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6 ways natural retailers can give back

This week, UNFI announced the formation of a foundation to keep giving back. It's charity like this that should inspire all of us in the natural industry to give back to our communities.

UNFI continues to show leadership in the natural, organic and specialty foods market as it expands its mission with the creation of a charitable foundation, a good move for the industry and something to inspire retailers.

Earlier this week, the Providence, R.I.-based distributor announced the formation of the UNFI Foundation and its mission to fund nonprofit programs emphasizing areas including sustainable agriculture and organic farming as well as initiatives designed to increase organic food production and consumption. It also plans to back educational programs to increase awareness of healthy food and its benefits.

“The establishment of the foundation speaks to UNFI’s core values,” said Melody Meyer, vice-president of Global Initiatives for UNFI's subsidiary Albert’s Organics, in a press release. “This initiative provides another wonderful opportunity for UNFI to make a meaningful difference, right at the beginning, where it counts. Everything we do starts at the farm.”  Meyer was named executive director of the foundation.

Education—especially starting at the farm—is an important emphasis for the natural foods industry, one I imagine UNFI’s Foundation can help on a national scale.

Integrating charity into retail

For our industry, giving back counts in so many ways great and small, across the world, across the states and across the street. Many natural brands integrate charity as a part of their mission. You can read about three tea companies doing this in Natural Foods Merchandiser’s July edition.

Retailers too are—and should be—giving back. It’s good for the soul as well as business. More and more customers say they like to associate with businesses that do good. And the growing local movement has also come to mean buying from community-based and minded businesses.   

What might you do? Here are some simple ways natural foods retailers have given back. You can:

  1. Develop ongoing relationships with specific charities. Many businesses want to ensure they make a real difference by focusing efforts on a few charities rather than many. Aligning with charities with similar missions, such as a local food bank or community garden, makes a lot of sense.
     
  2. Offer charity-of-the-month programs. This allows you to spread the love across the community.
     
  3. Offer percentage-of-sales programs to local schools and other nonprofits. This way of giving, again, spreads gifting across many charities but also drives foot traffic, maybe even from residents who haven’t visited your store.
     
  4. Sponsor community volunteering day for employees to donate time individually or as a corporate team. Giving isn’t always about money; programs such as this can build your team too.
     
  5. Play host to local organizations in the store or through parking lot events.
     
  6. Be willing to donate product for raffles, silent auctions and other charitable efforts. A little can go a long way for the nonprofit and your goodwill.

Not all businesses can create a foundation like UNFI, but all can do good.

After all, healthier people build healthier communities and ultimately a healthier world. That’s why so many got into this business in the first place.

What do you do to give back? Share in the comments.

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