Tania Katsanis, the founder of Flowers by Fruit, looks at what it means to be socially responsible and how it can be good for business as well as for the community at large.
You often hear businesses, and big business in particular, use the phrase “Socially Responsible” to help enhance their warm and fuzzy profile with the community at large. The funny thing is that there is no real clear definition of what exactly being socially responsible comprises of.
I know when I started Flowers by Fruit, I wanted my business to give back to the community and thus be socially responsible, but what parameters would I set for my business that would help me define what being socially responsible meant to us?
I started my definition by outlining what exactly it was I was trying to achieve. There were three key areas;
The first was to minimize our waste by recycling as much as possible: This included, paper, plastic, cardboard and most of all our fruit off cuts. The first three were easy, but the fruit was a challenge. Some days we’d have so much perfectly good fruit left over once we had cut a cute flower or animal shape that it was heartbreaking to throw it out.
Luckily we found OZ Harvest. Oz Harvest collects the fruit from us and redistributes it to feed the needy of Sydney. What a great organisation! I feel very proud of this association because unfortunately we do live in a throw-away society and often we throw out perfectly good food just because it’s easier. If we can help reduce the good food waste and help feed those that are less fortunate than ourselves then we will.
The second was to try and minimise our dependence on electricity wherever possible. To do this we divided our store into four zones. Each zone has independent light switches so we only use the lights that we need. Further to that we also installed two small air conditioners rather than one big unit for the same reason. The advantage is that not only are we helping reduce some of the demand for electricity we are also saving money on our electricity bill. What small business doesn’t want to cut costs?
The third was to give back the community by supporting various charities by way of donations. But where do you start? There are so many charities out there. I would love to help most of them, but we had to decide on who we could benefit most. As a self-confessed animal lover, the RSPCA is one of the bigger organisations I chose to support through various activities including financial donations, prize donations and putting together corporate teams for the annual Million Paws Walk.
Flowers by Fruit are also proud supporters of various other charities, including the Star Light Foundation, Victor Chang Cardiac Research and others. Flowers by Fruit also support pre-schools and schools in the local area by donating prizes for their fund-raising efforts.
As a business owner being socially responsible is not just a Public Relations exercise, it’s about making a positive impact on our society by helping those less fortunate than ourselves as well as minimising the negative impact of waste by recycling as much as we can or reducing our demand for things like electricity. However a good accountant will also tell you that being “socially responsible” also allows you to get some tax benefits. For Flowers by Fruit, the financial benefit is simply the cherry on top, we want to help where we can, because we can!
I hope you have been inspired to give a little back, if you haven’t already.