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For many businesses (and even consumers) corporate social responsibility (CSR) can be viewed as cynical “lip service”. In today’s increasingly ethically minded and environmentally concerned society, companies are expected to do something to offset their business activities. These CSR efforts are often seen as doing “the bare minimum” and are very rarely viewed as anything other than marketing efforts or attempts to bolster brand image.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to wholly divorce CSR from brand image. However, it is possible to turn this complex relationship into a win-win which benefits wider society, the environment, businesses and consumers (who increasingly want to support companies who have a net positive impact on the world).

This article will make a CSR case study of Fruitful Office, an office fruit delivery company which services 5,000 businesses across the UK, Ireland, Holland, Germany and Belgium. This SME may have a smaller reach than large enterprises, but by closely tying its CSR efforts to their service, the company has supported communities, benefitted the environment and earned a reputation as a positive provider.

The initiative

Fruitful Office has developed its CSR programme thoughtfully. Their chosen initiatives dovetail neatly with their own services, and actively empower the individuals they benefit.

The SME’s first project partnered with RIPPLE Africa, a charity which focuses on providing “a hand UP, not a hand out”, by listening to Malawian communities in need. The charity then helps to deliver resources, education, tools and support to generate long-term, self-sustaining benefits to communities.

Fruitful Office’s involvement with the initiative saw thousands of fruit trees planted by Malawian recipients – one for every fruit basket sold to customers in the West. These fruit trees were carefully selected to be easy to grow, high-yielding and long-lasting. As well as benefiting communities nutritionally and financially, these trees also help to offset the delivery company’s carbon footprint, by creating fresh, leafy sources of oxygen.
Over the course of three months, the company was able to help plant a fantastic 105,981 fruit trees. And the campaign isn’t slowing down. The latest initiative will see Fruitful Office plant 300,000 trees in the Muzuzu area of Malawi, where deforestation has negatively impacted both local communities and the planet as a whole.

The varieties of saplings which will be planted in Muzuzu have been chosen with community benefit in mind. These trees will include fast-growing fruit bearing trees (including guava and papaya trees), as well as trees which are good sources of firewood (such as senna siamea).

CSR made meaningful

Aligning their CSR activities with their product has helped to make Fruitful Office’s ethical side much more tangible to customers. The better perceived the brand is, the more baskets of fruit the company is likely to sell, and the more trees can be planted. Although cynical queries surrounding CSR can never be erased, this type of direct benefit is impossible to ignore. It is advantageous to the brand, communities in need, the environment and consumers too.

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