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25 franchise brands that have leading corporate social responsibility initiatives at the heart of their organisations, from charitable activities to sustainability-focused business models.
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METHODOLOGY AND CAUSE
Compiled and curated by our in-house team of franchise journalists to a rigid selection criteria, the list showcases compassionate franchise brands that are positively impacting their communities by not only providing business-in-a-box investment options but demonstrating that charitable, fundraising, empathy and eco-consciousness are paramount in 2021. Here are the brands that have made a true difference over the last year – a year that has seen a global pandemic wreck havoc on families, communities, economies, businesses and more.
By 2050, the worlds’ farmers will have to grow about 70 per cent more food than what is now produced. The urgency to serve the growing population is at the heart of why Culver’s has created the Thank You Farmers Project.
“Since creating the Thank You Farmers Project in 2013, we’ve successfully raised $2.5m to support agricultural education programmes that teach smart farming,” said Alison Wedig, Culver’s marketing specialist. “Despite the challenges that 2020 brought, one thing was clear – our guests are just as passionate about supporting tomorrow’s AG leaders as we are.” Since 2015, Culver’s has hosted Scoops of Thanks Day – an event where guests receive a single scoop of Fresh Frozen Custard in exchange for a $1 donation to local FFA chapters and other agricultural education organisations. In 2020 alone, this event secured $144,975 for those FFA chapters unable to hold their own fundraisers due to COVID-19.
“We also awarded three FFA chapters a total of $15,000 through the FFA Essay Contest,” added Alison. “The annual contest is another way for FFA chapters to use awarded funds for agricultural education initiatives and projects. It allows us to show FFA members our support and hear about their passions and hopes for the future.”
Every year, U.S. drive-in restaurant franchise Sonic Drive-In runs its Limeaides for Learning Campaign in partnership with DonorsChoose, a non-profit crowdfunding platform created to help public school teachers with necessary teaching resources.
Now in its 12th year, the Limeaides for Learning Campaign runs for around a month every fall and sees a $1m donation distributed among the requests made by numerous teachers across the country, which are then voted on by Sonic guests.
“During this time of uncertainty, teachers are going above and beyond to create safe and welcoming learning environments, whether in-person or virtually,” said Christi Woodworth, VP of public relations for Sonic. “The Limeades for Learning Fall Voting Campaign is an opportunity for our guests to be a part of this great cause and see firsthand how teachers are flexing their creative muscles and inspiring their students.”
In 2019, sustainable resin driveway company Oltco came up with an ingenious way of utilising waste plastic: it launched Recycle Bound, a surfacing material that’s made from straws, drink bottles and food packaging.
Co-directors Tom Stringer and Johnny Pearce said: “The issue of plastic waste has long been a concern for us, not least because we see first-hand the impact it’s having on our beaches and wider environment, with our base in Cornwall.”
Recycle Bound has already recycled the equivalent of over 40 million plastic straws. It’s also proven to be the ideal product for many commercial clients, including visitor attractions such as the Eden Project.
While Recycle Bound has turned out to be incredibly popular, Oltco, which was founded in 2004, isn’t resting on its eco laurels.
The company says it’s constantly looking for new ways to reduce its impact on the environment, which is why Oltco is working on what it describes as “another world-first product”.
Tom and Johnny promise it will be a “game changer” when it’s launched later this year.
Australian hair salon franchise Just Cuts takes corporate social responsibility very seriously.
Having recently fundraised for charities such as The Little Princess Trust and SANE Australia, the head office team, along with franchise owners and stylists, are currently planning further campaigns.
UK general manager David Mathie explained: “In December, we launched the SANE Australia #Hearts4SANE campaign, which raises awareness of mental illnesses and grants funding to this worthwhile cause.
“Clients could come into the salon and donate money towards a blue heart, which they could write messages of encouragement on. These were then stuck to the wall of the salon for the five days of the campaign.”
David added: “Supporting mental health charities is something we feel passionate about as a brand, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic is driving a spike in demand for mental health services. The campaign was so successful that it’s something we will replicate with a U.K.-based mental health charity later this year.”
Heroes Hollywood, F45 Training’s global fundraising workout initiative, is aiming to improve on the six-figure sum it donated to victims of the Australian bushfires that devastated millions of hectares of land in 2020. Buz Roberts, owner of F45 Ealing, said: “As Australia was where F45 originated, it felt only right that studios around the world came together to raise money and support the impact the bushfires had.
“The F45 community rose to the occasion and raised over $550,000 for the national crisis.” This year, each Heroes Hollywood workout will be dedicated to a specific cause. The first one of 2021 raised funds for mental health charities.
“A lot of the U.K. studios supported FareShare, which helps children in poverty, and were able to raise over £2,300, a figure that’s continuing to increase,” Buz said. The next Heroes Hollywood workout is scheduled for April 17 and will be live-streamed via Zoom from a number of F45 studios. Participants are asked to donate money via the company’s GoFundMe page.
For years, Makayla Drummond has been living a low waste lifestyle. She’d even discussed opening a package-free food store with her husband but felt they lacked the experience to do it well.
“When I came across The Source Bulk Foods in Australia, it was a solution to both our needs,” Makayla, now managing director of The Source Bulk Foods UK, said.
The U.K. operation has five outlets and sells over 500 products. Since its inception, it estimates it’s saved over 1.2 million pieces of plastic packaging from being used.
“We always try to make decisions in line with our core values around promoting a low waste lifestyle, offering quality food and providing value to customers,” Makayla said. “This starts with decisions on the products we offer, from which supplier and where it originates from and the packaging it comes in.
“At store level, it comes through in our support of local community initiatives and as an employer we try to create a positive and inclusive workplace and pay our teams a living wage.”
Martyn Ward, CEO of mobile coffee franchise Cafe2U, says he’s extremely proud of the company’s response to the pandemic. And he has every right to be.
While the business faced unprecedented challenges in 2020, franchisees ensured many key workers across the U.K. didn’t go without their daily caffeine fix, delivering over 15,000 free cups of coffee to NHS frontline staff alone. Some even volunteered to work in centres to assist with the vaccination programme.
On top of this, drivers adapted their normal routes so they could serve fresh coffee, food and snacks to fire service personnel, care home workers, supermarket employees and teaching staff.
Cafe2U franchisees in Preston North West, Castle Donnington, Belfast East, Lichfield and Stockport North, among others, provided a COVID-safe service to essential staff.
All those involved demonstrated their caring credentials during a crisis that has engulfed the nation.
In addition to these efforts, Cafe2U Bromsgrove recently took time out from their usual business activities to serve coffee to the homeless and those sleeping rough as part of Worcestershire’s homeless appeal.
One of the values at Revive! is unity, so when the company, which provides mobile repairs to minor vehicle damage, looks at supporting different charities, it tries to bring all the team together.
In September 2020, the Revive! team raised nearly £4,000 to buy a motorised wheelchair for a motor neurone disease sufferer. Company employees, along with some franchisees, raised money by challenging themselves to move as far as possible in September, which included walking, running, swimming or cycling every day – or as many days as they could manage – during the month.
Four of the team, joint managing director Mark Llewellyn, UK operations director Andy Hupfield, together with Renata Townsend and Marketa Ouchouche from the Revive! customer service team, extended the challenge and continued to run five kilometres every day for 100 days.
Mark said: “Giving back is very important to us to date we’ve raised over £25,000 for children’s cancer charities and the Motor Neurone Disease Association.”
After its conception in Tulsa in 1997, consignment sale franchise Just Between Friends has grown to a U.S. network of more than 160 franchisees – and yet, the benevolent brand has never lost sight of its charitable foundations, giving more than $32m in cash and in-kind donations to local communities in the 24 years since it began.
“Giving back to the local community is foundational to our business model, as our sellers can choose to donate any unsold items after each JBF sale,” said Shannon Wilburn, co-founder and CEO. “This creates an easy way for clothes, toys, and shoes to go to homes where they are needed. Last year, we facilitated over $4.5m of in-kind donations to our local charity partners. Goodness multiplies – and we love being a part of this at the local and national level.”
The brand also consists of 97 per cent female franchisees and continues to promote its charitable message with each new acquisition.
A domestic cleaning franchise under the Neighborly services umbrella, Molly Maid has been a strong advocate for women for decades. With the creation of the Ms. Molly Foundation in 1996, the brand put wellbeing at the forefront by launching a mission to increase public awareness of domestic violence – the most underreported crime in the U.S.
“Since its inception, the Ms. Molly Foundation has raised over $3.5m and each year, the foundation sends over 100 checks to various shelters across the country,” said Vera Peterson, president. “In 2020, the Ms. Molly Foundation held its first-ever virtual auction due to the pandemic. With 146 franchise partners participating across the country, the foundation was able to raise over $13,000 to support local shelters.”
Since its founding in 1986, The Arby’s Foundation has given over $100m to a variety of youth-related causes that support some of the most vulnerable members of the population.
Whether that’s working toward putting an end to childhood hunger in partnership with charities like No Kid Hungry, providing support to programmes like JA Academy that help to transform kids into the leaders of tomorrow, or partnering with the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation to open up possibilities for kids’ careers; Arby’s has always invested heavily in its youngest consumers.
By focusing on ‘Dream Big’, The Arby’s Foundation aims for lofty goals by using the support of everyday people. This comes in part through the $1 donations that guests contribute during its Make a Difference Campaign, which runs during two months of the year.
Little Kickers was last year’s winner of the Global Franchise Champion title at the annual Global Franchise Awards and uses this position of prominence to promote positive CSR initiatives wherever possible.
Some, such as flying its soccer coaches out to teach at schools in Malawi or changing to recyclable uniforms and donating old kits to African communities, have been put on hold in light of the current pandemic and its associated challenges. But this hasn’t stopped Little Kickers from engaging with charity in recent months.
“In December 2020, our franchisees were quite upset by the free school meals situation, as lots of the kids who were impacted were of the age groups that we cater for,” said Christine Kelly, founder. “So, we decided to raise enough money to buy Christmas lunch for 1,000 U.K. families.
“Not only did we achieve our target of 1,000 families receiving a hamper full of ingredients, but we also managed to donate over £5,000 to FareShare, where it has been used to provide access to meals for over 22,000 of the country’s most vulnerable people.”
Equality is a key pillar of restaurant brand Bojangles’ CSR policy, and this was clearer in 2020 than ever before with the creation of several progressive initiatives that highlight and elevate underrepresented members of the fast food industry.
For example, its Minority Franchisee Program was created to recruit, train, mentor, and provide funding support and other resources to minority entrepreneurs, who may not have previously had the opportunity to pursue their dreams of business ownership. 2020 also saw the launch of the brand’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force; a push to unite employees from all levels on how they can bring an inclusive and diverse culture to life throughout every aspect of the network.
Bojangles also runs an Accelerated Management Trainee Program, which is a six-to-nine-month process designed to increase diversity among its restaurant locations and corporate offices.
This frozen meal delivery brand has been a member of the Ethical Trading Initiative since 2015 and in 2018 signed up to the UK Plastics Pact, a formal agreement between 41 businesses to keep plastic in the economy and out of our oceans.
The following year, Wiltshire Farm Foods won the Queen’s Award for sustainable development – the third time it’s been recognised by this prestigious programme.
The company caught the eye of judges with its early adoption of anaerobic digestion – a way of creating energy from food waste – its fundraising for Alzheimer’s Support and the Alzheimer’s Society, and because 100 per cent of the fish sourced by the brand is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.
Marketing manager Hannah Kempster (pictured) said: “We’re dedicated to doing business in an ethical and sustainable way, enhancing the health and well- being of our customers through great food we’re proud of and our good old fashioned delivery service.
“Our commitment to team members, suppliers and customers is something we take incredibly seriously, allowing us to make a real difference to people’s lives.”
Partnering with churches and communities across the U.K.; what started out in 2000 in a garden shed and garage in Salisbury has now grown into a network of over 440 foodbanks.
Seeing how many people needed emergency food, the Salisbury Foodbank model led to the foundation of the Trussell Trust Foodbank Network in 2004. The Foodbank Network asks franchisees for a donation of £1,500 during the first year and £360 each consecutive year. These are just minimal costs for setting up and delivering services to foodbanks, with the Trussell Trust funding the remainder.
Since the start of the pandemic, the network has dealt with a huge increase in need for its services. For instance, linking with Trussell Trust, X-Press Legal Services’ head office ran a charity campaign throughout December 2020, with all its 26 franchise offices donating to their local foodbanks.
Lynne Lister, managing director of X-Press Legal Services, said: “The pandemic has caused hardship for so many, resulting in a record number of people now reliant on local foodbanks to feed themselves and their families. We wanted to help in whatever way we could and encouraged our network to do the same. We are proud to have helped so many local foodbanks throughout England and Wales with much- needed essentials.”
***1,239,399 emergency food parcels were provided to people in crisis by Trussell Trust foodbanks between April and September 2020.
Source: Trussell Trust coronavirus response impact report – March to September 2020
Ice cream franchisor Dairy Queen runs its annual Miracle Treat Day to help franchisees support the people that matter most: their local communities.
A fundraising event for the Children’s Miracle Network, Miracle Treat Day is held every year in the U.S. and Canada and sees at least $1 from the proceeds of every Blizzard Treat sold go to local participating Children’s Miracle Network hospitals, which treat around 17 million children across North America every year.
Dairy Queen has supported the Children’s Miracle Network since 1984, and at its 30th-anniversary celebrations in 2014, it was revealed that Miracle Treat Day had helped to raise more than $125m for the Children’s Miracle Network.
Since 2017, Duck Donuts has supported Gabe’s Chemo Duck Program, a non-profit that provides education, comfort and hope through stuffed ducks, medical play, and therapeutic tools. The sponsorship ensures that children undergoing treatment for cancer can have access to their own Chemo Duck, a stuffed duck dressed in hospital scrubs with a chemotherapy port, to help them learn what to expect during treatment and to provide “huggable hope”.
“Gabe’s Chemo Duck Program is an important resource not just for the children undergoing cancer treatment and their families, but also for the doctors, nurses, child life specialists, and other supporters who are trying to comfort children and navigate them through what can be a very scary experience,” explained Russ DiGilio, founder and CEO of Duck Donuts.
To date, Duck Donuts has raised $210,000 during its annual franchise-wide campaigns. Nearly 6,500 Chemo Duck programmes have been provided to children undergoing cancer treatment in the communities Duck Donuts serves.
“By partnering with Duck Donuts, we’ve been able to extend our outreach to thousands of children and we’re honoured to be the beneficiary of this campaign again this year,” said Lu Sipos, founder and CEO of Gabe’s Chemo Duck Program.
Little Caesars, founded in 1959 by Korean War veteran Mike Ilitch, has always admired the business acumen of franchise owners with a military background. In 2006, Little Caesars established the Little Caesars Veterans Program, which offers an array of benefits – including discounts on franchise and equipment fees as well as corporate communications support, among others – for honourably discharged or service-disabled military veterans and Gold Star families.
“Almost 15 years since the programme was launched, Little Caesars has amassed 65 veteran franchisees, all of whom collectively own hundreds of pizzeria locations,” said Jamie Wolfe, director - U.S. development at Little Caesars. “As part of this programme, the company partnered with two other organisations, C4 Foundation and Gallant Few, to provide $10,000 donations that benefit active-duty military personnel and veterans.”
“Our charity, The Bring Joy Foundation, is a key component of our social purpose strategy,” explained Penny Hamer, executive director, The Home Instead Bring Joy Foundation. “It is dedicated to supporting and enhancing the lives of older people and to bringing joy to their lives. The charity works mainly by funding activities arranged by local community groups or by supporting them through the provision of items such as activity packs.”
During the pandemic the Foundation was able to provide 20 portals to older people to allow them to remain connected with friends and family. More recently it launched Challenge 500, an initiative that involved its franchisees raising money before its national conference in March. “So far £6,000 has been raised and we are looking forward to putting this money back into local communities for the benefit of many seniors in the coming months,” added Penny.
Over the last 12 months, the Foundation has also been in review and expanded to include new trustees, two of whom are Home Instead franchisees – a first for the charity. Significant changes have also been made to its grants programme so that the Bring Joy Foundation becomes more embedded in its franchisees’ businesses.
When ActionCOACH founder and CEO, Brad Sugars, offered some for-profit business advice to a nonprofit children’s charity in his native Australia, he never thought that the experience would provide the basis for a campaign to provide pro-bono coaching to nonprofit leadership and later, for the creation of the ActionCOACH Foundation.
“For years, we’ve worked with for-profits to leverage performance, productivity and profit,” said Sugars. “Now, we can leverage those same systems and strategies through our network of global coaches to help willing nonprofits on a local level everywhere we operate.”
Through the original ‘Coaching for a Cause’ campaign, launched in 2009, hundreds of Action Coaches have donated over $1m in coaching services worldwide to help charities and nonprofits increase their impact. As a direct result of coaching, nonprofits have raised well over $5m since the programme launched, including additional funds and donations totaling $3,409,645 in the first six months of the programme alone.
Coaching for a Cause is a way for the ActionCOACH Business Coaches collective to give back to their communities by providing pro-bono coaching hours to local nonprofit organisations. According to coach and ActionCOACH Foundation chairman, Doug Winnie: “It is in our corporate DNA to give back and to educate community leaders in order to spread abundance.”
Planet Fitness’ philanthropic initiative – The Judgement Free Generation – strives to combat bullying faced by today’s youth by creating a culture of kindness and encouragement. Partnering with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, along with its franchisees, it has contributed $5m to its nonprofit partners, provided staff and youth training that has reached more than 1,200 Boys & Girls Clubs in all 50 states, awarded $500,000 in scholarships to youth who promote inclusion in their communities and built 30 ‘Mini Judgement Free Zone’ fitness centres in select Boys & Girls Clubs.
“We could not ask for a better partner to help spread the pro- kindness, anti-bullying vision across our clubs. Planet Fitness and the Judgement Free Generation will have lasting, sustainable impact on our members and our communities,” said Jim Clark, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
Also, during the pandemic, the brand’s well-loved Pizza Mondays tradition pivoted, with the help of Slice Out Hunger’s Pizza vs. Pandemic initiative, by donating pizza to healthcare heroes on the frontline.
The initiative collects donations on its website and then matches them with requests from healthcare centres across the U.S. Since March 2020, the initiative has delivered 35,100 pizza pies and raised $660,000.
Teddy bear retailer Build-A-Bear has been spreading joy among children for 23 years with its customisable workshop-style experience allowing customers to create bespoke bears that come in multitudes of shapes and sizes.
While it is now a renowned global organisation, it is equally recognised for its altruistic activities, chiefly through its Build-A-Bear Foundation. The foundation’s aim is to ‘add a little more love to life by sharing hugs and making days a little bit brighter for those in need’, typically doing so by financial donations, donating teddy bears, arranging teddy bear visits, and partnering with charities such as the American Red Cross.
“Since its establishment in 2004, Build-A-Bear Foundation has been making days a little brighter for those in need, with a focus on providing in-kind donations of furry friends to less fortunate children,” Hailey Kaufman, cause marketing communications specialist tells Business Woman.
“In 2020 alone, the foundation gave over $350,000 in COVID-19 relief, more than 35,000 furry friends to children in need, and 240,000 masks to essential workers and communities in the U.S. and U.K.”
While some organisations have a strong corporate social responsibility ethos, there’s a growing number of franchise brands where it underpins their entire business models.
Established in 1991, U.K. brand ACM Environmental is a recycling-led waste management company that offers a progressive alternative to traditional waste management services. In fact, it is the first waste management company to be deemed carbon neutral, as well as being an active member of the British government’s All-Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group.
The brand firmly believes that zero landfills is an achievable and necessary goal. Initiatives, such as its Greener Path Programme and free waste audits, help businesses to reduce the amount of waste ending up in landfills.
Coffee brand the Human Bean, which currently has over 200 locations open or under development in 20 U.S. states, not only follows a mission to take care of the general public with quality coffee, but it also puts a strong emphasis on treating its supply chain with the respect it deserves, too.
It primarily does this through its Stewardship programme, which has helped the organisation to form long-standing relationships in coffee communities, helping facilitate several projects at coffee origin communities.
Its first project in 1999 with Finca El Paternal in Guatemala showed how it could positively impact farming communities while forging sourcing relationships with the farmers.
Through its Farm Friendly Direct initiative, it helps to provide water sanitation supplies, planting trees, installing water wells, and other important projects to farms in coffee-producing countries. For instance, the brand states that its Colombia-based initiative will have helped 51 farms in the country.
Founded by Kenyan entrepreneur and secretary-general of the International Transformation Foundation, Venuste Kubwimana, A Water Kiosk at School is a franchise initiative launched in 2014 as a school-based and student-managed business selling clean tap water to community residents at an affordable price.
It is both an educational and profitable business that teaches students business skills while also generating income for schools.
The concept has caught the attention of business communities across the globe, with Kubwimana named one of Africa’s Top 50 Innovators in 2018, the AIDF Global Innovator of the Year, and the winner of the 2019 Social Enterprise Franchise award at the International Franchise Association’s NextGen in Franchising Global Contest.
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