Yum Brands takes on world hunger

Yum Brands is engaging consumers and employees to benefit the World Food Programme through one of its numerous CSR programs.

Yum Brands is engaging consumers and employees as it takes a major step to end world hunger through one of its numerous CSR programs.

While the economy might cause some companies to put the brakes on CSR efforts, Yum Brands has accelerated goals for its World Hunger Relief program, which launched in 2007 and primarily benefits the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). Last fall, the company made a five-year commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative to raise $80 million for WFP and other hunger relief agencies, and to provide more than 20 million volunteer hours. This year, it aims to increase WFP funding to $22.5 million (from $22 million in 2008) and employee volunteer hours to six million (from five million in 2008).

“Forward thinking corporations are dialing up, not dialing back, [CSR efforts],” says Jonathan Blum, SVP and chief public affairs officer at Yum Brands. “It's our privilege and responsibility to give back and help people who are less fortunate than we are. It's a part of how we do business, and we think it's a smart thing to do. Stakeholders [expect] corporations will be part of the solution to the various aspects of social responsibility. Nearly 100% of our employees... want us to do more CSR, and they're very proud of our CSR.”

The Louisville, KY-based Yum Brands, which spun off PepsiCo in 1997, is the parent company of six restaurant brands, including KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell. It has nearly 36,000 restaurants in more than 110 countries and employs more than 1.4 million people.

Growing the program
The company is involved in a wide range of CSR programs (see sidebar). Blum explains that the World Hunger Relief campaign grew out of CEO David Novak's desire to create a large-scale program as the company's 10th anniversary approached in 2007. “It made perfect sense to try and solve world hunger,” Blum says.

WFP partners with more than 2,800 non-governmental organizations to distribute food, reaching a yearly average of 100 million people in 80 countries. Yum Brands helps WFP by raising money and awareness and providing volunteerism.

“The goal is to raise awareness of hunger and... WFP, and... engage our entire system to be part of [the] solution,” says Karen Sherman, senior director of CSR at Yum Brands.

The first initiative, “World Hunger Relief Week,” launched in October 2007. The company raised awareness and funds in stores, online at fromhungertohope.com, and via ads and PSAs. Nearly one million employees gave an estimated four million (paid) volunteer hours to raise money for WFP and/or support local hunger relief efforts in their communities. The effort yielded $15 million.

The program expanded in 2008 to two to four weeks, at restaurants' request. This year, Blum says many restaurants want to extend efforts to two or three months. About 95% of the 112 countries in which Yum Brands operates participated last year, and Blum hopes that all countries will participate this year.

Internal communication is critical, and a network of ambassadors in each division (US, China, and international) helps ensure all employees understand the program. Sherman works directly with ambassadors via phone calls, e-mails, and a social media page on Yum Brands' intranet. She provides tools, such as training videos and feedback on best practices, which ambassadors use to inform teams in their countries. Information is also pushed out (primarily by electronic means) at brand and franchise levels.

Blum and Novak often visit countries where WFP operates, and Sherman says communicating that direct involvement to employees strengthens their pride in the company and their ability to communicate about the cause. When visiting Haiti last September with the head of WFP after the country was devastated by hurricanes, Blum says the human need was so dire that the company committed $1 million on the spot.

Novak uses an internal blog to share stories and photos of trips like the one to Haiti with employees. Blum explains that many people who are helped by Yum Brands' commitment to WFP will never know the company or its brands.

“They don't need to,” Blum adds. “They need to know someone has helped them.”

Showcasing the cause
Much of the company's external communications is focused on driving the program and the issue. Customers get information in stores through printed materials and through verbal interaction with employees. Messaging is simple, focusing on explaining that a $1 donation can feed four children.

Each brand's Web site provides information and links to donate on fromhungertohope.com. The program also has Facebook and MySpace pages, and Sherman says increasing a Twitter presence is a focus this year.

“[People reached via social media] may or may not give money, but their awareness and engagement in the cause helps us,” Sherman says.

Blogger outreach is also increasing this year. A team is tracking the top 20 bloggers concerned with global and humanitarian causes. Media relations targets both business and general consumer news outlets. A government relations team reaches out directly to congressmen, senators, and President Obama's office to invite them to engage in a hunger discussion.

Yum Brands issued its first global CSR report last December, and in March CRO Magazine ranked it number 33 on its Top 100 Best Corporate Citizens list.

“The response was overwhelmingly positive,” Blum says. “One group of shareholders that purchase shares for the purpose of pressuring corporations to do more... CSR wants to see us do more in the area of packaging. They said we're on the right track by-and-large. Everyone, including us, would like to see us do more.”

Yum Brands CSR Efforts

Pizza Hut BOOK IT! Program
Launched: 1985
A reading incentive program that reaches more than 22 million children each year

YUMeals Program
Launched: 1992
A prepared-food program that's donated more than 105 million pounds of food (valued at $403 million) through a network of more than 3,000 US hunger relief organizations. The company is exploring expansion in other countries

The Taco Bell Foundation for Teens
Launched: 1992
The foundation is the largest donor to Boys & Girls Clubs of America, giving more than $23 million since 1995 to support teen programming. The foundation also gives grants to other programs designed to help teens stay in school and graduate

KFC Colonel's Scholars
Launched: 2006
Provides high school students scholarships for up to four years of study at an accredited institution. Scholarships have been awarded to 200 students

The title of this story in print appears as "Full of hope."

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