Did you know that you can pay an English teacher with bean sprouts? Well, not exactly, but under Minor International’s Bean Sprouts programme, Wat Sao Thong Kao School has found a creative way to sustainably fund the salaries for foreign born English teachers. Bean sprouts and English teachers seems like an unusual connection, but Minor didn’t see it that way. This project was launched at the underprivileged primary school in Ang Thong with the aim of raising funding for better English instruction.
The local agricultural community joined the programme to provide the farming know-how to the kids and school administration. They work together on a small farm at the school to teach kids how to plant, take care of and harvest these crunchy veggies. Each Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the bean sprouts are picked up and distributed all around Thailand to the different Coffee Club branches. Then, all of us unknowing consumers order a delicious plate of Pad Thai and voila! The cycle is complete. The money from the bean sprout sales go directly back to the school and fund better English education for these little farmers. So, go out and eat more Pad Thai at the Coffee Club!
Minor International, the parent company of some of the most ubiquitous chains in Thailand, Swensen’s, Pizza Company, Dairy Queen, Sizzler and Burger King to name a few, was founded by American born Thai businessman William Heinecke in 1968. In the last 50 years, the company has grown to be one of the largest restaurant and hospitality companies in Asia with a strong commitment to serving the communities in which it operates. The bean sprout programme is only one of the many CSR initiatives of this international conglomerate.
After the success of the bean sprout programme in Ang Thong, Minor hopes to roll out similar programmes at the other 13 schools they have adopted. They had the vision and purpose to develop a sustainable English education programme for their students. Minor is looking to develop capable educators who create engaging learning experiences so that students will want to continue learning English. They also aim to help schools build better learning environments, improve facilities and implement more robust curriculums that will better prepare students to use real English. While all of these are admirable goals, they also realise that the programme must be tracked and monitored in order to determine its strengths and weaknesses.
External standards like ONET scores are used to ensure that the programmes are helping children to improve their English language skills. Minor’s commitment to English education doesn’t stop in the primary school classroom. The company also believes in supporting students with scholarships so that they have access to higher education. They complete the loop by creating opportunities for students to apply and use English on a regular basis via their vocational training programmes. This creates a sense of pride and helps people to earn a better income and better sustain their families. If you happen to stop into the Coffee Club near the Ekkamai BTS, another one of the companies in Minor’s portfolio, you’ll be lucky to get Chablue as your server.
At first glance, it may seem that she is just another waitress at another restaurant, but in fact, she is Minor’s training programme personified. She has an interesting story connected back to Minor’s corporate sustainability initiatives. Chablue, originally from Udon Thani, was selected to be a part of Minor’s student training programme. This programme gives opportunities to students in rural communities to provide vocational training so that they can get better jobs. Students learn as trainees for 1-2 years and if they pass the training period, they are offered a promising career path at Minor.
On top of all of their external efforts, Minor also fosters an internal sense of service and commitment to the community. One of the company’s core values is “People Development” and this value drives their very active CSR arm. They believe that having a socially conscious employee base leads not only to better business results but also to individuals educated on making a positive difference to society and the environment. Minor creates a wide range of opportunities for their employees to volunteer; they also extend many of these opportunities to their partners.
To demonstrate how ingrained this value is in the company, executives at Minor all accept donations to a charity of their choice on their birthdays in lieu of accepting personal gifts. One major internal initiative is Minor Founder’s Day, celebrated June 4th every year, the birthday of the company’s founder, Mr Heinecke. This is a day of good deeds where employees are encouraged to spend the day contributing their time and efforts to a worthy cause. For example, in the past, employees have gone to a local school to do activities with kids, paint classrooms and equip the IT centre. Another Founder’s Day saw employees helping the elderly, orphans and children with special needs.
Some employees opt for the environmental route and clean up beaches, reefs and parks or plant sea grass. Other groups have had blood donation drives, cycling fundraisers and services to help with stray animals. Piggybacking on this is the Good deeds in your birth month programme which encourages employees born in certain months to participate in external social responsibility activities. Minor’s partners are often invited to join in these activities furthering the company’s mission to help the local communities. Next time you cool down with a Swensen’s ice cream cone, or go on a date at a Coffee Club, or relax at an Anantara or Avani hotel, you can be sure that you’re supporting a company that gives back to the community and provides good training and career paths for its employees.