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Why buying local, reducing carbon footprint, and cultivating community can ultimately improve your bottom line.

We’ve talked about corporate social responsibility (CSR) here before. We know CSR is a significant driver of brand value. Anyone in the food business or involved in food distribution who has been in business for a while knows: brand value is a big deal.

So why the CSR redux? We already know brand value is a big deal at the consumer level. The difference: as commerce becomes increasingly inter-connected, brand value (and therefore, CSR) is becoming increasingly critical at the B2B level. Here’s why.

This phenomenon is especially acute in the food sourcing and distribution industries. Food distribution is a zero-sum business. Actually, it’s slightly worse than zero-sum: there is a finite amount of food each season that must feed a growing population. As the people of the growing population have invented social networks to better connect with one other, those in the food industry are realizing they need to partner with one another in order to prosper.

Earlier this year, an independently-hosted TED event called TEDxManhatten titled ‘Changing the Way We Eat’ covered a bunch of innovative food-service organizations. Want to know what they all had in common? Like Foodem, nearly every solution mentioned at the event had something to do with connection and partnership: the words ‘community’, ‘together’, ‘marketplace’, and ‘system’ came up often.

As Forbes predicts, sustainable food sourcing will result in a more fragmented market, as 20% of all food consumed in the U.S. will come from roof-top and parking-lot gardens by 2018. Foodem has reviewed the benefits of socializing for restaurants. With increased competition comes increased price pressure, and as Food Navigator points out, cutting water and energy bills are socially-responsible ways to cut costs. The moral: in these times, collaboration and sustainability at the B2B level are paramount. In order to collaborate, one needs an impeccable reputation.

To cultivate an impeccable reputation, one needs to be socially responsible. It’s the reason Chipotle continues its record-breaking growth and others haven’t fared so well. Think about your brand carefully. Ask your customers and your partners what they think of when they first think of your company. If it’s just burgers, salads, and long wait lines, you may have some brand work to do.

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