Choppies outlines its ‘shared value’ initiative
It is about addressing social issues in a practical way by means of programmes that will eventually be within reach of every Motswana anywhere across the country
Business exists to serve society. For Choppies, this holds true in many ways. For the past 34 years, Botswana’s largest grocer has been providing convenient access to affordable food and other products to Batswana across the country. Now, the retailer has revamped its corporate social responsibility programme and rebuilt its core corporate purpose based on the principle of “shared value,” a business strategy designed to address social issues gainfully for all.
“Choppies shared value creation focuses on identifying and expanding the connections between societal and economic progress. We are creating new polices and operating practices that enhance the competitiveness of the company while simultaneously advancing the economic and social conditions in the communities in which we operate,” says Uttum Corea, Chairman, Choppies Enterprise Limited.
He added that with the allegations and suspicions which have haunted Choppies for the past two years having been cleared, “we look forward to growth going forward and embodying our shared value approach where, if all our stakeholders prosper, we also prosper”.
Choppies has engaged a US-based global consultancy firm, Cluster Competitiveness Group Inc, to help document the shared value strategy. The firm has been assisting the management to map it out and incorporate it in Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and to professionalise the theme.
“We believe shared value is the most powerful practice Choppies can leverage to fulfill our aspirations because it uses the core business to drive societal change. It can also be one of the most authentic because it relies on existing core business practices and know-how,” says Ram Ottappathu, CEO, Choppies Enterprises Limited.
Though Professor Michael Porter of Harvard University introduced the concept of “shared value” in 2011 and corporates in the Western world started implementing it recently, the Choppies Group introduced many elements of shared value much earlier. In many of Choppies’ CSR programmes and business strategies, it was visible.
Ottappathu said whether it is addressing protracted social issues, such as access to medicines, employment opportunities or improved agricultural techniques, or it is targeting environmental opportunities, such as new uses for recycled plastics, zero deforestation practices, or renewable energy sources, shared value practices offer Choppies new ways to innovate, compete and create a business environment that is sustainable.
Choppies has identified four specific areas, namely developing local businesses, population upskilling, care for the environment and population access, as the key areas in which to implement its shared value strategy. The company has already outlined strategies and programmes to support the growth of farmers by providing platforms and knowledge, as well as offering the necessary financial and technical expertise.
Choppies is implementing methods such as using Choppies’ spare transportation capacity to help small producers reach new markets, provide the population with access to better products, train the population throughout the country in both basic skills and crafts that can be used to accelerate the productivity of Choppies’ employees. Choppies also has plans to partner with various universities to provide advanced courses in critical areas for retail like information technology and retail management.
The giant retailer has already partnered with Botswana Post, allowing the state- owned pension distributer to use its wide store network to distribute monthly pensions to the public. The partnership model was seen as an extension of Botswana Post’s channel to offer PosoMoney, payments of social grants and other postal services, thus continuing to bring the Post even closer to communities.
Similarly, in its efforts to empower women in business, Choppies is scheduled to donate 90 biltong making machines to local businesswomen to be used to make biltong and supply Choppies chain stores around the country. The company has reached out to leading women NGO, Women in Business Association (WIBA), to implement the programme. “The identified women-led businesses will be engaged in a six-month pilot project earmarked for Gaborone, Francistown and Maun and will thereafter be extended to other areas,” WIBA president, Nametso Ntsosa-Carr, said.
This initiative is extending shared value to women of Botswana and will also include production of diphaphatha that will also be sold to Choppies stores. The training in the processes of the project was done in the three regions where the pilot will start.
Another project is to collect, separate and recycle own waste generated from food, packaging and others, as well as to collect from the population and farmers to transport to its own or third-party recycling plant, to provide points for medicine collection and basic health diagnostics and care in collaboration with private clinics in underserved areas, to develop more financial services at Choppies stores, broadening its variety (insurance, personal loans) and improve convenience. These are projects that Choppies is implementing in its shared value concept, a consultant with Cluster Competitiveness Group Inc, said.
This is evident in the fact that Choppies is the largest private sector employer in Botswana with a vast distribution network, especially in underserved rural areas. The company’s aim is that 90 percent of the population should be within a 10km radius of a Choppies store. This distribution network has provided access to most citizens as consumers and remote farmers with a transport network and resulted in 75 percent of fresh produce sold by Choppies being fresh produce grown in Botswana.
The consultant added that part of the shared value benefit is the emphasis on self-sufficiency within the country. The farming community in the country gets support in the form of temporary advances and crop bulk buying agreements from the company. This will encourage renewed interest in farming and food security of the nation, and aligns with Choppies shared value approach, benefiting the farmers and customers as well as Choppies and its investors.
All of these initiatives align with the guidelines on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards advocated by the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE).
“Caring for the environment is one of the important aspects of our shared value policy. We are working on a project to develop distribution of energy facilities using the stores’ roofs and waste that provide energy directly to Choppies and to the community as well as the grid,” Ram said.
Choppies also spreads its shared value initiatives to empower its employees. The company has been providing training to its employees to make them good retail professionals. It offers chances to develop new skills by providing professional training so that employees can upscale their skills and reach new positions. “Our greatest advantage is our people, and we need the best people to work at Choppies to keep delivering the value that our customers have come to expect from us. We want to be the most inclusive company because we know an inclusive culture creates a high performance culture full of empowered retail entrepreneurs,” Ram said.