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Through their Triple Utility Model, FIFCO is achieving large-scale positive impact on the economy, society and the environment as a whole. They have been using this model for years now, putting it at the core of everything they do, and since 2008 have made public their reports in order for everyone to see the advances and progress they are making.
With their initiatives they manage to contribute to the achievement of several sustainable development goals, among which reduction of poverty, sustainable communities and decent work and economic growth lead. They align all of their strategy with the eradication of poverty inside the company, and strive towards this through different initiatives and programs, as well as providing opportunities for voluntary work to every worker. As they like to say, they work towards "Sharing a better way of living with the world".
The specific innovative solution FIFCO is doing for the UN SDGs and for a better world is what they call the triple utility model. This model is based on the premise that they must create (as leaders from the sector) economic, social, and environmental impact at the same time. It is no longer valid to focus just on one while leaving the others for “later” or “tomorrow”. In order to achieve this, FIFCO carried out a massive inquiry directed to their customers asking for the errors they were committing, where did their find FIFCO was leaving footprints, and which were their expectations from FIFCO.
Afterwards, based on those results, they stablished objectives always keeping in mind two things: sharing with the world a better way of living and impacting SDGs as the mean for achieving the latter.
One of the objectives consisted of eradicating the poverty inside the company (SDGs 1 and 8). In order to achieve this, they created the program "FIFCO Oportunidades". Which was implemented in every country FIFCO operates and tries to help every FIFCO employee who lives in vulnerable socioeconomic conditions. Focusing on housing, education, finance and health, they have reduced the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) among its employees in Costa Rica for example, down to 12,29%.
We find as well a program founded in 2013 called "Programa de Formación Dual" (SDG 10). This program aims to provide equal professional opportunities to young people by offering an academic program which combines theoretical and practical learning. The pratical part takes place in a real work environment, allowing the participants to learn by doing.
In 2002, Ramón Mendiola became the CEO of FIFCO. With him, the company was transformed form being a beverage company with subsidiaries in real estate and food industries into an integrated corporation that developed a clear mission and vision. Key for those was the fact that FIFCO became more than a for-profit company. In 2005, this business introduced the concept of a triple utility that could impact the company's revenues, help the environment and mark a difference in people's lives through social programs.
Diego Oconitrillo mentions "for Ramón this strategy has been one of the company's main pillars, and he has managed to translate his passion and inspiration to every employee in the company". Currently, all 6000 employees participate in activities focused on community service to help improve Costa Rica’s social landscape. Mr. Mendiola's inspiration comes from his business background and upbringing in Costa Rica. He has said in several interviews that being born to a privileged family in a developing country made him think of ways to benefit and improve the lives of thousands of his fellow citizens while also promoting and enhancing Costa Rica's brand and creating a profit for his company. In other words, how can a big company create a profit while also caring for society’s problems? the result was the triple utility concept; since this nation still accounts for a 20% poverty rate as well as significant development challenges.
The idea was so innovative and applauded that Mendiola has been to many countries to explain how it works; moreover, it has received praise and support from all the company's shareholders (of which there are more than 2000 according to Mr. Oconitrillo) as well as several national and international business recognitions for its effective way to help reduce poverty and create good paying jobs while also producing significant profits and economic results for its shareholders.
The impact of the innovative triple utility model is already showing its results and keeps impacting in specific SDGs. The social dimension, is divided into internal and external. Regarding the internal, we can check how data supports the impact of the program "FIFCO Oportunidades" on SDG 1 and 8: No poverty and Decent Work and Economic Growth. FIFCO carried out a survey to calculate de Multidimentional Poverty Index of FIFCO employees in Costa Rica. From the 53,3% who responded, just 12,29% were affected by multidimentional poverty. Which proofs great results compared to that 16,1% from the whole country. In the external part, we find programs which impact SDG 10 among others. One example which shows impressive evidence is the goal they are almost about to achieve which consists on 1,000,000 hours of volunteering work from which they have already completed almost 900,000.
In the case of the environmental dimension of the model, the short term goal is to achieve carbon, water and waste neutrality, always keeping in mind that the long term objective is achieving a positive balance of these three. The SDG impacted here is 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities. We can find the evidence in different projects FIFCO carries out: “Proyecto Cero Desechos”, “Oceanos” and “Programa de Reciclaje Post Consumo”. These different project have already shown benefitial results like for example the status of Carbon Neutral Plus, achieved by FIFCO awarded by the government of Costa Rica.
The fact that FIFCO innovates in different areas has a positive impact, not only on the company, but also in the whole economy, society and the environment. With the programs they have of volunteer work, they have been able to help in very different areas creating the biggest volunteer program in South America. With the hiring system they have, they make sure that all employees share the same values and once they enter the company, the volunteer work is not optional.
This program has given FIFCO a great image as a company and revenues have increased exponentially. In its attempt to eradicate hunger, FIFCO created Nutrivida in 2014. Since then, it has impacted over 2.3 million people, selling over 450,000 kg of food high in nutrients at a very low price and has donated close to 500,000 plates of food. On top of this, 2020 was the first year in which they managed to obtain benefits from these activities, generating a positive revenue of US$191,000. On top of this, as of 2020 they were able to recover 100% of the containers they sold, making them the only company in South America which was able to do this. Moreover, they produce 20% more water than the water footprint they use. This not only saves money in the process, but generates a positive impact on the environment.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the different programs but has also provoked positive impacts in the company. Before the pandemic they had between 6-7% of their portfolio invested in sustainable companies and causes. However, after the pandemic, this percentage has increased to 11%.
Costa Rica is a Central American nation that currently has a 20% poverty rate and an approximate 20% unemployment rate at this point due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Initiatives like FIFCO's triple utility, have managed to generate a zero poverty condition among all its 6000 collaborators (i.e., no one working at FIFCO is poor). The company currently accounts for a total of 895713 hours of voluntary work since the Triple Utility Strategy began.
Being one of the country's biggest employers, FIFCO has always been at the forefront of business representation in the national discussion (with its triple utility strategy being a great source of moral legitimacy) and has also helped to provide food and shelter when a natural disaster like floods or earthquakes hit the nation, making it a formidable and beloved player not only for its products, but for its positive social and environmental impact as well. Examples of the latter include the handing of 32 000 “Imperial boxes”, with basic products (food and hygiene for at least 3 months) for different bar and restaurants’ employees affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. FIFCO also offered free services in areas such as marketing, communication and finance to different small businesses that had to close due to the ongoing pandemic, so that they could reinvent themselves in such a way that allowed them to maintain a decent sales’ margin and not fire more employees; that otherwise, could find themselves under poverty conditions.
Moreover, the company offered alternatives to its corporate clients to give back unused inventory and come to financial agreements to avoid business closures and burdensome debts. Since the triple utility program was created, more than 7979 kilograms of food have been donated to communities in need, 81875 of boxes with healthy-balanced food products have been given to populations with health risks and 998 kids as well as 383 elderly men and women have been helped through the company’s school and care home programs that guarantee decent living standard for those covered.
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Diego Oconitrillo Jimenez, Especialista Comunicación Corporativa
FIFCO is a Costa Rican company which promotes, through a triple utility model, generates a positive impact on society, the economy and the environment. All of this while enforcing their core value: "Sharing a better way of living with the world".
They are in charge of the production and distribution of beverages and alimentary products and currently employ more than 6.000 people in Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, United States and México.