Company policies are living documents. They change in response to events in the environment, changes in your company’s risk profile, its incident history, or even its worldview. We spend a lot of time trying to ensure employees don’t do the wrong thing, so it’s refreshing to recognize when a company makes a change to its policies for the benefit of the community.
That’s exactly what Bon Appétit Management Co. did recently.
This story was brought to my attention by the following headline: “Student-Founded Nonprofit Changes Corporate Policy.” Wait, I said. How can that be?
Colorado Springs Food Rescue is an organization founded by Colorado College students. The students are trying to do something about the estimated 40% of food that is thrown away in the USA prior to being eaten. They collect food from grocery stores and other venues that is targeted for discard, and carry it by bicycle to organizations that can distribute it to the needy.
Bon Appétit is responsible for food service at Colorado College, along with more than 500 other cafes in 32 states. Because they cook all their foods from scratch with locally purchased ingredients, its healthy, nutritious composition is good for the welfare of the needy in Colorado. When CSFR attempted to salvage uneaten food from the buffet at Colorado College, however, they ran into a snag. Bon Appétit’s policy prohibited donation of food that had been put out for self serve.
Steadfast in their mission, CSFR executive director Shane Lory and his team contacted those in charge at Bon Appétit to find out how they could gain access to food that was not being eaten, in order to put it in the hands of the hungry. Bon Appétit had to give appropriate consideration to food safety and the risk of shrinkage; still, the opportunity to help the community overcame.
Luckily for Lory, the people at Bon Appétit were indeed willing to help. Claire Cummings, waste specialist at Bon Appétit, explained:
“This type of food recovery is such a new and exciting field of hunger relief and waste management that there are very few guidelines available to businesses wanting to donate. We adapted our policy to be more flexible to allow cafes to donate self-serve food in states where it is permissible.”
CSFR estimates that it has saved 3,500 pounds of food in its first five months. The organization is hopeful that this success can inspire other food providers to follow suit.
The Food Recovery Network estimated that only 25% of colleges have a food recovery program in place, and that 22 million pounds of food are wasted each year. This suggests there is plenty of opportunity to do good for those in need.
Though not covered in the news article, it’s safe to assume the story took a few turns between the students’ request and the company’s ability to comply:
• First, the person responsible for the policy had to be found and contacted.
• Second, after convincing the right person that a change was warranted, all other stakeholders in the company had to be brought on board.
• Third, the policy itself had to be modified to suit the interest of all stakeholders.
• Fourth, the revised policy had to go through the approval process.
• Fifth, the new policy had to be communicated to over 500 cafes.
• Sixth, each cafe had to interpret the policy per local regulations and ordinances. (Some states allow such food repurposing, where others do not.)
Depending on the size and structure of an organization, this can be a surprisingly arduous process. That process is made much easier if all corporate policies are managed within a policy management system that expedites the collaboration of all policy contributors within a simple, easy to use interface. Changes can be sent to approvers at the tap of a button, and then once the final version is ready, it can be distributed throughout the organization just as easily.
I think it’s also of importance to note that when changing your corporate policies, you will have to be cognizant of your ethics training as well. Because our policies dictate how we operate within our companies, any change to them should be reflected in our ethics training. Bon Appetite may not have rolled out an interactive training course on what self serve food can be redistributed in what states, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea.
The program, being popularized by the Food Recovery Network, minimizes cost by encouraging student participation in the distribution and delivery. It also helps the business by lowering waste reduction costs, and potentially by encouraging positive public relations.
Regulations are already in place to protect against the risk to food providers. The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, passed in 1996, protects good faith donors of food and the agency receiving the donations against liability. Exceptions to the Act’s protection are for cases of intentional misconduct or gross negligence. As long as safe food handling procedures are implemented, this provides some level of protection to companies who choose to participate in an effort to help the community.
Despite the challenges of convening all the relevant stakeholders to discuss and approve a change to company policy, sometimes it can result in a positive change that benefits the community.