Taking a Timbit Lesson from Tim Hortons

If you listen to the radio in Canada at all, you’ve likely heard the same advertisement I’ve heard. It’s the man describing the 200 thousand kids that take part in the Timbits soccer program, with a child thinking 200 thousand children must be every kid in the world.

Every time I the commercial, I wonder…how many cups of coffee do you think it sells for Tim Hortons? The advertisement must be costing the coffee-chain hundreds of thousands, but not one single mention of the sandwiches, coffee, or iced-capps.

I think the world of agriculture can take a cue.

Corporate responsibility is not a new phrase. In fact, even if you haven’t heard the term before – you’ve still likely made it a part of your business. It is defined as ‘voluntary activities by a company to help them operate in an economic, social and environmentally responsible manner’. For Tim Hortons, the Timbits minor sport program covers the social aspect of the definition by making it more affordable to get kids involved in organized sport. It would also include their camp programs. And when you check out their Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility Report (yes, a lot of companies today publish one) you’ll see them talk about their efforts to support coffee bean farmers, reduce energy consumption at restaurants, provide healthier menu options, and a whole host of other things they believe can be beneficial to the communities they live in, their customers, the environment, and even people half way around the world.

Now, doing the right thing can also be about helping the bottom line. Supporting coffee farmers could be solidifying their supply chain, reducing energy usage to help the environment likely helps with a lower electricity bill, and healthier menu options likely fit with consumer demands. They are win-win scenarios.

When I look around the ag world, it is clear that there is a huge amount of corporate responsibility. I’ve seen farms sponsor sports teams; farmers donate products like fresh vegetables, milk or meat protein they produce to food banks; and of course retrofits to buildings to help cut energy usage. It’s nothing new to us. But we fall short on one critical aspect — we’re not telling people about it.

The government of Canada when describing corporate responsibility, says, when done transparently, it helps companies succeed through encouraging shared values and social license. There’s a term we’ve all heard before. “Social license”. That ability to continue to operate with public trust.

Maybe one of the ways we can get there is to start thinking harder about corporate responsibility. Instead of “corporate” though, perhaps we can think about “rural” responsibility? What can each of us, whether we are farmers, vets, suppliers, bankers or others, do to ensure we are supporting our communities and the environment around us? And then, how we talk about it.

Just like those commercials for Timbits soccer on the radio, what can we in agriculture do to make sure that the public at large understands that we actually have our communities’ best interest at heart? It isn’t about selling more products. It’s about building trust and goodwill. Many of us either assume everyone knows we do our best daily or are too proud to talk about it. We can’t do that anymore. It is time to come together, whether it be through our corporate suppliers or farm organizations, to figure out how we do a better job at building a Rural Responsibility Report for the entire industry.

How many efficient light bulbs have been installed on farms, and how much less energy does that mean we are consuming? What investments have been made in new tractors and how much fewer emissions are released because of more efficient engines? How about dollars donated to local charities? This isn’t a role for just one farmer or business – it has to be bigger than that.

It is about ensuring that people understand how strong agriculture is in their local area and how it benefits the environment, economy and the people who live there. Then, we make sure everyone talks about it, shares it, and even buys up some advertising space to show that agriculture is here, and is fully prepared to pony up for the place we call home.

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