Investing in the little guy has long been in many major companies' CSR playbooks – just look at Boston Beer Company's "Brewing the American Dream" program or Patagonia's "$20 Million & Change" initiative. Yet, now some organizations are bolstering entrepreneurs in entirely new ways, investing in companies with strong values while at the same time building a responsible supply chain for the future.
This month, JetBlue Airways launched "BlueBud," a mentoring program to give small businesses an inside look into what it takes to be a supplier for a major airline – and the search is now on for the first BlueBud, a food or beverage company with a focus on social or environmental responsibility in JetBlue's home state of New York. The program aims to give nascent companies unique insight into JetBlue's operations and the shared values it looks for in partners. Jamie Perry, vice president of brand and product development explains the benefits of the program, "Getting onboard an aircraft as a food partner is not an easy task, so what better learning experience is there than getting first-hand knowledge directly from those that pick new menu selections." Participants will learn about the airline's product development and purchasing processes during a week-long mentoring program, including a tour of JetBlue's headquarters, meetings at its Orlando office, access to work spaces and conference rooms and time with business leaders from JetBlue's Strategic Sourcing, Corporate Social Responsibility, Sustainability and Communications and Marketing teams. In addition to the BlueBud program, the airline has invested in the local food and beverage community through its partnership with nonprofit GrowNYC to offer local foods at JFK's Terminal 5.
By selecting fledgling companies with values that align with its own, the airline has the power to not only give local entrepreneurs a boost, but also to build the next wave of responsible suppliers and better equip these small businesses for success in the marketplace. This example shows how any organization can work to create a responsible supply chain, even if it might require grooming a few suppliers along the way.