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Corporate social responsiblity with sprinkles on top

Joe Frontera

Dan Leidl
Joe Frontiera and Dan Leidl are managing partners of Meno Consulting, a firm that specializes in team and leadership development. They blog at My Generation Leader.

What would you do if everything you worked to build over four decades was destroyed in less than four hours? On September 4, 2009, David and Penny Chapman watched nearly half a century's worth of effort burn to the ground.

Since purchasing a creamery in Markdale, Ontario in 1973, David and Penny Chapman have guided Chapman's Ice Cream to rank as Canada's largest independent ice cream manufacturer.

While they started with four employees and two trucks, the Chapman's commitment to community and product integrity has resulted in steady growth. The company grew to more than 350 employees and a fleet of 60 trucks, which made the devastation on September 4 all the more painful. "I couldn't bear to look at the damage," Penny told me in a phone conversation. Her husband, David, the company's CEO, surveyed the ashes alone.

We have grown accustomed to stories about WorldCom, Exxon, and ponzi schemes, about leaders either forgetting or ignoring the responsibility they have to their followers, employees, and those who place trust in them. Bitterness over these scandals are part of what has propelled the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) into the mainstream. While definitions vary, one concise definition is this: "Beyond making profits, companies are responsible for the totality of their impact on people and the planet."

Of course, many have grown cynical about such efforts, seeing CSR as spin to take focus away from an organization's nastier habits while maximizing shareholder returns. While Philip Morris USA fund youth smoking prevention, for example, cynics would argue that such tactics are nothing more than smoke screens, clouding the larger issue of marketing a cancerous product to human beings of any age.

Against this background of cynicism about business -- sometimes deserved -- David and Penny Chapman stand out. After the fire, they could have called it a career, taking their insurance money and retiring to a warmer climate. Instead they did something all too rare in today's corporate culture -- they thought of others. For David and Penny that meant thinking about their customers, their employees and the town of Markdale -- and coming up with a plan to recover.

Shortly after the fire David called all of Chapman's employees in for a meeting, and told them that the company would continue to pay salaried employees for one year and hourly employees for four months. More importantly, he told them that Chapman's was going to be rebuilt. Just as they had worked from the ground up back in 1973, they were committed to starting once again. As Penny said, "In a blink, you lose everything. And in the same blink, you decide to rebuild."

David and Penny Chapman give us an inspiring glimpse of what Corporate Social Responsibility can be. When you're as dedicated to simple values and see things as clearly as Penny Chapman does, "It's the only right thing to do. You have a choice."

Five months since the fire, Penny Chapman reports that rebuilding efforts are going remarkably well. David has been able to replace much of the machinery that was lost. The company has received regulatory permission to begin making ice cream at their much smaller cold storage facility, affectionately called their "mini plant." All 350 employees are back working, and the new manufacturing plant will most likely be finished in August this year, even though the enduring optimist, Penny, is "hoping for July."

By Joe Frontiera and Dan Leidl

 |  February 4, 2010; 6:44 AM ET |  Category:  Corporate social responsibility Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Comments

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Thats the key, you have a choice, do the right thing, how simple it seems. Thanks for bringing such a nice story to our attention, lets hope they inspire others.
M. Bartley

Posted by: mobilbart | February 11, 2010 5:27 PM

This reminds me of the stories of Ben and Jerry's ice cream company and their efforts in CSR. I think getting the community to surround your company can give the people of your home a sense of pride for your company and make it just as much theirs and it is yours.

Posted by: jdmoney | February 9, 2010 4:26 PM

Hi Joe and Dan,
CORPORATE CORPORATE CORPORATE
How about an article on: whose got the money and
power now?
For things to change, they need to hear,
I AM THE CAUSE OF THIS MESS.
WHO CAN AND MUST CORRECT IT?
I MUST AND IF I DON'T, IT WILL GET WORSE.
I CAN CHOOSE TO GET INVOLVED, OR LET OTHERS
CONTROL ME.
IF I LET OTHRRS CONTROL ME,
THEN I HAVE NO RIGHT TO COMPLAIN.
IF, ON THE OTHER HAND, I WORK TOWARDS A
SHARED EFFORT ON THE PLANET, TO ASSURE NO
ONE IS LEFT OUT, PERHAPS THEN THERE WILL BE A
BALANCING OF POWER, LEGITIMATE POWER, AND
ALL PLANETARY CITIZENS CAN BE WINNERS.
John H of Roseville

Posted by: STARlite1 | February 8, 2010 7:38 PM

I commend Joe and Dan for their CSR bring it to
our attention. And yes the key word:
RESPONSIBILIY.
The Board of every company have a responsibility
to make sure the company makes a profit.Otherwise
no need to be in business. The workers have a
resposibility to work hard and steady. I remember
my wife, Pat, and I in the 70s were reading news
that U.S. companies were going to be contracting
with foreign companies to do the labor, ergo bigger profits. We forsaw what was coming: a mass exit of U.S. companies to get in on the
ground floor and move the companies abroad:
where laborers would bet paid one tenth of what
our own workers get. A smart move, no?
What no one cared to look at was U.S. was
going to lose a lot of jobs, tax revenue in
Washinton and the STates would decrease, and
China and others would get richer as local
profits would diminish. Over the years our
Congress allowed all this to occur. I guess
the "haves" had their way!
And the "have nots" are laid off in droves today wondering what hit them, and they feel
hopeless. Many people didn't vote over the years
and paid little attention to what the wealthy
corps were upt to. Many people would voice years
ago: "I don't want to get involved in politics"
Some of their resposes indicated the politicians
were corrupt, so why bother?
What folks failed to see 30-40 years ago was
such an attitude let to: That the major corps
could do their own thing, meaning that without
any limits placed on them, they could shut
down manufacturing jobs here, and go overseas.
No mention of what it would do to our economy
nor out U.S workers.
Congress could have implemented restraints and
discouraged some of this corporate thinking in
disregard to our economy. AFter all it was these
same American corps who support these same
elected officials. Elected by who? WE the
People.
In conclusion when we talk abouT CSR the
thinking, actions and decisions begin, to a great extent with the individual voter.
WE THE PEOPLE STARTED AND CAUSED THE MESS!
(THIS IS THE BIG PICTURE). Until the voters
are enlighten and understand this history of the
past, in order to understand what some to the
causes of the recession are, It all will get
worse and, perhaps, CHINA AND INDIA WILL BE
THE GREAT WORLD POWERE, AND WE WILL BECOME A
STRUGGLING EX POWERE.
When voters don't vote, or don't care, or are
ignorant--these are the seeds of destruction.
These have created the lost jobs in America.
There was an old quote from the 70s, "when
good people do nothing, they will get results
they don't really want". Amen
Thanks again guys for bring this subject to our
attention. As my mom taught her kids." Your own
informed vote does make a difference."
And I say when the American public choose to
be non involved in the body politic, they
deserve the results, positive or negative,
they receive."
John H from Calif

Posted by: STARlite1 | February 8, 2010 7:29 PM

Thank you for this good news amidst all the bad news of how companies are just out for money. It was inspiring to hear about the courageous stance of this company. We need many more examples like this to restore our faith in the basic goodness that we are meant to be.

Sheila Novak SDS

Posted by: snovaksds | February 6, 2010 9:47 AM

It was refreshing to see an article about people who aspire to higher values and who are not complacent with just being ordinary.

It is so easy just to think of ourselves and not exert the effort to "go beyond". These people reached out and accomplished much. Congrats to them!

Posted by: mfrontiera | February 6, 2010 1:59 AM

This is a topic that is neglected by mainstream media and far not brought to the forefront enough. I appreciate the positive side of leadership!

Posted by: gfronts | February 5, 2010 10:33 PM

Amazing story about leadership! In the midst of a financial debacle where bad decision after bad decision by financial leaders has had a negative impact on the broader economy, it is good to see the examples of those leaders who have not lost their perspective of how their choices will affect those around them. Kudos to the chapman's.

Posted by: 49491 | February 5, 2010 10:09 PM

Thanks to Joe Frontiera and Dan Leidl for spotting and disseminating a story of how some of America's many small businesses still put human values way above the 'bottom line' choices that have pushed too many Americans into poverty. Hopefully we will learn more as we watch such businesses pull back into full swing again. Congratulations!

Posted by: jeansds2010 | February 5, 2010 7:17 PM

Would that American corporations would follow the leading example of these exemplary Canadians!

Posted by: jakuhel | February 5, 2010 5:17 PM

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