Cool Fresh International, a leading Dutch importer of fresh fruit and vegetables with subsidiaries in Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America, says its recent decision to invest heavily in corporate social responsibility – including various social projects in developing countries from where it buys produce – is adding value to its entire sourcing operation as well as to the communities involved.
The company’s Stars in their Eyes Foundation, which runs a community football programme and Little Libraries, an affiliated organisation that distributes books to childcare centres in deprived communities, has enjoyed great success over the past 18 months, according to Cool Fresh marketing director Nic Jooste, who is responsible for all CSR issues at the group.
Little Libraries was set up by French-Swedish philanthropist Camille Quine and is preparing to open its hundredth Little Library on Mandela Day, 18 July.
“Our model is simple but effective,” Quine says. “Care centers are vetted by us and receive a colourful bookcase filled with a variety of children’s books, plus a so-called magic reading carpet. The caregivers use these books to give children in their care a first introduction to reading, and the joy which it brings is just unbelievable.”
Jooste says the decision to become involved in Little Libraries was taken as a result of the powerful impact which access to literacy has on people’s lives.
“In the modern world we take it for granted, but for many or the children in the South African care centres the access to a Little Library provides their first contact with books. It is a project which we believe adds great value to a country from which we import solid volumes of fruit. Once one has experienced the absolute joy which it spreads, Little Libraries just does not let one go.”
Buoyed by the project’s success in South Africa, Cool Fresh has extended the model to Costa Rica, where it has already installed two Latin American centres in schools, under the name La Pequena Bibliotecas.
“The obstacles these children face may seem harsh, if not insurmountable,” Jooste adds, “but if enough people believe in them and invest in their future, we believe that they will find the greatness that exists within them.”
For a full report on Cool Fresh's CSR efforts, as well as other sustainability case studies involving Eosta, OTC Holland, ECPA, Carrier Transicold and others, see the June 2015 issue of Eurofruit.