In a developing economy like the Philippines, a small-and-medium enterprise (SME) has shown that one does not have to be a big company to go into a meaningful Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program. It just has to have its heart in the right place.
Binalot Fiesta Foods has demonstrated that the private sector need not depend on the government alone to uplift the lives of its countrymen. Like other like-minded SMEs, they have taken it upon themselves to help out by establishing many social initiatives, especially those that would benefit communities where they operate.
As a result, the Philippines has become the poster child for CSR in the region. Although CSR can just be relegated to the public relations or corporate communications departments of huge multinationals, in the Philippines, it is fast becoming mainstream undertaking. Case in point is the Asian Forum for CSR which originated in the Philippines, making it apparent that the country leads Southeast Asia in CSR programs and initiatives.
Binalot Fiesta Foods is a small Filipino fast food restaurant chain which uses the biodegradable banana leaves as its primary form of packaging. Despite its small size and limited resources, it has set up a noteworthy CSR program.
Rommel Juan, president of the Binalot food chain, recognized that there is a need to help develop and give livelihood to the poor families in rural communities, particularly the subsistence banana farmers of Nagcarlan, Laguna where Binalot sources its banana leaves. The result is the DAHON Program (Dangal at Hanapbuhay para sa Nayon or Dignity and Livelihood for the Community). Incidentally, “dahon” also means leaf in the local dialect.
Under the program, the men of the community plant banana trees and harvest the banana leaves from the jungle for the elderly women to cut and clean to Binalot specifications. This gives livelihood to some 30 families in the area, assuring them of a steady source of income. A day care center and a chapel were renovated. A composting facility was installed to ensure proper disposal of wastes.
The benefits under the DAHON program are many. For Binalot, it assures them of a secure and reliable source of banana leaves for its operations. For the banana farmers and their families, they are assured of a steady flow of income for their daily sustenance. For the community, it benefits from amenities provided for. For the environment, it is an assurance that it will be preserved and protected.
Due to its success, Binalot wishes to replicate the DAHON program in other areas as it opens more new outlets across the country.
Today, Binalot not only promotes its CSR programs but also helps preserve the environment by using biodegradable materials for its packaging and operations. It also uses eco-friendly electric bikes to deliver its food.
As a result, Binalot was awarded the once-in-a-lifetime Centennial Prize in the worldwide 2007 UPS Out-of-the-Box Small Business Contest commemorating United Parcel Service’s (UPS) 100th year of existence. The special award honors Binalot as it “best exemplifies the end-to-end service theme of UPS’s Centennial Celebration”.
It has also been honored by Entrepreneur Magazine with a special citation for CSR, the PR Society of the Philippines has given it the prestigious Anvil Award and the AFCSR and Intel-AIM both gave Binalot awards for Best Corporate Social Responsibility Program in 2010.