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Fruit at Work delivers fair trade fruit in a socially responsible way. Integrating the SDG’s is part of the company’s DNA. They work hard on doing good for society by focusing on health and well-being. The core activity of Fruit at Work is facilitating easy access to fruit. Moreover, the company also tries to reach responsible consumption and production by local and fair trade-worthy production. On top of that, they are working actively on climate action by reducing the CO2 footprint on their activity. They also really focus on their enduring relationships.
The name says it all. Fruit at Work delivers fruit boxes at work. Their innovation isn’t the products that they sell but their business model itself. Sustainability is part of the company’s DNA and a vital part of every decision they make. Fruit at work entered the program to become an SDG pioneer approximately four years ago through the Flander’s chambers of commerce and industry (Voka). Since they are a small company, they want to be a benchmark for other companies in the sector, specifically for small and local companies. In this way, they could demonstrate that the working model is not limited to large companies.
To incorporate sustainability in every aspect of their operations, they establish long-term partnerships and create a highly trusted network of local businesses. Fruit at Work strongly believes that good communication, interaction, and respect are the key to successful long-term relationships with partners. Partners do not only consist of companies but also their suppliers, farmers, and their staff. Farmers receive a fair price for their products, and their staff can enjoy their flexible working schedule: these examples are just the beginning of what they all do to ensure a long-term relationship. All these relationships allow the company to expand its economic growth and decent work.
These partnerships enable Fruit at Work to simultaneously focus on multiple Sustainable Development Goals to contribute as much as possible on a global scale. For example, the company focuses on the health and well-being of its customers by providing them with healthy and organic food. Therefore, they also ensure responsible production. The company also provides recipes and a blender to encourage their customers to reduce their food waste, contributing to a much-needed change in customers' consumption habits.
Fruit at work tries to be as sustainable as possible in everything they do. CEO Yannick Aerts puts a lot of effort into creating a better environment by creating a flourishing story, including all stakeholders: partners, customers, investors.
"We are sitting here at this table, but imagine if you are fruit growers, and we are negotiating the prices per kilo. Then I do not find it acceptable that I should underpay you for your hard work cultivating your products. Imagine that you have a hard time supporting your family at Christmas, yet I can go skiing at Christmas knowing that I have ripped off a lot of fruit growers, and that is not correct. We do not want to work in this way. We respect the family norms and -values here: hard work pays off" (Yannick Aerts, co-CEO)
This quote is a depiction of the sustainable story Fruit at Work creates. The prices Fruit at work pays to the farmers will always be fair and very reasonable compared to the prices that auctions pay for the same fruit. It all comes down to the fact that fruit at work wants to act pretty and include everybody in this process.
As mentioned before, one of Fruit at Work's main objectives is to inspire other companies to work sustainably. That's why the company decided to be part of the VCDO project: “VOCA Charter Duurzaam Ondernemen.” As an SDG pioneer, they inspire other companies and competitors to do better for the environment and be more sustainable. They use their network as a communication tool to spread their message.
According to the CEO, having an impact is very rewarding. Their business model is such a success, and that’s why they attract many competitors, which is positive for the environment. Unfortunately, the medal also has a reverse side: the company puts a lot of time into its innovations. Sometimes, they just get copied by competitors who do not understand the real vision of fair trade.
“With us, there is fair trade, or there is nothing but what do our competitors say: “if you want fair trade, you have to pay more. But that is not the right approach. No, it should be: I care about people and society as a company; we don’t ask more. I am satisfied with a little less so that the farmer has a little bit more” (Yannick Aerts, co-CEO).
Competitors often offer fair trade in exchange for charging a higher price from their customers. However, Fruit at work wants to offer fair trade at the same price. They care more about their customers and society than about that extra bit of profit.
Referring to short-term effects, Fruit at Work had a small project that gave Fruit and vegetables to a wildlife sanctuary. Sometime later, a competitor took that same job. This project proves that the company inspires competitors and that certain innovative things can quickly get copied. Another short-term effect is their initiative to deliver birthday boxes with Fruit to children who want a healthy treat at school. They collaborate with the non-profit organization ‘Het kietelt’ by donating a profit to help unprivileged children have a lovely birthday.
Referring to the long-term effects, the company wants to improve fair trade in the market. Since this is an ambitious goal for the company, it requires a well-organized long-term strategy. Their particular goal is to make every banana in the fair market trade. This is just an example of what the company wants to achieve, providing completely sustainable products from the first steps of the chain to the last.
There are also numerous benefits for Fruit at Work itself by being sustainable. They are a small-scale, family business that allows them to make decisions quicker about their finances, like new investments. Besides that, Fruit at Work divides their raised revenues equally between themselves and their company. That allows them to keep financing and growing as a business. However, Fruit at Work also puts a lot of effort into their long-term relationships with partners. Maintaining these relationships is important because, without their support, their innovation might not be as successful today. They could only dream of what they have achieved now.
"We invested in an ERP package which costs a huge amount of money, but you can do things much better that way. It's there; you've made that investment, we can move forward with it. That's how we try to sell a larger volume in a thoughtful way, and that extra profit from that volume: a part is for us, and a part is for society" (Yannick Aerts, co-CEO).
Fruit at work cares about their employees' wellbeing. Because they are a family business, they feel it is vital to engage with their staff, so they are on board with the story that Fruit at Work wants to bring. This creates a friendly atmosphere in the workplace, and that promotes productivity. Yannick Aerts said the following about this: "The private is also important. We ask our staff to start at nine o'clock until five o'clock. They can then drop the children off at the school gate without rushing."
Making every single piece of fruit fair trade in Belgium: that’s the dream of Fruit at Work. It is a win-win situation: farmers receive a fair price for their products, and we, the consumers, contribute to a better world and can buy delicious fruit with a story.
Fruit at Work cares about the environment but also about humans. That is why they deliver their orders in a socially responsible way. Through ecologic transport, they do their best to minimize CO2 emissions. Their local distribution is even completely CO2-free because of their bike couriers and electric vans. For the longer distances, Fruit at Work uses trucks that comply with the Euro 6 norm.
“We deliver fruit. Research shows that if you eat an apple every single day, your lung capacity will increase; that is a fact. But what is the point if your lung capacity increases, but there are still polluting vans driving around every day? That is useless, and we are just trying to help with that.” (Yannick Aerts, co-CEO)
On top of that, Fruit at Work takes its ecological footprint into account. Over the years, Fruit at Work has made several investments to be as green as possible. Their building is a conscious choice. From a heat pump to solar panels: they have it all. As earlier mentioned, sustainability is part of the company’s DNA, and they take everything they do into account.
Through these sustainable initiatives, Fruit at Work is a clear example that a small business can think globally and act locally, inspiring other small businesses that don’t know how to contribute to the planet.
Yannick Aerts, CEO