Healthy effort to fight malnutrition springs from Amway CSR partnerships in China

Launched in May 2011 in China, Amway’s Spring Sprout Project is a prime example of how a company can use strategic partnerships to further its CSR goals and address a social problem. Developed by the Amway Charity Foundation (ACF), the initiative has established more than 700 kitchens to fight childhood malnutrition in rural China. ACF has pledged to build 1,000 kitchens in total in order to feed 500,000 children each day.

The Spring Sprout Project arose in response to a study. This CSR effort is focused on malnourished children of migrant workers, who are much more likely to suffer from growth retardation and hunger in school than their urban counterparts. As a company with several nutritional solutions, this cause resonates with Amway, noted Frances Yu, vice president of Public Affairs, Amway China, and director general, Amway Charity Foundation.

The ACF and the Spring Sprout Project allow Amway China to continue to fulfill its longtime commitment to the nutritional health of children around the globe. ACF is the first non-public foundation established by a multinational corporation under the supervision of the Ministry of Civil Affairs of China. ACF found that in order to improve nutrition for students in impoverished areas, there would need to be a systematic effort involving many parties.

The Spring Sprout Project is executed in conjunction with local governments and education authorities in China. Amway leverages its relationships with partners that share its concerns and uses their support to increase the company’s capacity to deliver healthy meals to children. The Spring Sprout Project model requires local governments to provide supportive funding for construction of a kitchen. Yu commented that to date, the Spring Sprout model has worked effectively and put ACF in a position to influence improvements in public polices of the Chinese government.

There is ample opportunity for Amway employees to get involved in the Spring Sprout Project. Employees can help select and train volunteer supervisors, and they have also assisted in overseeing the performance of volunteer supervisors and organized benefit events to raise funds for the project. Amway China also uses this program to engage high-level executives. As key members of the ACF Board of Trustees, Amway senior executives have engaged in initial field investigations, project planning, decision making and project management. Involving executives in the logistics of the Spring Sprout Project allows Amway to integrate its business competencies into the planning and execution portion of the initiative, Yu said.

Amway has incorporated measurement tools into the program to track its impact and monitor the progress of each Nutrition Kitchen. ACF and project partners track the implementation of each site and the government partners also have the ability and the authority to inspect kitchens using ACF and its partners’ organizational systems. To more accurately assess the impact of its work, the Spring Sprout Project plans to cooperate with the Institute of Child and Adolescent Health of Peking University to monitor the performance of the nutrition plans in improving children’s health. “By involving a third-party evaluator, ACF aims to integrate a more rigorous and objective measurement system into the initiative,” Yu noted.

The response from the community has been very positive. When a kitchen opens, even some students who previously brought a lunch from their parents choose to eat at school. Some schools with more resources that have not established Spring Sprout Kitchens have sent staff to visit and learn from how they operate.

“It is fair to say that although only 300 Spring Sprout Kitchens were established in 2011, the impact has reached far beyond just these 300 schools,” Yu added.