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Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) - is it BAM?

Sunday, July 16, 2017


Recently I watched a “60 Minutes”1 documentary describing the phenomenal rise of Chobani Yogurt to become the top selling yogurt brand in the United States. Founded in upstate New York in 2005 by Turkish immigrant Hamdi Ulukaya without outside investors, Chobani is a charming feel-good story of entrepreneurship.

The story seems to have all the components of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) which is a corporation's initiatives to assess and take responsibility for the company's effects on environmental and social well-being as well as the economic financial outcomes. The term generally applies to efforts that go beyond what may be required by regulators or environmental protection groups.

Despite examples of abuse and attempts to deceive the public, generally CSR is a good thing, based in part in the philosophy of the Triple Bottom Line, a term coined by John Elkington in 1994. A CSR-responsible company develops its policies, programs, standards and principles in accordance with:

People – what is good for the human capital and the social good. Such is true at Chobani. “From the beginning I tried to treat everybody right,” Ulukaya said in a speech last month. “We paid everyone well above minimum wage. Everybody in our plant gets the same holidays as everybody in the office. Our entire company — hourly or salaried — would get full health care, retirement plans.”

Not long ago Ulukaya offered 10% of the company ownership to his 2,000 employees. But perhaps the most interesting decision was to hire legal refugees in his New York and Twin Falls, Idaho plants. Today more than 600 refugees have jobs. Says Ulukaya, “The No. 1 thing that you can do is provide them jobs. The minute they get a job, that’s the minute they stop being a refugee.”

Profit – without question Chobani is a profitable company, and is valued at over $1 billion today. The owner understands the customer and creates value for all stakeholders. Such value-creation has been translated into profitability and sustainability.

Planet – the third bottom line is concern for the environment and the health of people. The mission of Chobani to have “better food for more people” translates into the use of natural ingredients, more protein, less sugar and ultimately a healthier lifestyle, illustrated in this partnership with McDonalds: http://www.chobani.com/nutritioncenter.

Cows are not treated with rBST and animal welfare is an ethical and moral imperative. All of creation is important to Mr. Ulukaya and Chobani.

This certainly is good. It is good CSR; it is a good business model. But is it BAM?

Business as Mission (BAM)

BAM often talks of the Quadruple Bottom Line, with the 4th item being the all-important commitment to be a Kingdom Company and ultimately a Great Commission Company. All of the above-mentioned components of CSR are great and important but a Business as Mission company requires the owner and management to operate the company with Biblical principles and for the glory of God.

Rundle and Steffen in Great Commission Companies define such as “…a socially responsible, income producing business managed by Kingdom professionals and created for the specific purpose of glorifying God and promoting the growth and multiplication of local churches in the least evangelized and least developed parts of the world.”2

BAM company leaders “…make it known in their personal and professional daily speech, actions, lifestyles, management styles, decisions and testimonies that they are ardent followers of Jesus and are doing their best to conduct all aspects of the business in a manner worthy of the gospel.”3 Thus BAM companies incarnate the life of Jesus and proclaim the gospel verbally when there is opportunity.

The result – more and more people become followers of Jesus; lives (and ultimately communities) are transformed. This is a 4th “bottom line” and an essential one.
IBEC believes in CSR and we love stories like Chobani. But our work is in the direction of Business as Mission; Kingdom companies producing Jesus followers.

1 CBS 60 Minutes, April 6, 2017,  Chobani founder stands by hiring refugees. 
2 Rundle, Steve & Steffen, Tom. Great Commission Companies, InterVarsity Press (2011), p. 45.
3 Johnson, C. Neal.  Business as Mission, InterVarsity Press (2009), p. 280.


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