Before we can talk about a brand with purpose or a product with purpose, we have to define the purpose of a business.
In essence, the purpose of a business is to make a profit by satisfying needs. We can say that those businesses that effectively satisfy a need, and at the same time manage to charge enough to cover their costs and generate a profit, will have created economic value.
The problem with this, as is prone to happen nowadays, is that many companies have become obsessed with fighting within the same consumer segments as their competitors and worse yet, offering the same product or service. They have fallen into the trap of intensifying competition, investing huge amounts of money in advertising, and trying to excel by means of tiny incremental innovations. Gaining a point in market share over the competitor has become an obsession that consumes large amounts of resources, time and brilliant minds.
Having stated that the purpose of a business has to do with solving needs, at what point did we move away from trying to solve the large, urgent, and complex needs of our society? Is it not true that pollution, health, nutrition, housing, poverty, lack of water, violence and education, among many others, are needs? Why do companies distance themselves from society’s most complex and relevant needs? Why do we not see the important needs as the huge business opportunities that they are?
Towards the end of 2018, I had the opportunity to attend Professor Michael Porter’s Shared Value course at Harvard Business School. Professor Porter and his team invite us to reflect on how we have grown with the conventional wisdom that believes that social problems need to be solved by the government and NGOs, but not by companies. This road that we have travelled for decades is leading us to the destruction of our planet. Society in general has not been effective in solving the most serious problems. We are not on the right track. This is not the way forward.
I firmly believe that within the concept of shared value, at its core, a new notion of business strategy can be found and represents a real and powerful disruption to our understanding of business. Although it is a concept that is maturing in different ways, only the bravest entrepreneurs —those who dare to work with it—will help refine its understanding. Creating shared value means solving a social problem through a business model; a business that thinks like a business and manages to create economic value as a result of solving a social problem. And it is precisely the ability to create economic value —profit—that allows us to think about sustainable and scalable solutions, which is something that typically NGOs or governments cannot do.
In addition to the concept of shared value, there are many other lines of thinking that point towards a common interest. Among them, I invite you to study the powerful initiatives led by Sir Ronald Cohen and his ideas on Impact Investment, the vision of B-Lab and its growing and inspiring B-Corp movement, the different approaches within conscious capitalism and many other working groups and their experiences that we will be discussing on our blog. Independent of the academic preferences and affinities of each of the approaches, what I really want to invite our customers, suppliers, allies, entrepreneurs and businesspeople to do, is to start asking ourselves very seriously: What is the role we want our companies and our brands to play in the urgent mission to change the direction of our society? How can we reinterpret the role of business, to provide solid solutions to relevant problems?
At Luker Chocolate we firmly believe that companies have perhaps the most powerful capacity to offer real and scalable solutions to pressing and urgent problems. We also believe that it is important to share experiences and lessons learnt. We have a certain optimism and celebrate alongside an increasingly large group of companies around the world who have been encouraged to understand business as a tool for change. These include existing companies, as well as the strong wave of new social entrepreneurs who we should encourage, help, and empower.
At Luker Chocolate, over the past 113 years, we have been sensitive to trying to help different communities, essentially thanks to a set of values inherited across five generations. Throughout our history, we have tried different approaches, from philanthropy, corporate social responsibility, to social work by the Luker Foundation on education and entrepreneurship issues. For some years, we have been evolving that interest to try to incorporate the idea of shared value at the heart of the business strategy. I have to say that it has not been easy, or fast. It is not a clear or simple path, especially as this is a business that is already up and running, and so this implies the rethinking of multiple activities as we go along. One of the most complex challenges that we are looking at today has to do precisely with measuring social impact and its correlation with the creation of economic value for the company. However, despite the challenges and demands, and although there are many elements that are still under construction, from my professional experience it has been a wonderful journey. We have followed a path that has allowed us to innovate and visualize new ways in which our operation and business model can positively impact society. The journey has been rewarding in its humanity.
Along our journey, we have been able to stop to reflect and explore our industry’s most complex problems, namely, the way the cocoa-producing territories in Colombia where we work have been marked by historical violence, drugs, illegality, poverty, lack of opportunities, and lack of infrastructure and education, among many others. Seeing these problems from the perspective of shared value has led us to innovate, to try to solve things. And it is innovation that is an indispensable tool for the incorporation of shared value into a strategy. Innovation represents an absolute priority when trying to solve complex social problems and, at the same time, create economic value. Given that these adverse conditions are unchartered territory, it is experimentation that allows us to learn and deal with the different challenges. All the efforts will start to make sense only when we begin to see the tangible social results.
At Luker Chocolate, we provide chocolate as an ingredient for industry and we manufacture finished products for other brands around the world. Our clients range from small artisanal chocolatiers to large industries, from entrepreneurs who are launching new brands to large, well-established retailers. They all have three things in common: a marked interest in and a commitment to supporting social and environmental impacts, an entrepreneurial mindset that looks for innovation, and a clear priority for superior flavour and quality. As a B4B (Business for business) company, at Luker Chocolate we say that our mission is to help other companies create purpose-driven chocolate products. Our clients are mostly active protagonists of The Chocolate Dream, our long-term vision to transform the cocoa regions where we operate. There are several ways in which we visualize our alignment with the purpose of our clients and how we can help them to strengthen their brands and business models:
A connection to the origin through impact projects
Alongside our clients, we co-create social impact projects in the different cocoa regions and for the communities that are part of our own cocoa forests. We jointly invest in education, entrepreneurship, art and culture, and the environment. We are committed to improving rural economic diversification along different axes such as tourism and other market initiatives with a view to building prosperity and strengthening regions’ competitiveness. Through this approach, our clients also build connections by committing to the unknown, with innovative experimental projects that allow us to create new knowledge together. In these projects, we can also help our clients to design unique strategies on how to connect their consumers with their impact, improving their brand equity through emotional and meaningful connections.
The Cocohabs, our Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship
This space is dedicated to hosting people who voluntarily come from all over the world to give their time and knowledge to support the local communities, rural entrepreneurs, and to generate solutions to real problems in the area. The aim of this space is to open the doors to different disciplines to enhance our insight into social innovation. Our customers, their consumers, our suppliers, and allies are welcome to pursue this unique experience.
Impact through new products development
As well as tasting unique from being made from 100% Cacao Fino de Aroma, many of our new product developments are being conceptualized and designed with a social mission in mind: from sugar-free chocolates enhanced with fibre and proteins to contribute to healthy diets, to much more sophisticated formulations with functional ingredients that seek specific improvements in nutrition, given the powerful antioxidant capability of cocoa. We are always reviewing multiple ingredients that can accompany our chocolates to enhance their ability to improve health, whilst keeping their indulgent quality. Our strength is based on single origin dark chocolates. Vegan chocolates and other health-conscious concepts are a permanent part of our exploration and input into creating products aimed at improving people’s health through what they eat and how they indulge. Sustainable packaging and environment impact are a central part of our products.
These are only 3 of the many other initiatives where we can help infuse a brand with purpose. Purpose must be discovered, visualized, and encouraged to be incorporated at the forefront of our venture. We dream of helping to create, together with our customers, an inspiring industry, where we use chocolate as a tool for change. An industry where people are placed at the centre of the conversation and where collaboration is at the heart of our efforts.
Do you want to discover our delicious fine flavour chocolates? Let’s first talk about the impact you want to create in the world.