There’s no doubt we’re living in a digitally connected era. It’s no longer enough to show up, log your time, and sign off for the evening. Today’s companies need to be engaged, not only with their communities but with local, national, and global social issues. Statistics show that most people connect better with companies that represent their beliefs and champion their causes. This desire for more socially active companies has driven the incredible success of businesses with give back programs—Warby Parker, TOMs—as well as those with strong activist roots or platforms—Burt’s Bees and Patagonia.
Need an example? Just look at the success of ADIDAS recently dropped recycled, recyclable running shoes. Seven thousand pairs of the shoes, made from recycled ocean plastics, sold out almost instantly. Because of the overwhelmingly positive response, ADIDAS has vowed to make all of their products from recycled materials by 2024. That’s just one example of how companies and consumers, working together, can save the world.
People support companies that support people
It seems like a simple concept, but companies that support a cause give people something to rally around. It creates a sense of community and lets people turn their everyday purchases into charitable acts. In fact, the majority of people have a better outlook on a company that supports a cause near and dear to their own heart. So why do so many companies still struggle with bringing their passion to the forefront?
Nobody likes a gimmicky give back
Unfortunately, this type of “corporate activism” has been hyped to the point that many companies are signing on just to boost sales. But inauthentic charity programs and empty promises fall flat with today’s connected crowd. Whether it’s due to misaligned values, poorly planned give-back models, or failure to read the social climate, these efforts get called out on a national (and sometimes international) stage.
Today, people are more informed—and opinionated—than ever before. They also have a lower tolerance for publicity stunts. They’re going to know if your give back efforts are just a bid to boost sales, and they’re going to crack down on inauthentic giving. It’s pretty apparent if a company’s give back doesn’t align with its values. As Seth Goldman, the founder of Honest Tea, points out, it should be more important to make a difference than to make a point.
When TOMs first rolled out their “buy one, give one” campaign, the world collectively nodded approval. Until all of those free shoes damaged local economies. One lesson we can take away from TOMs? It’s essential to understand how give backs and charities work within a system. There’s no such thing as a vacuum when it comes to the international stage, and even the best intentions can have a negative impact.
TOMs had to learn this lesson the hard way. The company responded by changing the way their give back program works. Instead of shipping free shoes overseas, they’re now partnering with local shoemakers to fuel their one-for-one while supporting local businesses in countries around the world.
Leading the charge? Activist CEOs.
Companies that give back, at their foundation, represent the people who keep them running—from the workers to the top-level execs. It’s no surprise then that CEOs are leading the charge in creating social and political change. As Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesfore.com, told Time, “Today CEOs need to stand up not just for their shareholders, but their employees, their customers, their partners, the community, the environment, schools, everybody.”
The CEO’s emerging role as an agent of change has even led to cries for billionaire executives to fix social issues. This year alone, Jeff Bezos has been called upon to end the Flint water crisis, end national poverty, and stop the Amazon fires. But this “philanthrocapitalism,” carries a lot of implications when it comes to democracy. Instead of paying out of pocket, today’s CEOs need to build philanthropy directly into their business models.
At Northerly, giving back is in our DNA
Ask any farmer why they do their job. They’ll tell you it isn’t about fame and fortune. It’s definitely not about having a secure, reliable income. Considering agricultural practices like farming, fishing, and forestry are among the most dangerous in the world, it might be surprising that farmers rank 8th out of 243 careers in terms of job satisfaction. Why? According to a study by The Guardian, most farmers are satisfied with their work because they’re helping people. Caring comes with the territory.
At Northerly, our focus on sustainable agriculture means we’re also feeding the present without robbing the future. We’re giving back to the earth by practicing crop rotation, utilizing the latest in ag tech, and monitoring data and analytics using smart farming software.
And we’ve built giving into our business model
Starting with our bulk one-for-one give-back program, we’re continually looking for ways to partner with local community members and support vulnerable populations. Our program helps support some of the nation’s most established food banks, shelters, and charity organizations. Each time you purchase a 2 lb bag of our rolled oats, we donate a healthy breakfast for a family of three on your behalf. We are a proud supporter of St. Mary’s Food Bank and are working with Feeding America to end hunger in the United States.
Growing For the Grainer Good
Speaking of activist CEOs, Northerly’s has taken giving into his own hands. In 2019, Clayton launched For the Grainer Good to maximize give-back opportunities. For the first campaign, he’s summiting the highest mountains on seven continents and donating a serving of food for each foot he climbs. With multiple ways to give and support the cause, he’s helping feed families, one step at a time. Having already reached the tops of North and South America, he’s setting his sights on Vinson Massif in Antarctica in January 2020, followed by Everest in April 2020.
Clayton’s planning to climb a total of 142,126 ft. That means up to 142,126 servings of nutritious Northerly grains for those who need it most—food pantries, soup kitchens, and other community-based agencies across the United States and Canada. In the process, he wants to raise awareness about hunger, sustainable agriculture, and the future of feeding the world.
Growing stronger communities
No farm is truly sustainable without building strong communities and supporting happy, healthy employees. In addition to growing healthy, sustainable grains, we’re growing the next generation of nutrition experts and farmworkers. By using AI, robotics, automation, and IoT technology, we’re able to use the land more efficiently, with less pollution, less waste, and less strain on our employees.