By: Clint – Business Development Manager, Siam Organic
As a social enterprise, Siam Organic has two missions. Our first mission is to bring innovative healthy and delicious organic products to consumers globally. Our second mission is to improve the livelihoods of the small-scale farmers who grow Jasberry rice. Because we are a social enterprise, this second mission is critical to who we are, and is what makes us different from a typical business.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a “social enterprise” is an organization that applies commercial strategies to create improvements for human or environmental well-being. These improvements are referred to as a social enterprise’s “social impact.” Siam Organic aims to maximize the social impact we generate for our farmers with everything we do. Profitability is still an important goal too – it allows us to be financially sustainable and grow to help even more farmers. However, if company profit was the only thing we valued, we’d be just like many other businesses out there – squeezing farmers at the bottom of the pyramid to ensure greater margins at the top. Because our business model seeks to maximize our social impact for farmers instead of maximizing company profits, it’s important for us to measure and track our social impact just like a business would regularly review its financial performance – we want to make sure our farmers are benefiting in the greatest way possible from the way we do business.
How does Siam Organic measure its social impact? At the end of every harvest, we go out and directly survey our Jasberry farmers. We collect data on things like how much money they spent on organic fertilizer and farm labor that season, how much land they planted, and how much Jasberry rice they harvested. We then compare this data to other pieces of information, such as the market price for conventional jasmine rice, to calculate exactly how much more income Jasberry farmers earn compared to conventional rice farmers. Because we pay our farmers up to 200% more for growing Jasberry rice compared to what they would otherwise receive for growing conventional jasmine rice, farmers who switch to growing organic Jasberry with us can increase their incomes up to 14 times. Several factors affect farmer profitability, but the main drivers of Jasberry profitability are the lower cost of organic farming, the training we provide farmers on how to improve their yields, and the higher purchase price we offer.
Siam Organic’s social impact also goes beyond simply increasing income for farmers. By making farming a viable occupation, we reduce urban migration and strengthen rural communities. Young people who had left rural villages to take low-wage jobs in cities are now moving back home to help their families earn more money by growing Jasberry.
Siam Organic has also converted over 5,000 hectares of land from conventional farmland to organic over the last five years – an area equivalent to roughly 7,000 football fields. This has dramatically reduced farm family exposure to harmful pesticides and other agrochemicals, and has helped to restore natural ecosystems in rural communities. Additionally, organic farming provides our customers with ethically produced clean food that is free of any chemical residues.
Finally, Siam Organic requires farmers to keep at least 25% of their Jasberry harvests for household consumption. Our farmers traditionally eat glutinous white rice as a large part of their diet, and this type of rice is full of energy but low in nutrients. By introducing antioxidant-rich Jasberry rice into farm family diets, Siam Organic ensures that both our farmers and customers are eating healthier food.
Our social impact per farmer varies each year due to changes in costs, farmer planting practices, weather, and fluctuating market prices. However, we strive to maximize our impact for farmers at the start of every season. Using lessons learned from our social impact surveys, we are constantly improving on existing activities as well as trialing new ideas to help Jasberry farmers. While regular companies focus on maximizing profits for shareholders, Siam Organic is proud to say that our primary measure of success is maximizing social impact for the small-scale farmers we serve.