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Corporate Social Responsibility at Wegmans Food Markets Essay

Introduction

The society provides numerous resources to firms to sustain their existence. These resources are either non renewable or renewable. Firms ought to take care of the resources that the society provides. Corporate social responsibility is an issue that revolves around the impacts that activities of a business would have on consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders and the environment amongst other factors in the society that relate directly or indirectly with the firm (Lawrence, 1993). Corporate social responsibility is not about only the environment as it is purported. The care for the environment is widely known as part of corporate social responsibility due to the publicity that it receives. The subject matter of CSR is the proactive approach firms should take to enhance community growth and development by eradicating practices that harm the public sphere in spite of the practices being legitimate (Lawrence, 1993).

Company profile

The company has its headquarters in Rochester, New York. This firm is a privately held, family-owned company founded in 1916 by the Wegmans family. Danny Wegman is the CEO while his daughter, Colleen Wegman, is the president. The firm currently employs above 35,000 employees in the retail industry under the Food and Drugs category (Mahalo, 2009). Wegmans has 70 stores presently. The firm stocks more than 60,000 different items (Mahalo, 2009). Wegmans Food Market has been instrumental in making the lives of employees and customers better.

Sustainability at Wegmans

Corporate social responsibility also called sustainable responsible business depicts a self regulating business model that adheres to law, ethical standards and other norms that dictate the norms of operations (Lawrence, 1993). Sustenance of the environment is an issue that the firm has given enough emphasis. The firm is widely concerned on the issue of environment. At Wegmans, the firm recognizes the importance of care for the environment in the interest of generations to come. The stakeholders demand that businesses should be socially responsible. The main reasons for this is that businesses are responsible for many environmental problems that face the society thus firms should be at the forefront in solving these problems (Iwata, 2008).

Wegmans recognizes that solving environmental challenges is a tall order. The commitment of the firm is doubtless in that it is fully aware of its responsibilities towards the larger and is fully accountable for its actions. In this case, the firm adopts a proactive approach of social responsibility in all the markets it serves. Firms have immense financial muscle all derived from utilizing the society’s resources and thus part of the money should be utilized in solving problems facing the society (Iwata, 2008). Moreover, the society is more enlightened on issues pertaining to the environment which makes them demand that firms take the lead in corporate social responsibility.

Many firms that are prone to operating in environmentally unfriendly operations like the energy sector or auto production are committed in CSR. This makes Wegmans Foods Market to increase caution on environmental sustenance. For instance, General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt announced that the firm plans to increase its revenues from environment clean technology by 2010 to $20bn. Toyota’s Prius Hybrid car has made the firm very popular in the lead towards clean technology (Iwata, 2008).

Wegmans illustrates it commitment for sustainability by adopting a Native American proverb, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” This has made the firm to consider environment friendly packaging. Wegmans Food Markets has since November 2008 adopted sustainable packaging and environment friendly containers in its fresh food areas. The firm in fact recognizes the need to lead in fighting for a sustainable environment. Moreover, the concerns and comments from customers about the previous containers being environment unfriendly also prompted the switch (Environmental Leader, 2008). For example, the Asian Workery Bar food containers switched from pure bleached paper to 100% recycled paper. The same is applied in the 100 per cent recycled paper containers for the company’s salad and food bars (Environmental Leader, 2008).

Corporate social responsibility dilemma

Corporate responsibility as argued by many people is observed as a measure that is out to deprive the economic advantages of firms by demanding spending on firms in areas that possibly contribute no additional profits. Some opponents of CSR argue that measures are placed to make profitability of firms be at stake (Iwata, 2008). For instance, requiring a firm to use environment sound components in its manufacturing process as is the case with Wegmans where the packaging of customer shopping is supposed to be environment friendly. Wegmans Food Market places importance in operating in a social relevant manner and utilizing the firm’s profits to contribute to the society’s wellbeing.

Firms that are committed to social responsibility promote positive awareness internally to their employees as well as promoting to the outside environment through marketing communication channels. The drive towards environmental consciousness is not a cheap agenda. Firms sacrifice shortcut get rich quick environment insensitive packaging and manufacturing methods to adopt costly packaging that is environment friendly. The question is whether the CSR gimmick is exaggerated and ideally that companies exist to sell products, thus make money and please shareholders – and nothing like saving the world comes in question (Iwata, 2008). CSR consciousness is drawn at making companies contribute at sustaining the environment that makes the planet a better place to live in. Arguments against CSR and especially the environmental safety is that the processes reduce the overall profits of the firm.

The drive towards social responsibility

Wegmans recognizes the importance of environmental and social consciousness in its marketing communication and general operations. This culture has resulted to a perpetual improvement in company sales and company image. Consumers of Wegmans products have been fundamental in pushing the firm to be socially responsible. Activists argue that companies ought to be good corporate citizens who carry out their businesses in a socially responsible manner (Lawrence, 1993).The firm recognizes the strength of consumers in demanding socially responsible practices. The firm has made fundamental strides in remaining socially responsible. There are a number of initiatives the firm has undertaken in socially responsible drives. Wegmans Food Market is a perpetual Fortune 100 best company to work for. Employees are generously paid and the terms of employment are favorable. The company was at position five in the 2009 Fortune 100 top companies. The 2008 and 2007 Fortune 100 best companies to work for listed Wegmans Food Markets at position three in each of the years conservatively. The Firm in 2005 was fortune’s number one in the 100 list of best companies to work for (Iwata, 2008). It is widely recognizable that the firm which boasts a $4bn capitalization has a corporate culture that is extremely employee friendly which reduces the employee turnover costs (Iwata, 2008). This indicates the company is diligent in treating employees well.

CSR should never be confused for the feel good philanthropic gesture that many firms undertake under pressure although it forms part of that but they are long term measures that are philosophical and ingrained in the corporate culture of firms to find long term solutions to environmental and stakeholder issues (Iwata, 2008). Successful and blue chip companies take business growth and environmental protection as daily socially responsible practices that guide their strategy. This implies that CSR is not a concept for the weak corporate or an alien concept.

Sometimes buyers can enhance cooperate responsibility through their buying practices. Wegmans Food Market is one of them. For example, the firm in a drastic move in late 2007 announced revised plans in its buying of Farmed Shrimp (Environmental Leader, 2007). This new purchasing policy already in place for all 70 stores stipulates that farmed shrimp producers ought to stop utilizing antibiotics among other chemicals, enhance measures that protect sensitive habitats in addition to treating their waste waters and the reduction in use of wild fish in feeding shrimp (Environmental Leader, 2007). To ensure that the directive is followed to the letter, Wegmans will demand that suppliers demonstrate compliance through passing aggressive performance tests and through implementing audit and reporting systems to report and monitor progress (Environmental Leader, 2007). The market share of Wegmans is enough in transforming this drive towards environmental protection. This measure was so bold for a company known to have a huge market clout. This demonstrates the commitment and diligence of Wegmans is being a torchbearer in the fight for environmental protection.

Wegmans food for the hungry initiatives

In 2008, the firm gave out more than £16M to food banks. The firm participates in a number of initiatives that are organized to assist hunger stricken individuals in US and even outside the US. For Instance, the CANstruction®, a design and building competition that students, architectures and like minded firms participate in competing in molding sculptures thus raising funds to fight against hunger (Wegmans, 2009). In 2008, Wegmans sculpture titled, “Hunger…We Have a Problem” won structural ingenuity. At end of the exhibition, Wegmans donated 32,000 canned products to Foodlink, a food bank that serves the expansive Rochester area. (Wegmans, 2009). The firm further synchronized order and delivery of food for other participants.

Wegmans also sponsors events that are organized to fight hunger. For instance, during the 30th Anniversary for Foodlink in October 2008, Wegmans was a lead sponsor. The company is a long time ally of Foodlink in fighting hunger in Rochester and New York (Wegmans, 2009). The shared goals are reduction of hunger, building sufficiency and fostering nutritional awareness. The relationship between Wegmans and Foodlink is strong with even Wegmans offering to raise more food from shopper donations and delivering the same to Foodlink. Wegmans was involved in a campaign dubbed “Facing Hunger, Feeding America”. The firm participated in the process due to its shared vision of changing the situation and conditions of the less fortunate especially in matters related to hunger. In this particular event, Wegmans donated 20,000 lbs of food valued at $33,800 delivered at Community Food Bank of New Jersey (Wegmans, 2009). The firm made it known that their resolve was a divine purpose of making a difference in the community that it serves because this was the right thing to do.

Another yet another initiative, the “Check Out Hunger and Care About Hunger” program, the firm in the fall of 2007 and winter of 2008 raised $1,741,817 in customer and employee donations (Wegmans, 2009). The initiative is targeted at refurbishing the local store food banks. This was in recognition of the fact that the rising cost of living with increased prices on fuel and food was hitting some families particularly hard. The “Check Out Hunger” initiative among others was commenced in 1993 and has so far managed to raise a cumulative figure of $9M towards alleviating hunger (Wegmans, 2009). The firm still has another program, Project S.H.A.R.E in which that firm cooperates in feeding about 800 huger ridden families. For instance, the June 2007 donation consisted of 24 pallets of dry foods valued at $32,685. For each passing year, the firm donates over 20,000 pounds of perishables. The cumulative overall company wide donations totally reach about £16M in foods donated to food banks and other hunger alleviation causes.

Healthy eating and activity

The company supports good feeding habits to the consumers of it products. For instance, the former chairman Robert Wegman chose to give nutritious and not perfect foods to food banks in his quest to fight hunger, like dented cans of soup, or vegetables or fresh fruits with cosmetic flaws (Wegmans, 2009). It is important to note that presently, Foodlink obtains more than half of its donated food solely from Wegmans. In hunger ravaged areas like South Jersey where students mostly are faced with hunger, the firm has been instrumental in organizing meals for them. In coordination with Food Bank of South Jersey. Every Friday, Wegmans organizes “Kidzpacks”, a grocery bag loaded with foods that provide meals to the children (Wegmans, 2009). The importance of the program is that the foods require no special storing making it possible to target children form far flung areas who may lack access to refrigeration systems. The program has been successful. It is common sense that students who are underfed or are hungry may not achieve academic pursuits, a norm that Wegmans is committed to helping alleviate in South Jersey (Wegmans, 2009).

Conclusion

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The CSR responsibility of companies is to lead in the cause of treating the stakeholders of the firm such as customers, suppliers, firms and the environment in a dignified and right manner. Wegmans has been involved in many socially responsible practices of conducting business. The company for many years has received Fortune 100 top 10 positions of best companies to work for in the last couple of years. The firm has devoted lots of its resources in leading environment sustainable practices like the changing of the packaging to assume green goals. Moreover, the bold move of changing the purchasing policy on Farmed Shrimps represents a great commitment to environmental sustainability. Away from environment issues, the firm has been involved in many hunger alleviation initiatives. Its partnership with Foodlink and other initiatives like S.H.A.R.E program including the “Check out Hunger” initiative demonstrates the resilience and commitment of the firm in making the world a better place for the hunger stricken citizenry. Finally, efforts by Wegmans Foods Market alone are not enough as other firms should join the bandwagon in engaging businesses in socially responsible conduct.

References

Environmental Leader, (2008) Wegmans Foods Markets Increases Green Packaging, Retrieved 14 July 2009 from http://www.environmentalleader.com/2008/09/11/wegmans-food-markets-increases-green-packaging/

Environmental Leader (2007) Wegmans Adopts New Standards for Buying Framed Shrimp, Retrieved 14 July 2009 from http://www.environmentalleader.com/2007/10/29/wegmans-adopts-new-standards-for-buying-farmed-shrimp/

Iwata, E (2008) Corporate Social Responsibility, Retrieved 14 July 2009 fromhttp://www.usatoday.com/educate/college/academics/casestudies/corporate_social_responsibility_case_study%20_20080416.pdf

Lawrence, E.L. (1993) Doing well while doing good, Business Book Review Library, 10(2) 1-6

Mahalo, (2009) Wegmans Food Markets, Retrieved 14 July 2009 from http://www.mahalo.com/wegmans-food-markets \

Wegmans (2009), Community Giving Stories: Food for the Hungry, Retrieved 14 July 2009 from https://www.wegmans.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?storeId=10052&partNumber=UNIVERSAL_12230

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