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How Business Can Build Better Lives

Power of Ideas
How Business Can Build Better Lives

The pressure is on for corporations to take the lead in solving social challenges, bringing innovation, technology, and partnership to bear in accelerating our recovery from the pandemic’s worst impacts. This mandate comes from the Milken Institute and The Harris Poll 2021 Listening Project. It polled nearly 17,000 people from 27 countries who ranked food insecurity and water scarcity, access to health care and social services, and access to education and job opportunities as their top three concerns. They are looking to us, as business leaders, to fix them.

Can we be a catalyst for social change? Can we build truly meaningful lives by focusing on environmental, social, and corporate governance?

Yes. I have experienced first-hand what it means to make a difference. I am sharing what I learned to encourage others to take up the challenge laid at our feet.

Last year my company defined and aligned ourselves behind our purpose: “We champion an equitable world. A world where everyone—irrespective of their age, race, income, location, or gender—has the right to nutrition that comes from the goodness of the earth.”

To reimagine this future and to create it you need a plan. Here are three simple lessons we learned on trying to make our business a catalyst for change.

Do not let your impact be limited by your own resources or ability. Partnerships and collaboration supercharge your progress.

Lesson 1: Truly understand the challenges and the barriers to achieving what you have defined as your purpose. Dig deeply and thoroughly.

We found many interdependencies between ourselves, our stakeholders including our investors and our growers, and the planet that supports and provides for us as food producers. Is a product range with added processed sugar acceptable in “good nutrition”? What about packaging? Food waste? Our carbon footprint? How can we reduce waste, sugar, and carbon but increase value? Keep digging until you find solid answers.

Lesson 2: Infuse your purpose into your business model. Commit to making decisions through that lens so that change will be scaled and can be driven over the long term. Prepare to add new talent to your team to accelerate change in valuable areas like innovation.

We did this in the form of six interdependent promises: zero processed sugar, zero food waste, carbon neutrality, zero fossil-based plastic packaging, and good nutrition for 1 billion people. Measure success in new ways. Our goal is to increase value, not just for shareholders, but for all our stakeholders. As we reduce sugar, fruit waste, and emissions, eliminate fossil plastics, and increase nutrition access we are also creating a value handprint that spans the entire value chain—from farm to fork—and we incentivize accordingly.

Do not let your impact be limited by your own resources or ability. Partnerships and collaboration supercharge your progress. We have partnered with over 40 organizations to help achieve our goals, from improving farmers’ earning ability to converting pineapple waste into vegan leather, harnessing solar power to developing future foods.

The Singapore Economic Development Board has partnered with us in Dole Specialty Ingredients, which will transform bioresources like pineapple stems, papaya peels, and downgraded fruit into high-value natural products like enzymes, extracts, seed oils, and fibers.

Lesson 3: Get on with it. Identify and implement actions that raise awareness and begin to seed change through education, donations, and partnerships.

There is never one single solution—so find them all. In the city of Jackson, Mississippi, we are attempting to turn a food desert into an oasis, not with one solution but many. We are partnering with the mayor to change the status quo where junk food dominates food choices for lower income families because it is more readily available than fresh meat and produce. Through nutrition education, sustainable farming, distribution programs, cooking classes, and gardening tuition we are enabling the community to make affordable, healthier choices that are also sustainable. Our purpose and our promises are embedded in the way we work and our business growth model, and they are generating value for all stakeholders. Can a focus on environmental, social, and corporate governance criteria help build meaningful lives? Certainly.