Once upon a time, there was a farm in a town called Plainville. The farmer produced natural chickens and turkeys, free from antibiotics and fed with good, plain vegetable feed, avoiding the various “additives” that consumers feared. The result was a factory, jobs, and products that everyone was proud of and, by the way, that made more money for the smart farmer than his competitors.
In fact, this enterprise became so successful that it soon outgrew Plainville. The smart farmer found a bigger farm in another state that was less costly to operate, in part because it featured an energy-efficient processing plant, used renewable energy, and included new ways of reducing waste (remember I said this farmer was very smart!). The new farm employed even more Americans in sustainable, high-paying jobs that wouldn’t someday be outsourced.
But one dark cloud loomed over this great example of ingenuity, corporate social responsibility, and investing in the American dream.
The problem was that there was no longer a need for the facility in Plainville and therefore no longer a place for those workers to earn a living. Most entrepreneurs, even the smartest of them, would chalk that up to the price of progress and point to the net benefit of the enterprise, even though one community would now do better than another. But remember I said that this particular farmer – – and business owner – – was very smart?
“What would we do with that factory and those workers if we HAD to keep them in the company’s family?” the smart farmer asked himself.
Because it was already set up to process poultry, the farmer wondered if there was some other part of that industry that his company could service and keep the Plainville facility operating. He thought about everything from feather beds to hot wings, but nothing penciled out. Then, in what some say was a thunderbolt from a higher power, he came upon the answer.
Hundreds of thousands of people prefer kosher foods, including things like kosher chickens and turkeys. Because of strict processing requirements to produce any kosher food, there was a shortage of some of these products in the marketplace. The smart farmer realized that the Plainville plant was ideally suited to serve that unique segment of the market. Kosher foods often command premium prices, so by answering the call of a higher power, the smart farmer would keep the old plant operating, save hundreds of jobs, and reap the benefits of higher profits too.
Plainville is not a mythical land, but a town in upstate New York and this is no fairy tale or the product of wishful thinking in a declining economy. It’s actually the true story of the Hain Pure Protein Company and its President Dave Wiggins (aka “the smart farmer”). Whether he heard a whisper from a higher power or the lure of higher profits, Dave has boldly demonstrated the value of establishing corporate social responsibility values to guide his company, because when times are tough, if you stick to your principles, you can often find solutions that are great for your company and your community.
As Wall Street and Detroit roam the halls of Congress with tin cups in hand, Hain will keep making good products and profits the old fashioned way – – by harvesting the fruits of their very smart labors. Happy Holidays (and pass the cranberries!).