How Smithfield Foods is Doing Well by Doing Good (And What You Can Learn From Them) [SPONSORED]

If you’re operating in the cause marketing space and you’ve never heard of Smithfield Foods, you’re missing out. This is a company that exemplifies what it means to leverage the power of doing good while building its national and regional brands.

Check it out: Here’s a story that will inspire you to think bigger about your organization’s cause marketing efforts and goals.

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Smithfield Foods is to the packaged meats and pork industry as Nike is to the athletic wear industry.

To provide some scale, Smithfield is one of the largest global food and consumer packed meats companies in the world, to the tune of $14 billion. It’s also the world’s largest pork processor and hog producer, and it exports products to more than 40 countries.

Equally important – and in some ways more significantly – Smithfield has the distinction of doing business responsibly and sustainably, and they are redefining what it means to create cooperative efforts between for-profit and nonprofit organizations.

For starters, in 2015 the company increased its charitable giving by more than 30 percent – to $27 million – which included food and cash donations through its cause-related partnerships that raise funds for charities focusing on vexing issues like hunger, education, health, and wellness.

Smithfield offered its support for these partnerships by staging more than 100 cause-marketing events, resulting in a 400 percent increase over the previous year’s efforts!

Smithfield also ramped up its food donations by more than 37 percent, and donated almost 19 million servings of protein to food banks across the country through its Helping Hungry Homes® initiative.  Beneficiaries included food banks, schools, disaster relief efforts, and community outreach programs.

It’s no surprise, then, that Smithfield Foods President and CEO Ken Sullivan is a finalist for CR Magazine’s 2017 Responsible CEO of the Year award. Sullivan and Smithfield Foods’ vice president of regulatory affairs and chief sustainability officer, Stewart Leeth, will talk about the company’s innovative work during COMMIT!Forum.

Promoting Smithfield’s mission to “produce good food the right way,” Sullivan has been at the helm of initiatives that have had far-reaching positive effects, that make consumers feel good about buying Smithfield products, and that have encouraged the formation of great partnerships for cause marketing.

For example:

  • 25 by ’25: Smithfield is the first major protein company to adopt a greenhouse gas reduction goal throughout its entire supply chain. Through collaboration with the Environmental Defense Fund, the company will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2025. The Fund calls this “the most ambitious commitment yet by a U.S. meatpacker to curtail greenhouse gas emissions.”
  • Operation 4000!: Smithfield has set a goal to employ 4,000 military servicemen and servicewomen by the end of 2020.
  • Operation Homefront: Over the last five years, Smithfield’s Eckrich® brand has donated $2.5 million to Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit that supports military families. Through this partnership, military families also received free groceries, unique NASCAR experiences, backyard makeovers, and vehicles.
  • Smithfield Salutes: Smithfield has launched a veterans’ employee resource group that helps veteran employees and those who want to help veterans by providing tools to be successful as Smithfield employees.
  • ROI Awards Program: This companywide initiative rewards employees who exemplify Smithfield’s guiding principles of responsibility, operational excellence, and innovation.
  • Companywide expansion of Helping Hungry Homes: Donation stops take place in communities where Smithfield maintains operations as a means to give back to the communities where company employees live and work.

Smithfield’s list of goals and accomplishments above is impressive to be sure, but it’s crucial to remember that the willingness to work toward this level of operating standard and service is risky business – which is why, in part, Sullivan’s willingness and courage to publicly announce such ambitious goals are so remarkable.

Multi-million dollar investment in new technologies and tools, company-wide operational changes, encouraging employees to improve their performance, and building relationships with new and unexpected partners are just a few of the challenges ahead for this global organization. But, as Sullivan told The Wall Street Journal, “If you’re going to be the world’s largest pork company, you ought to be a leader.”

When it comes to cause marketing and corporate social responsibility, managing this degree of risk is not for the faint of heart, but there are actionable skills and lessons to be learned from dynamic leaders who are the pathfinders.

Conferences like COMMIT!Forum provide just such an opportunity. This annual event attracts corporate responsibility practitioners, including CEOs, communications professionals, sustainability specialists, foundation leaders, nonprofit execs, and the mass media.

This year’s event has the theme of Brands Taking Stands, and those who attend will have the chance to hear guest speakers, like Sullivan and other leaders, discuss their experiences and the innovative work they’ve undertaken in the areas of cause marketing and CSR.

In addition to Sullivan, executives from the Campbell Soup Company, JetBlue, the U.S. Secretary of State’s Office of Global Partnership, 3BL Media, CECP, the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, and many other companies and institutions will be speaking about topics crucial to running a business more responsibly, prioritizing CSR goals, combining sustainability and profitability, managing brand and reputation, and a lot more.

As a professional development investment, attendance at COMMIT!Forum is one way those who are active in cause marketing and CSR can connect with and learn from the best.

Congratulations to the Corporate Responsibility Association and CR Magazine for putting together such an outstanding resource!


This post is sponsored by COMMIT!Forum. Presented by the Corporate Responsibility Association and CR Magazine, the conference will be held at MGM National Harbor, just outside Washington D. C., October 11-12.