Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is something more companies today are taking seriously as consumers become more conscious of how their products are being manufactured and sourced. However, many companies have received backlash in their attempts in part because it is inauthentic and they view it through a commercial lens first and social second.
Vita Coco, the world’s leading coconut water brand has been doing great, authentic work for some time through their Vita Coco Project, founded in 2014 which helps to build the communities they source their coconuts from. Today, on World Coconut Day they are announcing Halima Aden, a Somali-American supermodel as their Chief Coconut Officer for the Vita Coco Project.
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Aden grew up in Kakuma, a refugee camp in Kenya. At 6 years old her family moved to the U.S. an experience that was very different for her. She didn’t speak English, was Muslim, and wore a hijab. This made it very difficult for her to acclimatize. However, she realized from a relatively young age that the “one thing nobody can take away from you is your education”.
As the years went on she learned English and developed confidence you rarely see in people from marginalized communities. This confidence came from a realization that “in her uncomfortable experience was growth”. This spurred her on to enter the Miss Minnesota USA beauty pageant wearing a hijab in 2016.
Despite missing out on the top prize the attention it garnered landed her a contract with leading talent agency IMG Media in 2017. Since then she has gone on to be the first Muslim woman wearing a hijab to grace the cover of several publications including British Vogue and walk various fashion weeks in New York, London, and Paris.
In her role as Chief Coconut Officer, she will serve as a global spokesperson and advocate for the project helping the company drive its social impact initiative that supports coconut farming communities in the Philippines and Sri Lanka. The production of coconut water currently creates thousands of jobs in these regions and Vita Coco has a long term mission to impact one million people in these communities.
This is done by paying farmers a reasonable local wage, building 30 safe classrooms for K-12 education, and giving more than 80 scholarships to top-performing students in the Philippines and Sri Lanka. On announcing the partnership Aden comments “Now more than ever, it’s really important to me to partner with brands that share my values. After I visited the coconut farms with Vita Coco last year and saw the work that they do firsthand and the impact it has, I knew it was an organization that I wanted to be a part of,”
Whilst Aden’s life has taken her worlds away from the refugee camp in Kakuma she has fond memories of her youth and the community that existed which gives her an authentic empathy very few people in her position are able to have. Vita Coco’s resources and Aden’s mission to positively impact these types of communities means it’s likely Vita Coco will continue to find the right balance between CSR and commercial success.
Read from source Forbes