When Ahold USA combined its support functions as part of its recent centralization, its charitable giving arms came along too.
Ahold USA’s Our Family Foundation was born a year ago out of the unification of Giant-Carlisle’s Our Kids Foundation and Stop & Shop/Giant-Landover’s Family Foundation. Our Family Foundation donations and grants accounted for nearly $12 million of the $67 million Ahold USA, its retail division, vendors, employees and customers donated to charity in 2012 — figures foundation chairman Bhavdeep Singh considers a smashing debut.
“When we talk about what we do from an organizational giving perspective it’s really important to step back and understand the culture that drives it,” Singh, who is also Ahold USA’s executive vice president of operations, told SN in a recent interview. “The actions are a by-product of the culture. That’s what really differentiates us from so many other organizations. We’re doing what we’re doing because this organization fundamentally believes in it, and is passionate about it.”
Singh noted that charitable giving is both a “pillar” of Ahold’s “Reshaping Retail” strategy and supports the company’s more recently announced “promises” to be a better neighbor and a better place to work. While he stressed that Ahold’s giving efforts were separate from its business concerns, he described Ahold as a company that has bought into success at both levels.
“If you walked into a Family Foundation meeting and you observed the energy and the passion, if you didn’t know the exact words we were using you wouldn’t necessarily be sure if what you were seeing was a bottom-line, profit-margin conversation or a giving conversation,” he said. “Both conversions in our hallways are just as energetic and passionate. That’s the part that makes it different for us. The organization believes in it. It’s embodied in everything we do. The actions don’t drive the culture here; the culture drives the action.”
The Our Family Foundation focuses efforts on charities that fight hunger, improve the lives of children and help to promote healthy communities.
“Every cause is a good cause but not every cause is our cause,” Tracy Pawelski, an Ahold spokeswoman, explained. “We have to be strategic and go where we can have the maximum impact with our charitable dollars.”
The Foundation last month announced a new three-year initiative to distribute $9 million in Fighting Child Hunger grants, kicking off the effort with grants to 21 regional food banks in Ahold trading areas. Those organizations submitted proposals last year, which include school pantry and mobile pantry programs as well as produce and nutrition education.
Singh said the foundation had no specific goals for a donation total this year beyond a determination to be as generous as possible.
“Saying that we have to do better is something any good business would do, and we take a similar approach to giving,” he explained. “We want to confirm and validate what we’re doing is right and we want to make sure we continue to be involved in our communities.
“It’s not about, we gave this much, we should be satisfied; it’s more about being able to maintain, hold and get better,” he added. “We are doing this because this is the right thing. Our return on investment isn’t how we helped the business. Our return on investment is, did we do the right thing?”
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