Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Effective Communication Strategies for Employees in Today's Challenging Business Climate

During a merger and acquisition, one aspect of the transition that is often overlooked by large corporations is an effective communication strategy to their frontline employees, which can often lead to feelings of uncertainty, confusion in their roles, and a decrease in company morale.

According to a recent report published by Deloitte, 75 percent of corporate executives and private equity investors expect that deal activity will increase in 2017, with 64 percent of those surveyed expecting larger deals. Based on reports that large corporations including Macy’s and Dish have been in discussions about takeovers, they could be adding some validity to those predictions early on in the year.

Jeff Corbin, CEO and founder of APPrise Mobile, spent 20 years as an executive in the corporate communications industry, but then saw a larger need for solutions that solve specific communications challenges that industry professionals deal with on an everyday basis. He spoke with CR Magazine about these challenges and solutions.

CR Magazine: Can you give some best practices for an effective communications strategy—among senior level executives and to employees?

Jeff Corbin: Effective communication is all about transparency and the personal touch. Providing just the right amount of information on a relatively frequent basis and doing so in a way in which employees “feel the love” can go a long way. This is especially important during times of change within an organization.

CR: How can leadership effectively engage and communicate with employees during transitional periods? 

JC: During transitional periods, the most important thing is to be consistent in the way in which you are communicating. If e-mail is the primary communications method, then sharing frequent emails on what is taking place is key. However, as stated above, the personal touch is critical. Live events (town hall meetings), webcasts of the events, video archives and short CEO vlogs go a long way towards engaging with employees and are a great bang for the buck.

CR: How does an effective communications process tie into corporate responsibility? 

JC: Your employees are your most important audience. They are your ambassadors who carry your organization’s key messages to all external audiences. It’s the responsibility of corporate to ensure that the message does not get muddied or confused as a result of ineffective communications.

CR: What are the benefits to using an app like APPrise Mobile when running a business? 

JC: These days, pretty much everyone has an Apple or Android mobile device, and these devices are very personal to them. theEMPLOYEEapp allows a company to accomplish all of the things mentioned above. It allows for the instantaneous push of information and control of messaging to all employees no matter where they are located, and even supports videos and live events so that employees can feel connected with corporate even if they are not sitting at headquarters. It also centralizes communications so employees have all key messages at their fingertips 24/7. For front-line employees in particular who don’t work in an office environment (which happens to be 80 percent of the overall workforce), it allows for them to feel a part of a corporate community.

CR: Why is technology so important in effective communications today? 

JC: Same answer as the one above. Everyone has a mobile device. Never before has an organization had such an opportunity to get information and control its messaging simultaneously, instantaneously, and effectively to their entire workforce.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

How to Grow the Business Bottom Line

Jennifer Hartz and Lisa Tilt
Companies should use marketing communications strategies that leverage their social responsibility investment

There are two critical business imperatives that drive corporate operations—revenue enhancement and human resources. If both of those business levers could be augmented and sustained through one program, would you apply it? That is the outcome when organizations purposefully align corporate responsibility with marketing communications (MarComm).

According to the Committee for Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy’s Giving in Numbers 2016 report, business performance is tied to social responsibility. This finding presumes that companies are connecting their public and business strategies and they are skilled at sharing that information internally and externally. If either of these presumptions is untrue, then a great deal of time and money is being wasted.

Paralleling CR and MarComm allows a business to derive the full value of its civic investments. This symbiotic relationship touches every level and function of the organization—from operations to sustainability, or from regulatory practices to growth.

Once a leadership team decides to leverage CR with intentionality, it’s time to develop a platform and programs that support organizational opportunities to engage the MarComm team to amplify success in that area. There are revenue enhancement through three performance areas: brand differentiation, new products and services, and new markets.

Brand Differentiation 
By demonstrating strong values and a commitment to the community, a company will strengthen its reputation, and differentiate its brand from competing brands. The result is increasing customer/client attraction and loyalty, which drive sales.

Effective CR MarComm depends on how the organization’s internal and external messages align with each other and with its core values. “Think of cause marketing as you would any other brand collaboration with for profit companies,” Brooke Golden of Clif Bar said in a Forbes article. “Find a cause whose advocates share your consumer’s profile, understand their networks and strengths, and identify where you can come together around a shared voice and message to amplify both your efforts.”

MarComm for in the social responsibility realm should fully commit to the non-profit relationship. Strategies include:
  • Developing relationships with the non-profit’s other (non-competitive, but like-minded) partners to build your company’s brand reputation; and 
  • Creating content about the partnership and its cause that features your employees and/or products side-by-side with the non-profit’s beneficiaries to tell the story.
New Products and Services 
Businesses that identify and satisfy a need—be it allergen-free snacks or expert accounting service—are beneficial to society. Performing this action requires an active presence to learn and understand market demands and bring opportunities to the surface.

Expressing a charity’s vision and mission effectively is an important task for MarComm teams to keep in mind as they build partnerships with non-profits for the benefit of both organizations via two predominant strategies:
  • Sponsorship – ongoing or event-driven alignment of the business with a non-profit via the donation of funds, products, services, access to donors, and volunteers; and 
  • Co-branding – found often in consumer products, a non-profit can endorse goods or services in exchange for money and/or exposure on products, signage, or ads.
New Markets (Locations and Audiences) 
Volunteering alongside residents and activists, politicians and professionals, and parents and teachers, creates awareness, goodwill and trust within the community or demographic. The MarComm team should participate actively in message development and deployment, since most non-profit organizations function with lean teams.

It’s best to market involvement to new geographies and audiences with a light touch—coming across as self-congratulatory negates the good work the company does through the partnership. Enable non-profit partners to advocate for the collaboration through marketing initiatives such as:
  • Activate email marketing from the non-profit to its supporters that profiles a case study of the results both entities are achieving together; and 
  • Use pictures, testimonials, and data to tell the story in the traditional and social media channels of both organizations. Also disseminate via internal communications that connect with employees.
It's important to recognize that CSR is multi-faceted. Money matters, ergo people matter. Inform and engage employees and customers so they know why the company is investing in this cause, how to participate, and how their involvement changes the world.

—Lisa Tilt and Jennifer Hartz

Tilt is president of Full Tilt Consulting, a content and communications strategy firm founded in 2006 that works with momentum organizations to grow their business through marketing and employer branding programs. 

Hartz is president of Corporate Hartz, LLC, founded in 2000 to counsel companies on high-impact Corporate Social Responsibility and advise families on philanthropy.

Friday, February 10, 2017

THRIVE Farmers Becomes a Certified B Corporation

THRIVE Farmers International, Inc., a company leading farmer-focused sustainability efforts in the coffee/tea food and beverage industry, announces it has received certification as a B Corporation.

THRIVE  joins a group of more than 1,800 Certified B Corps from more than 120 industries in 50 countries by meeting rigorous standards for social and environmental ethics, transparency and accountability to employees, suppliers, and the global community.

“In an industry full of certifications, the B Corp certification is more holistic and validates that THRIVE Farmers' good work goes beyond intention to create true impact for farmers and consumers,” Kenneth Lander, THRIVE Farmers co-founder and chief sustainability officer, says.

THRIVE Farmers was founded in 2011 to allow coffee and tea farmers to economically, socially, and environmentally "thrive." The biggest hurdle farmers face is unpredictable pricing based on the volatile commodity market. Through sharing the real revenue generated by the farmer’s product, THRIVE Farmers creates a predictable, stable, and higher price. These relationships support farmers and allow them to continue farming and enjoy a thriving and sustainable livelihood for their families and communities.

“The B Corp community is a global movement of people using business as a force for good. THRIVE Farmers was born to empower farmers by connecting them to the real value of their work. It is an honor to join B Corp to and be a force for a more inclusive economy and connecting farmers as true stakeholders and partners,” Lander says.

Working with farmers around the world globally informs THRIVE Farmers’ global perspective on what it takes to make a truly sustainable product. Based on the belief that quality products can only be sustainable when sourced from solid social and economic foundations through partnership with farmers, THRIVE Farmers encourages consumers and conscious companies to use everyday purchasing to create a lasting, positive impact.

“As a Certified B Corp, THRIVE is leading by example and showing the world how business can be used as a force for good,” Ben Anderson, director of the B Corp Team, says. “Its mission to empower businesses to create positive impact with their purchasing decisions inspires others to not only be best in the world, but the best for the world."

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

St. Jude and Target Continue Partnership to Help Sick Children

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital recently announced a partnership—one that has impacted the lives of thousands of children and their families who have turned to St. Jude for treatment of cancer and other life-threatening diseases. That partnership is with Target Corporation— a model of corporate responsibility. For 20 years, Target’s leaders, team members, and guests have whole-heartedly embraced the lifesaving mission of St. Jude—and have become members of the St. Jude family.
This dedication began in 1996, when Target made a commitment to design and built a residence for the patients and families of St. Jude. St. Jude Target House would not be just any housing facility, but a true home-away-from-home for families undergoing the toughest times of their lives.

Thanks to support of partners like Target, families never receive a bill from St. Jude—not for treatment, travel, housing, or food—because we believe all a family should worry about is helping their child live. And St. Jude Target House provides that home for 98 families at a time—families whose children need to be treated at St. Jude for longer than 90 days. Sometimes that treatment can stretch upwards of three years.

Consider this: Since St. Jude Target House opened in 1999, more than 4,500 families from 45 states and 47 countries and territories have called the facility their home.

For these families, what is just as important as having a roof over their heads is the sense of normalcy that St. Jude Target House provides while their children undergo treatment as well as a special sense of community, where families sharing similar experiences can bond and provide support for one another.

That community is also celebrated by Target throughout the year with carnivals and parties that help create memories and experiences for the patients and families of St. Jude.

And Target’s commitment extends beyond support of St. Jude Target House. During its partnership with St. Jude, Target has been involved in the annual St. Jude Thanks and Giving® campaign and served as a sponsor of such events as the St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer, which takes place during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September.

Since 2009, Target has sponsored 25 key fundraising events, including the Fall Festival of Hope and the Red Carpet for Hope, both in Minneapolis where Target is headquartered.

These sponsorships and the millions of dollars raised by Target since the partnership began help support the groundbreaking research and treatment at St. Jude, treatment that has increased the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent when the hospital opened in 1962 to more than 80 percent today. With the help of partners like Target, we won’t stop until no child dies of cancer.

At the heart of this dedication to St. Jude are the hearts of every Target team member. These  employees from around the country readily give of their time, talents, and energy to volunteer at St. Jude events and help raise the funds and awareness needed to support the mission.

Danny Thomas, the founder of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, dreamed of a day when no child would die in the dawn of life. Partnerships like the one between Target Corporation and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital illustrate the great good that can be done when people work together toward a common dream—a day when cancer no longer takes the life of any child.

—Richard Shadyac, Jr., president and CEO of ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Target's New Chemical Strategy: A Q&A with its Chief Sustainabity Officer

Target recently announced its new chemical strategy—committed to to driving transparency, proactive chemical management, and innovation across all of the company’s owned and national brand consumer products and operations.

This new strategy will: strive for full visibility of chemicals contained in or used to make products Target sells and uses in operations; work with business partners to implement policies, practices and tools that facilitate the management of chemicals throughout the supply chain and across operations; and pursue and promote new approaches to chemical development and safer alternatives.

The goals of the strategy are to:
  • Achieve transparency to all ingredients including generics by 2020;
  • Improve products by formulating without phthalates, propylparaben, butyl-paraben, formaldehyde, formaldehyde-donors, or NPE’s by 2020;
  • Improve textile products by removing added Perfluorinated Chemicals from products by 2022;
  • Improve textile products by removing added flame retardants that are potential carcinogens or pose harm by 2022; and
  • Invest up to $5 million in green chemistry innovation by 2022. 
CR Magazine asked Jennifer Silberman, chief sustainability officer at Target, about the new chemical strategy and the company's goals.

CR Magazine: Why did Target decide to address chemicals in products? Were there requests from customers? 

Jennifer Silberman: At Target, we know our guests care about what is in their products and trust us to provide better choices for them and their families. They are becoming increasingly concerned with chemicals in products they use in, on, or around their bodies. According to NMI’s 2016 Sustainability report, 66 percent of U.S. consumers are interested in socially and/or environmentally better products.

We’ve also been seeing category sales growth coming from better-for-you products. We believe that by driving chemical transparency, proactive chemical management and innovation across all of our product categories and operations, we can help reduce unwanted substances from homes and workplaces of millions of our guests and people who make our products.

CR: Why is it so important to address the issue of these unwanted chemicals and their potential health impact?

JS: We believe all guests and their families should have access to better-for-you products in their homes and workplaces. Making an informed choice about the products we manufacture and sell should be simple. Our comprehensive strategy is designed to give guests greater peace of mind and confidence in their purchases at the store and beyond.

CR: How will you achieve transparency of all ingredients? How specifically are you looking at your supply chains?

JS: Our close collaboration with our vendors is critical to ensuring compliance throughout the supply chain. A key part of this process will involve providing feedback and constant communication every step of the way to ensure collaboration and positive impact.

We already have a good start with our Sustainable Product Index (SPI)—a tool we developed in partnership with industry experts, vendors and NGOs, to help establish a common language, definition and process for increased transparency and qualifying what makes a product more sustainable. As part of this commitment to transparency, we are asking all of our vendors not yet participating in our Sustainable Product Index to be compliant by 2018.

CR: Why is green chemistry so important in product development?

JS: Through our commitment to innovation, we are uniquely seeking to invest resources and expertise to identify and catalyze safer chemical alternatives, where no viable substitutions currently exist. For example, our work during the GC3 Preservatives Challenge has helped to advance greener chemistry in beauty and personal care products. We will actively engage with NGOs, associations and industry partners to innovate and promote a consistent approach to greener chemistry.

CR: Do you believe Target leads the way in these sustainable efforts?

JS: Target’s holistic approach of evaluating all product categories and operations—from cleansers to clothes—is a first of its kind in retail. In addition, our chemical policy evaluates process chemicals, or chemicals used in the process of making the product, not just those that are found in the product. Our commitments are driven by collaboration, and we hope that our robust approach will accelerate similar efforts across the industry. We look forward to partnering with supply chain partners, vendors and other organizations on our unique innovation-inspired goals to work toward finding safer alternatives to unwanted chemicals, ultimately enhancing the health and well-being of millions of guests.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

A Culture of Giving: Smithfield Foods Expands 'Helping Hungry Homes' Program

Dennis Pittman is the senior director of hunger relief for Smithfield Foods, the world's largest hog producer and pork processor. In this role, he leads the company's hunger relief efforts, including Helping Hungry Homes®, an initiative to fight hunger and help Americans become more food secure. Established in 2008, Helping Hungry Homes provides high-quality, nutritious protein to food banks across the country and raises awareness of hunger. To date, the initiative has provided more than 49 million servings of protein to food banks located from coast-to-coast.

CR Magazine recently spoke with Pittman about Smithfield's philanthropic initiatives. 

CR Magazine: How does Smithfield Foods’ Helping Hungry Homes initiative strive to address the issue of hunger and food insecurity in the United States?

Dennis Pittman: At Smithfield Foods, it’s our business to feed people. We value our responsibility as a global food company to address hunger and improve food security. Each year, Helping Hungry Homes launches a nationwide food donation tour, giving millions of pounds of protein to communities across the country. Along the way, we partner with local retailers, civic leaders and other stakeholders who share our passion to fight for additional support and generate greater awareness of hunger at the local level.

This year, we launched a new, interactive website to engage our employees, retailers, and others in the Helping Hungry Homes initiative. The website,, provides information about where the tour has recently visited, where it’s going next and the impact we’ve made on our communities across the nation.

CR: What have been food banks’ responses to this initiative? 

DP: Protein is a much-needed and often difficult to acquire resource. It’s a staple for a nutritious, balanced meal. It can also be one of the costlier parts of a meal. The food banks have shared with us that for this reason, our protein donations make a significant impact on these communities. The food banks that we have worked with have also shared that they are grateful for our role in raising awareness of food insecurity. With each donation, Helping Hungry Homes engages local stakeholders during a media event, allowing news outlets to spread information about hunger at the local level. These events encourage the community to get involved by donating to or volunteering with their local food bank.

CR: Helping Hungry Homes has grown from a brand-led to a company-wide initiative. How has this growth better positioned the program to achieve its mission? 

DP: When Helping Hungry Homes was launched in 2008, it was led by the Smithfield brand. Over the years, the initiative has expanded significantly. This year, it has grown into a company-wide program and will donate protein to local food banks throughout the nation. Now, Smithfield Foods’ entire family of brands including Smithfield, Eckrich and Nathan's Famous, and its more than 40,000 employees in more than 40 locations across the country are part of this signature philanthropic endeavor.

CR: Why is this initiative important to Smithfield Foods? 

DP: According to the United States Department of Agriculture, nearly 42 million Americans are food insecure. This means that one in eight people in our country do not know where their next meal will come from. At Smithfield Foods, we understand the benefits of proper nutrition and believe it is our responsibility to help our neighbors in need. Through Helping Hungry Homes, we are able to do our part to help provide countless families with proper nutrition they need. By helping meet this need, we are able to play a role in strengthening the local communities, in which we do business and where our employees live and work.

CR: In 2017, this initiative will visit cities with Smithfield Foods locations. Why was this an important factor to consider for Smithfield Foods?

DP: Our employees share a passion to feed people and serve their communities. With this in mind, we’re putting an even greater focus on the communities that we call home. In 2017, Helping Hungry Homes donation stops will visit cities where Smithfield Foods has a facility, farm or office. By targeting these areas, we are able to give back to the communities in which our employees live and work, while further engaging our people in the fight against hunger. When Helping Hungry Homes® visits an area, employees are encouraged to host employee-led food drives of non-perishable items, attend the donation event and seek volunteer opportunities with their local food bank.

CR: How does it feel to be leading by example in corporate giving? 

DP: At Smithfield Foods, we understand that our people are our greatest asset and the vitality of their communities are a priority. Smithfield Foods could not constantly improve or expand our corporate giving programs without the help of our employees who share our passion for feeding people. Through programs like Helping Hungry Homes, we are able to give back to our neighbors and communities across the country. While we have accomplished a great deal in our fight against hunger, we know there is still much to do. We hope our work continues to inspire others to join our fight in addressing hunger and improving food security.

CR: How would Smithfield Foods recommend other companies look at improving their giving processes? 

DP: A successful giving program requires support from every level of the company, starting at the top. Kenneth Sullivan, president and CEO of Smithfield Foods, is a visionary leader committed to improving food security and addressing hunger while fulfilling our mission to produce good food the right way. This is important because all philanthropic efforts should align with a company’s mission. Our giving endeavors, part of efforts to support the communities where our employees live and work, are part of a core pillar of our sustainability program.

Along with Helping Communities, our sustainability efforts focus on animal care, environment, food safety and quality and our people. Speaking of our people, the success of Helping Hungry Homes would not be possible without our passionate employees. The Smithfield Foods family is a driving force behind this program. At each donation stop, our employees and retailers are encouraged to take an active role in the fight against hunger. Together, we are proud to be making a significant impact on the fight against hunger.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Five Factors to Consider in Managing Global Risk

For companies both large and small, managing expectations regarding receivables is essential. From late payments to ultimately writing off bad debt, the pain spectrum can run wide. Staying on top of your customers’ normal payment practices, changes in payment terms, and potentially significant underlying factors in their businesses is no easy task, yet this responsibility is crucial to the sustainability of a healthy company in a global supply chain.

Fortunately, with good optics, companies can safely manage their exports and capitalize on emerging markets while minimizing the risk of bad debts.

Customer transparency. Monitoring financial statements and available banking information frequently, even sometimes quarterly, is essential. Plan on reviewing income statements, balance sheets and, in particular, cash flow statements and projections to determine a customer’s ability to generate cash flow.

Market knowledge. When entering into a new customer relationship, invest time and resources to learn local commercial regulations, accounting and legal practices as well as other cultural issues that could influence remittances and, if needed, the ability to access effective collection services.

Financing partners. Check the bank’s ability to manage the legal requirements of buying receivables in a certain country as well as supporting offsets such as credit/debit memos. Banks may be unwilling to buy receivables from the types of customers you target (e.g., geography, currency, payment term, credit risk). Has it taken a long time for a bank to include a customer in the system? That may be a red flag.

Understand costs. Make sure you are well aware of any hidden costs, such as delayed on-boarding and participation, UCC filings in the U.S. or legal fees. There also might be costs associated with the supply chain process, such as order-to-cash, source-to-pay or settle-to-fulfill, or technology, including constructing software infrastructure, adopting new applications and re-engineering existing IT systems.

Flexibility and trust. With evolving trade circumstances, flexibility is essential in the supply chain. How far will a customer go to circumvent supply chain risk? Also, trust must be established to ensure each party in the sale will do everything possible to meet their obligations and timelines and, thus, maintain cash flows. Do you have the trust and support of your customer’s chief purchasing officer and commitment from the executive team?

Atradius Trade Credit Insurance is a global provider of trade credit insurance, surety and debt collection services with a presence in every continent. Their teams of analysts monitor countries, regions, governments and individual companies to help deliver competitive intelligence related to emerging markets and associated trade risks.

—Doug Collins, vice president and regional director of risk services - Americas, Atradius