Purpose Design

The latest Hatched story of creative problem solving looks to demonstrate the difference between doing good and actually being a good company.  I know this sounds a bit 'samey same' but hang in there with me as I hope to illustrate the difference between the two.

Olive Garden an American restaurant chain has a corporate responsibility program in place that gives meals to local food banks in the US. They have made 28 million meals so far.  Great stuff right?  Well one of its workers, Kelly Ditson, recently spoke out saying the same thing but then posed a great question to the Olive Garden executives....

"I wonder,  do you think that any of those people could possible be                         employees of yours?"  


The article goes on to highlight how low wages and the policies at Olive Garden are leading to staff living in conditions associated with poverty.  Read the full article  here

Acknowledging the systemic issues with minimum wage and tipping in the US and the fact that Olive Garden have changed many homeless people's lives through the initiative it still highlights a contradiction in strategy.  This is not uncommon with doing good generally considered a side effect of doing business.  

Consider this in contrast to New Season Market which is a grocery store in Portland. Their goal is to be a community and regional food champion seeking to keep their footprint small.  They give 10% of their profits back to the community.    The company prides itself on empowering staff, considering them the most important part of their business.  

The leadership team were challenged with a complex problem, they wanted to continue to live by their purpose by employing local staff who are part of the community.  As property prices increased in the city, the workers were forced to move further out.  You can listen to the talk here 

They agonised over the problem of how to increase wages, maintain competitive prices and continue to build a local community by enabling their staff to live local.  Instead of potentially trading off one of these key aspects they decided instead to pose this question to their staff.

"We need your help in changing the way we do business by being smarter in how we do business.  How can we turn this challenge into an opportunity?"

So the staff came up with multiple solutions to increase efficiency which ensured the business remained competitive and enabled a 20% increase in starting wage with additional increases for longer tenured staff.   They also decided to get involved in changing the minimum wage policy in state of Oregon.   

This is an example of truly integrated strategy and purpose.  I bet you could spot the different in the culture between Olive Garden and New Seasons Market by just walking in there.

So let's be good companies.  What stories have you heard?