Seeds of Hope from Waitrose; Helping Hand: The Waitrose Foundation Has a Vital Role in Rural South Africa

Article excerpt

Byline: SARAH RICHARDSON

WHILE few retailers would be foolish enough to criticise thecommercialism that surrounds Christmas, a new kind of consumer is expecting tosource gifts and goodies this season which make them feel better aboutthemselves without costing them a significant premium. This is why Waitrose'swork with the South African farmers who grow the supermarket chain's citrusfruit is more than a glowing example of corporate social responsibility.

It also makes such good commercial sense as well as ensuring its future supplychain. In just two years since its creation the Waitrose Foundation hastransformed thousands of lives. The initiative, a partnership between allparties in the supply chain (Waitrose, exporters Green Marketing and a numberof importers), was formed out of a desire to take part in spearheading themanagement of the land-reform process in South Africa.

Under the funding model, a proportion of the profits from South African citrusfruits, grapes, stone fruits and avocados goes into a fund to improve the livesof farm workers and their communities and develop their skills in line with theSouth African government's aspirations for black economic empowerment.

While the Foundation is administered by a board of directors, the farm workersthemselves decide what projects are needed by their communities. This couldrange from somewhere for children to do their homework, sports pitches,organised creches or community centres.

This bottom-up process of distributing foundation funding dovetails with theSouth African government's evolving AgriBEE (Black Economic Empowerment), whichhas proposed that 30 per cent of the land should be owned by black SouthAfricans by 2014. The South African government has recognised that before thiscan occur, workers need to be empowered and given the skills to help them takemore economic responsibilities in the future.

The Waitrose Foundation is a longterm project with two elements: the firststage looks at social issues and aims to ensure essential knowledgethrough such methods as education programmesboth of basic literacy and agricultural production. The second stage willultimately entail ownership of some land by farm workers, whereby Foundationgrants will be used to buy land to be held in trust on behalf of farm workers.Collectively these steps ensure that prior to any ownership of land, workersare provided with the requisite skills. Such a scheme will also contribute tothe longterm development of the country. …