We are starting a new series where we feature World Company Day (WCD) Signatories from around the world. We hope that these stories will encourage you, that you too can make a difference in your daily work. If you would like to share your stories, you can do so through our online form or via email to email@example.com.
WCD speaks with Adrien Desbaillets, President at SaladStop!, Singapore.
World Company Day (WCD): What do you do as a company?
Adrien Desbaillets (AD): We started with the thought of bringing a fresh, healthy alternative to Singapore. As SaladStop! evolved, we realised that it became a lot more than a restaurant concept and that we were impacting people’s lives and well-being. We are a relatively new company, having been in operations for only five years. We have 13 outlets across Singapore and are looking at branching out of Singapore in the near future.
WCD: What is your purpose as a company and why is it important?
AD: We challenge the way people think about their food. We want people to ask questions about the source of their food, to think about the hands, soil and time that made it possible. It is important for the simple reason that we are what we eat. We will never offer our customers food with dubious origins. Anything we serve has to be something we know and something we would consume. It is our right to experience the joys of Eating Wide Awake. We have started a movement that you can learn more about at our website.
WCD: Give an example of how a product or a service provided by you is making an impact in shaping a better world?
AD: We believe that we have the responsibility to provide quality food. We go the extra mile to ensure the food we put in our outlets is ethically sourced. A significant milestone would be the change in our chicken supplier. Alarm bells sounded for us when the chicken we purchased from Brazil three years ago cost less than broccoli per kg. Something must not be right. We did our research and found out that the chickens raised in Brazil were pumped with antibiotics and hormones that promoted abnormal rates of growth. The chickens lived no more than 60 days. That is both sad and frightening. We immediately ceased our importation of chicken from Brazil and we now source our chicken from Malaysia, where the practices are a lot more ethical. The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore approves the import of chicken from Brazil, because it is clean and safe to consume, according to their tests. But we felt that if there was a better way to do things, we would aim to be better. Although our costs increased by 20% since the switch in supplier, we are able to offer chicken that has not been bred in such a cruel manner, reduce our carbon footprint and support the good and transparent practices of our Malaysian chicken supplier.
WCD: Can you share a story that best describe the culture of your company?
AD: We are all about creating shared value for all members in society. Thus, SaladStop! is concerned about its community involvement. We have worked with World Land Trust and part of the proceeds of each Rimba Samba salad goes toward reforestation projects around the world. In 2013 we saved over 80 acres of protected rainforest. We are currently working with AIESEC, the largest youth-run organisation in the world, to sponsor five interns from around the world to come to Singapore. We have invited our interns to volunteer at SaladStop!, guide them to develop business projects and show them the ropes of our business. These youths will also get the opportunity to connect with local elderly communities and primary school students through our nutritional outreach programs and to participate in LiveWell, our Health and Wellness Carnival, happening in July this year. We aim to develop youth leaders that understand business in the real world and are able to inspire change in the communities they will contribute to in the future. This is in line with our aim as a company to be here for the long run and to create sustainable value. We are also a vibrant and active community that believes that the best way to drive positive change is through converting good intentions into action—not mere words.
WCD: Share an example of how you are working with suppliers and partners to improve the state of the industry or the world.
AD: We do the tedious work of going through all our ingredients and making sure that they are the best we can provide. We are not perfect, but our aim has always been to be better than yesterday. We take pride in being able to tell our customers the origin of each and every ingredient we place behind our salad bars. We work only with suppliers that share our beliefs and we take great effort to understand things from the ground level. Going down to the farms to see for ourselves how the chicken is raised, for instance, gives us a good idea of the food we are providing. We also source for new products and ingredients that support animal welfare. Free-range eggs are an option in our salad bar, and they come from hens that have the freedom to move around, stretch and socialise, with constant supply of fresh water and feed. We believe that by choosing to work with suppliers that have ethical business practices and are transparent about their processes, we help make the world a better place.
WCD: Tell us a special moment when a customer gave you a feedback that helped you understand the difference that you are making for them and for a better world.
AD: There isn’t one specific moment when a customer commented that the choices we are making in the back room have radically changed their lives, but we’ve had encouraging e-mails from our loyal customers. For instance, a customer thanked us when he ate at SaladStop! every day and lost 20 kg. We take pride in knowing that customers come back every day and connect to us on a deep level. We have always been about providing the best healthy choice in the market, but now more people are realising that we are also about being a sustainable, ethical food provider. When people come to us for all three meals, we know we must be doing something right.
WCD: What does your company believe in and why?
AD: We believe in sustainable business practices and being here for the long run. We are not interested in maximising profit in the short run or cutting costs in every way we can. Customers today are discerning. They know when you are providing food of sub-par quality or when you claim to be ethical food providers yet know little about the source of the ingredients. We are not about window dressing or fancy marketing. Rather, we believe in making serious, honest changes. We want to engage our customers in innovative ways to explore more about the food they eat in and out of SaladStop! and to be more responsible about what goes into their bodies. Above and beyond food, we believe in caring for the community of which we are a part. That’s why we have gone to elderly communities, companies and primary schools all around Singapore to spread the message of healthy living. This goes beyond salads—we are inspiring a nation of healthy people. This is important as only with health can the pursuit of all other life goals be made possible.
WCD: Why is world company day important?
AD: World Company Day is part of the movement to raise awareness that a triple bottom line of Profit, People and Planet will lead to sustainable growth. We are not interested in maximising profit in the short run but rather, maximising value in a sustainable manner for all members of the global ecosystem. Today paradigms are being shattered around us. More and more companies are realising that it is not about pure philanthropy but about aligning their core business with what they believe in. It’s not about redistributing wealth but about increasing the total pool of economic and social value. Quoting well-respected business strategist, Michael Porter, it is about creating “shared value” for both society and the business.
WCD: At the end of the day, how do you know if your company has contributed towards shaping a better world?
AD: Loyal customers are a great sign. Loyalty is gained when people believe in who we are and what we do. This is when we can say we have contributed to the changing of mindsets and education of the masses. By working with ethical food suppliers, we can guarantee them business that allow them to continue to do good work. We work mostly with small local farmers, who produce good-quality food that is not tainted by most mass-production industrial processes. Their sustainability is also a mark of our success. Another measure of success is when the various communities we touch through our outreach activities realise that they should pay attention to their food and adopt a healthy lifestyle.
World Company Day was officially launched on 15 August 2013 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam as a world-wide initiative by Shape the World Conference. Today, companies shape every aspect of our lives. From creating opportunities, influencing choices, managing resources of the earth, the way business is conducted can and should be for the greater good. This is why it is important to have an annual day to celebrate the good that companies are doing all around the world and encourage others to do the same. We invite all companies to join us and henceforth commit to building companies that will shape a better world and to advocate the United Nations to set aside 15th of August as World Company Day. More details and pledge here: www.worldcompanyday.org