20 November marks World Children’s Day, which is a good time to remind ourselves of the importance of protecting those who are too young to protect themselves, and what a profound difference even small things can make. Helping children should never be seen as simply charity but as an investment in the future and continuity – and we all should do our part in this.
Just before the pandemic, I had the privilege of visiting our partners in India and also some of the farmers from whom we source spices for our Santa Maria portfolio. As part of this tour, I also met some of their children who got a chance to be enrolled in school as part of a programme by Paulig and Save the Children that aims at improving children’s rights.
And what an experience it was. Quite frankly, I’ve never seen such enthusiasm, joy and drive for learning as I saw there, in the eyes of those girls and boys. They were so excited about their school that they literally would have wanted to stay there even through the weekends. These were children who without the programme would not have had a chance to go to school. This experience, the warmth – this touched me deeply. It helped drive home the point that the things we take for granted in our part of the world, truly are special and opportunities to behold in theirs.
Personally, I wish everybody would get to experience and see first hand the very tangible difference these programs make in the lives and potentially the fates of the people in these countries. It’s just hard to imagine unless you’ve travelled there. I've been lucky to personally witness this in India and also in other developing countries – and I’ll say this: Whatever cynicism some might attach to these types of programmes will vanish once you see the impact on-site.
Obviously, with the pandemic causing havoc it’s more important than ever that we continue this work.
Here at Paulig, we’ve always found it extremely important that we visit and build dialogue with our raw material suppliers such as coffee and spice farmers, in order to truly understand their lives and challenges, and concretely see the impact our sustainability work.
And we strongly believe that it’s not enough to simply focus on the farming itself but rather look at the entire families and the communities around them. This is the approach of our partnership programmes. Quite often, it comes down to basic necessities such as clean water. I still remember when we visited another village in India to let them know we’d be building a well there. You should have seen the eruption of joy when they found out they will have access to safe drinking water in their own village.
Children are a key part of a sustainable future
Throughout our entire history, Paulig has wanted to be an active contributor to the surrounding society. The welfare of children has always been a key part of this, ever since the beginning. Bertha Paulig, the spouse of Gustav Paulig, our founder, established a kindergarten in Helsinki – one that is still in operation today. In the 1940s, Paulig contributed towards building the first children’s hospital in Finland, and again in building its successor in the 2010s. We work together with SOS Children’s Villages to help disadvantaged children to find safety and support.
But the welfare of children is a global question that has a profound impact on the future of the world as a whole. That’s why today, on the World Children’s Day, I’d like to talk about what we can do for disadvantaged children on an international level and why the welfare of children should matter to every person and business interested in building a sustainable future.
Currently, at least 1 in 6 children lives in extreme poverty today, almost 11% are engaged in child labour, 253 million children are out of school. While these facts are painful, they are also facts that we need to resolve: We need to improve the livelihoods of children, because the future of the society depends on it.
Resolving this requires everyone’s contribution. Take the food and beverage industry as an example: our raw material security crucially depends on the communities around them, often located in the developing world. Our farmers and their families need to be able to trust that they can make a good living, providing opportunities for them and their families. Protecting and supporting children is part and parcel of this work – an investment in continuity and the future.