Zambrero and Plate 4 Plate founder, Dr Sam Prince

How to incorporate social responsibility the Zambrero way

James Perkins
@jameshperkins

Giving back to the community and the world through corporate philanthropy is more than creating a hashtag. It is marketing, but it should come from the heart, not a focus group. And it should be sustainable. Young entrepreneurs today want to make a genuine impact, not just in business, but in the community. But how to they do it right?

Dr Sam Prince, founder of Zambrero, made the Plate 4 Plate initiative a core part of his business from the time it was launched 11 years ago. For every meal or burrito sold at the fast food chain, a meal is donated to the underprivileged in the form of a rice and soy meal fortified with 21 essential vitamins and nutrients.

The Zambrero franchise now has 100 stores, with plans to increase that to 300 in the next seven years – all the while continuing its efforts in philanthropy.

“Businesses have the resources to make an impact that individuals alone generally do not have themselves.”

Dr Prince is a serial non-profit entrepreneur, having also founded the E-magine Foundation, One Disease and finally, Life Letters – all tackling individual causes in Australia and overseas.

“Businesses have the resources to make an impact that individuals alone generally do not have themselves,” he says.

But having these activities so closely aligned with your business identity brings its own risks. If profits take a dive, can you keep giving? Fast food restaurants rely on tight profit margins, so ensuring that Corporate Social Responsibility activities are sustainable is imperative, especially if they are so tightly coupled with the brand as they are at Zambrero.

Some key lesson’s can be learned from Dr Prince and Zambrero. The first; know what you are doing, or work with someone who does.

Dr Prince is a medical doctor and has an understanding of underprivileged communities through his parents’ upbringing in rural Sri Lanka and his own travel.

“I was influenced by my experiences in developing communities of Australia and Cambodia while launching my E-magine foundation in 2007, which provided technology and IT facilities to schools,” he says. “When I saw that malnutrition and food insecurity was just as much of an issue as education – I came up with the Plate 4 Plate program.”

"For corporate philanthropy to be at a core of the business the owner needs to be passionate about the cause and maintain that passion through the years."

This highlights another important area of corporate philanthropy; that is, to make a difference in an area that needs it. In the recent Hunger Report by Foodbank it was revealed that 1 in 6 Australians has experienced food insecurity in the last 12 months alone.

Even with his own medical qualifications and business nous, Dr Prince didn’t go it alone. Zambrero partnered with relevant agencies such as Stop Hunger Now and Foodbank Australia who work in the field with communities in need every day.

Dr Prince calls Plate 4 Plate the “beating heart at the core of the company”, assisting his drive for constant growth. Simply by buying lunch or dinner, customers are directly linked to the global cause of ending world hunger by 2025.

For corporate philanthropy to be at a core of the business the owner needs to be passionate about the cause and maintain that passion through the years. “The largest piece of advice is to have a vision, and stick to that vision along the way,” said Dr Prince. “Surrounding yourself with the best possible people you can hire and who share your vision. This has been a crucial part of Zambrero’s success story.”

James Perkins

James Perkins is a freelance journalist based on a Gold Coast with experience writing across a variety of areas including business, science and technology, sport and news.

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