford it – and asks for nothing for those that can’t and are hungry), Ron Shaich, Panera’s CEO, was proud to announce that about 20% of customers leave more money than the suggested donation with no pressure, and 20% pay less. There is now a cafe in Dearborn, MI and a third was recently opened in Portland, Oregon. Ron Shaich hopes to open a new cafe each quarter.
I am enthralled and inspired by this video. As we’ve been writing on this blog for some time, we believe, as does Mr. Shaich, that corporations have a responsibility to do more than just make money. Call it whatever you want, triple bottom line, CSR, 3 P’s (profit, people, planet), Conscious Capitalism (and perhaps because there are so many names for it, truly it is starting to take hold in the private sector) but get out there and start making a difference.
But first, ask this question: “What is your company willing to commit to do to make a difference in your community?” You may be surprised to hear us recommend that it should not be “write a check.” Don’t get us wrong – money is a great thing and there is not enough of it to go around for the causes we care about – but go beyond thinking that writing a check will solve the problem or is even the best thing for your company to commit. Instead, think about what your company does better than anyone else, and then do that on behalf of your community. As Mr. Shaich states, “Imagine a world in which Walmart does the distribution for all the food banks, The Gap runs thrift shops, Home Depot is involved in rebuilding neighborhoods.”
Some corporations really getting this – and some not so much. I went to a recent conference for the Council for Watershed Health here in Los Angeles and listened to a panel of experts from foundations. These folks basically grant funds and/or provide volunteers for nonprofits and causes. As someone who ”gets” this concept, Todd Flora, Manager, Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs for IBM came right out and told the audience of hopeful grant receipiants:
“We don’t like just writing checks. What we like to do is provide consulting and services for nonprofits that align with what IBM delivers to the marketplace.”
Grants given out by Mr. Flora and IBM might include servers to run your nonprofit’s websites, free consulting seminars on how to effectively leverage social media for your nonprofit, and maybe a small check. And I say – that makes great sense. Your company makes a difference, the nonprofit not only receives services it needs – but to quote the old adage, “they didn’t just get free fish – they learned how to fish.” Now that is sustainable change – and truly making a longstanding difference in a community.
For more info on the Panera Cares stores and Sustainable Brands go to: http://www.sustainablebrands.com/news_and_views/blog/how-panera-bread-revolutionizing-way-restaurants-feed-hungry