SOCIOVIPEP CASE STUDY
VIET PEPPER COMPANY (VIPEP) – CASE STUDY
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – 29th April, 2023
These days, pressing challenges concerning both people and the earth are occurring globally and locally, which requires urgent actions from numerous parties, including governments, corporations, and citizens, and businesses can be more social through the competition Social Business Creation (SBC) 2023. As the necessity to respond to the planet’s challenges, the “business as usual” model should not exist because it will not save the planet. This paper is aimed at conveying how Viet Pepper is a social business regarding mission orientation, based on the theory “Spectrum of social enterprises” that Socio Vipep learned from the “Principles of Social Innovation” course. As mentioned in the theory, there are three types of social business. A mission-centric business is one whose main commercial endeavors are created to support its social mission, mission-related business conducts profit-making initiatives that are related to its social mission. Ultimately, the company whose profit-making endeavors are not related to the social influence it hopes to have is supposed to be mission-unrelated. There are five main parts in this paper, the first part is about the business overview, then the business’s core activities will be mentioned, and the next part will explain how the business’s core activities serve its social mission. Then challenges faced by business when conveying its social mission will be discussed in the fourth part, and the recommended solutions will be made in the last part.
Viet Pepper is a Vietnamese company that specializes in producing high-quality black pepper for export to international markets. The company is passionate about Vietnamese spices and is committed to ensuring that its products meet international standards of quality. Viet Pepper sources its pepper from its own farms, where it practices organic farming methods to produce safe and high-quality products. The company values transparency, honesty, and reliability in its business practices and is dedicated to satisfying customer needs. With a focus on teamwork and improving the quality of life of its employees, Viet Pepper is poised to become a leading supplier of organic pepper in the global market.
Viet Pepper is a mission-centric business
Core business activities
As the profit-generating activity of Viet Pepper is selling spice, and our team decided to focus on the organic pepper line product, Viet Pepper’s core operation is supposed to relate mainly to organic farming. There are two key intended audiences that Viet Pepper’s activities focus on, which are pepper farmers and customers.
Regarding farmers, there are five primary activities the business has done. Firstly, the business encourages farmers to convert from conventional farming to organic farming. Then, Viet Pepper conducts training sessions to educate farmers who agree to convert to organic farming techniques. Moreover, during the conversion process, the business follows up with periodic checks and support to minimize farmers’ difficulties. In some cases, the plants at the beginning of the conversion process can become weaker because they have been exposed to chemical pesticides for a long time. Therefore, if farmers do not receive the assistance timely, they can do everything to save the plants, even using chemical pesticides again, and consequently, they can fail the organic check. The organic check of the pepper output is combined with the previous step to ensure the organic standard of the output. Then, if the output passes the check, it can be purchased at a price higher up to 25-40% than the market purchasing price.
Furthermore, the following activities involve customers. One activity of business is to offer quality organic pepper, which is to satisfy the growing demand for quantity as customers have an increasing tendency to live a healthy life. However, a large number of consumers still do not understand the meaning of the gap between conventional pepper and organic pepper; therefore, educating customers is a crucial activity that Viet Pepper has done to enlarge its customer base. And the profit Viet Pepper gains from selling organic pepper can be returned to better investment in organic farming, which begins with expanding the organic pepper farms by encouraging conventional farmers to convert to organic farming. It is obvious that all these activities can be combined in a closed and cyclic circle, which offers society enormous impacts in many aspects.
How do Viet Pepper’s core activities serve its mission?
Viet Pepper comprehends that sustainability is not just about producing high-quality organic products, but also about creating a positive impact by utilizing the ESG strategic model: Environment, Society, and Governing. That is why we have taken a holistic approach to our operations, ensuring that our business practices are aligned with the principles of “sustainability,” which is our guideline in the production and operational process.
In terms of Society, SOCIO VIPEP was established with the aim of stimulating, motivating, and supporting pepper-growing farmers with technical assistance and training webinars online and offline informing about the crop rotation technique, fertilizer’s concentration, machine application, and insect prevention to convert and follow organic pepper-growing models in mountainous areas that are located in Vietnam generally and Tay Nguyen highland particularly. The raw-materials inputs are carefully cultivated and selected in accordance with international organic standards. We will incorporate many stakeholders, such as the Vietnam Black Pepper and Spice Association, black pepper experts, and agriculture engineers, to supervise and instruct. Thus, the increase in the value of Vietnam organic pepper exported to foreign countries will pave the way for the growth of sustainable agriculture, create favorable conditions for farmers to incorporate with many enterprises, guarantee their output sources with high prices in comparison with traditional pepper in the marketplace, and help them gain more income and improve their quality of life.
With regard to Environment, in the long-run period, the application of organic growing methods can lead to natural resource recovery and conservation, ameliorate the quality of soil and water. Sequentially, the pepper trees become healthier, creating themselves with a transcendent ability to resist the detrimental effects of insects. Since environmental issues gradually reach alarming levels and the circle economy model becomes a global and national problem, Viet Pepper organic pepper products are designated with eco-friendly glass packaging that can be reused and refilled when the pepper runs out. This is a critical point for Viet Pepper organic products, not only to preserve the pepper in its ideal condition, but also to refrain from the fast-paced increase of single-use plastic trash in today’s world.
With such high spirit and effort, however, Viet Pepper’s activities still remain some problems that need to be addressed.
Regarding organic conversion activities, the training sessions conducted are mainly about general knowledge and a lack of local customization. Thus, farmers tend to face several difficulties when applying the theory to their specific land of cultivation, which affects the overall efficiency of organic conversion. Moreover, the training programs have only reached a certain number of farmers, mainly Viet Pepper farmers, due to shortage of resources to expand the sessions to a large area. Though knowledge delivery may start in a small community, Viet Pepper aims to scale the impact of organic farming to a much larger area in the future.
Following up on the farmers’ organic transition process, Viet Pepper has provided regular support. However, the recent results have shown that some farmers are still suffering from pepper’s quantity and quality reduction, which is believed to be the consequence of not getting enough timely support from the experts. This means Viet Pepper should improve the follow-up support to be more timely and effective.
In the long-run, Viet Pepper also notices the deficiency of future organic labor. As a matter of fact, fewer and fewer young people who go to big cities for higher studies come back to the pepper farms and settle down their careers here, which influences the sustainability of pepper cultivation. Thus, it is important that Viet Pepper figure out a solution to seek for potential young farmers.
The solution we proposed is to design and implement a comprehensive program to assist farmers in Dak Lak in switching from conventional pepper farming to organic one.
The training program will be designed in collaboration with local experts, including agricultural scientists, extension workers, and organic farming practitioners. This collaboration will ensure that the training program is tailored to the specific needs of farmers in Dak Lak and is based on the latest research and best practices in sustainable agriculture. We plan to deliver this through a combination of classroom sessions, practical demonstrations, and field visits. The classroom sessions will provide farmers with theoretical knowledge about organic pepper cultivation, including soil management, pest control, and post-harvest handling techniques, while practical demonstrations will help them gain hands-on experience in applying sustainable agriculture practices. Field visits will allow farmers to see firsthand how other farmers are successfully implementing sustainable agriculture practices. To ensure the sustainability of the program, in the long run, a train-the-trainer approach will be adopted. Local extension workers and organic farming practitioners will be trained as trainers and will be responsible for delivering the program to farmers in their respective areas. This approach will not only ensure that the program reaches a large number of farmers but will also help build the capacity of local extension workers and organic farming practitioners. In addition to providing direct support to farmers, the extension workers can also serve as a resource for the broader farming community in the region. They can organize workshops and training sessions to share best practices and new techniques, and they can facilitate the exchange of knowledge and resources among farmers in the area. By establishing a strong network of extension workers, we can create a sustainable system of support for organic pepper farming in the region.
The innovative aspect of our solution lies in our vision of building a sustainable community, with the focus on the combination of two key elements: a comprehensive training program and ongoing follow-up and support. While training programs for farmers are not a new concept, our approach aims to address the specific challenges that farmers in Dak Lak face when transitioning to organic pepper farming. By providing tailored training and support, we believe that we can increase the adoption of organic farming practices and ultimately improve the livelihoods of farmers in the region. Our training program is designed to be highly interactive and practical, with a focus on hands-on learning and real-world application. We will bring in experts in organic farming to provide guidance and support, and our program will cover topics such as soil management, pest and disease control, and organic fertilizer use.
In addition to classroom instruction, our program will include field trips to successful organic pepper farms, so that farmers can see firsthand the benefits of organic farming. But what really sets our solution apart is the ongoing follow-up and support that we will provide to farmers after the training program has ended. We recognize that transitioning to organic farming can be a daunting task, and farmers may face unexpected challenges along the way. To address this, we will provide regular check-ins with farmers to provide ongoing guidance and support, and to ensure that farmers are implementing the best practices they learned in the training program. Also, in the long run, we also commit towards future generations as an indispensable aspect of achieving our vision.
In order to involve and educate future generations, we intend to develop educational programs for children and youth in the community to learn about sustainable farming practices, including organic farming methods. In this step, we will involve working with local schools to integrate agriculture and sustainability education into their curriculum, or organizing extracurricular programs and events focused on agriculture and the environment. Along the way, opportunities will also be created for the youth in the community to become directly involved in agriculture through internships, apprenticeships, or youth-led farming initiatives. This could provide hands-on experience and training for the next generation of farmers while also promoting the importance of sustainable and organic farming practices.
In conclusion, the proposed solution of designing and implementing a comprehensive training program for farmers in Dak Lak to raise awareness about organic pepper cultivation is believed to be effective in addressing the impact gap in promoting sustainable pepper cultivation. By providing farmers with targeted training in sustainable agriculture practices, the program will help them optimize their pepper production, reduce costs, and increase profits while minimizing negative environmental impacts. The collaboration with local experts and the adoption of a train-the-trainer approach will ensure the sustainability and scalability of the program, enabling it to reach a large number of farmers in the region.
Organic farming and sustainable agriculture are vital solutions to various national problems, including improving the livelihoods of farmers, preserving natural resources, protecting the environment, and enhancing the economy. Although achieving our objectives will be adverse and challenging in the long-period, SOCIO VIPEP hopes that with a small contribution and relentless endeavor, it can create a huge impact in the long-run, not only on agriculture and the environment but also inspiring the next generations to inherit and continue the efforts of previous generations.
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