Pinoy Fast Food recognized in Asian CSR awards in Malaysia

Binalot Fiesta Foods took home the Intel-Aim Corporate Social Responsibility Award (IACRA) 2010 in the recently concluded 9th annual Asian Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility (AFCSR) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

IACRA was launched as a special award at the AFCSR four years ago to pay tribute to Asian companies that integrate CSR into the way they conduct business. The award aims to promote good corporate citizenship in Asia in keeping with the shared advocacies of premier business and management graduate school AIM, and Intel, an organization with a long-standing commitment to CSR.

BInalot CEO Rommel Juan finds it interesting that he was recognized by the same organization who taught him back in 2006 about integrating CSR in business practices. “My aunt Chit Juan is known for being active in developing CSR projects that value sustainability. She was then engaged in creating the Figaro Foundation and asked me to attend the Asian Forum for CSR (AFCSR) in Jakarta,” recalls Juan. “It’s really amazing to be recognized by the institution where you actually acquired a lot of insights on CSR.”

Binalot attributes the recognition to DAHON (Dangal at Hanapbuhay Para sa Nayon), a CSR program that adopts banana-farming communities and taps them to supply the Filipino fast food with banana leaves used for packaging. Spurred by a scarce supply of leaves brought about by a typhoon, the DAHON has since grown to become a full-blown CSR program tapping not only farmers in Laguna but also aboriginal Aeta tribes in Zambales.

According to Juan, they weren’t expecting any recognition when they were just starting the CSR program. All they were thinking of was doing good (societal impact) while doing well (profits). And since their CSR efforts have continuously been honored and recognized, they will continue to be inspired to grow and improve their programs.

“Who wouldn’t be happy about the award? Being such a small company, to be honored by a regional award giving body is such an achievement. It makes us even more ecstatic that somehow we are able to prove that CSR is not just for the big boys but works for any enterprise, regardless of the size. You can choose to establish a business that does not only profit but also leaves a positive impact on society.”

The trophy wasn’t all that he brought home. “I went to Malaysia just to meet other business leaders and accept the trophy; I came home with US$20000,” Juan laughs, explaining that the cash prize wasn’t mentioned to him when he was invited to the ceremony. “We were just nominated. We weren’t expecting to win.”

The next step, according to Juan, is establishing an actual foundation. “At present DAHON is integrated into our operations – which is a good thing – but as the program grows we’re seeing a need to separate operations so that we can get people to manage the program full-time. This will give us more opportunities to develop the project and the communities,” he explains.

According to the law, a million pesos is needed to establish a charitable foundation, which the company has not yet been able to raise. This is why the $20,000 cash award is more than a pleasant surprise for Binalot. “This is around 80% of what we need to establish the DAHON Foundation,” shares Juan.
Aside from its main CSR effort (the DAHON Program), Binalot has also launched an eco- friendly “Go Green” campaign. From promotion of the use of only bio-degradable packaging materials for its packaging, it is taking things up a notch by building eco-friendly stores using construction materials and equipment that are certified green. “We continue to strive to prove that Binalot is not just a business but an institution that advocates the environment and contributes to nation-building,” concludes Juan.

Binalot currently has 37 stores and aggressively promotes its franchise packages in order to expand, which creates a need for more DAHON communities. “The future DAHON Foundation already has its work cut out,” says Juan.