Submitted by Business Call to Action (BCtA)
Colombian restaurant Wok has joined Business Call to Action with a commitment to provide job opportunities to unexperienced low-income earners, helping to break a cycle of unemployment and poverty. WOK’s objective is to increase the number of full-time employees to 1,200 in its operational areas and increase the number of local suppliers it works with by seven percent though the direct and fair trade of their products, including fishery, by 2024. It also aims to decrease its use of imported products by five percent and increase the volume of national products by five percent in order to create stronger responsible value chains with local producers.
Launched in 2008, BCtA aims to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by challenging companies to develop inclusive business models that engage people with less than US$10 per day in purchasing power (in 2015 dollars) as consumers, producers, suppliers and distributors. It is supported by several international organizations and hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Wok, a Colombian restaurant, was established in 1998 and now has 19 restaurants across Bogota and the nearby town of Chia. It focuses on reinterpreting Asian food, using local ingredients, at affordable prices. Around 70 percent of Wok’s employees are women, mainly heads of households, and many of their  suppliers are locals with organic and /or responsible practices in place that are paid by Wok at fair prices. Furthermore, their suppliers have regular technical support from Wok and their allies to ensure the quality of their products.
“While our primary business is serving quality food, we also deeply care about our employees, suppliers and customers that make it all possible. We actively work to include low income earners in our value chain, whether through paying fair prices to our suppliers, offering affordable food or taking on staff who don’t have prior experience,” said WOK Sustainability Director Simón Vieira.
“At Wok we work around the philosophy of serving: not only serving our customers, but also serving our employees, our community and our planet. We understand that serving a plate of food goes beyond cooking the ingredients that go into the dish. It all starts with the production of these ingredients and with the people that grow them. We try to build long lasting value chains with two objectives in mind: local ingredients and direct suppliers,” added Vieira.
WOK works directly with the people that grow its ingredients, skipping intermediaries to increase the profits of producers. This allows WOK to better distribute benefits throughout the value chain, while improving traceability of its products and develop interpersonal relationships with its suppliers that help strengthen commercial relations. This has permitted WOK to build relationships with more than 200 small farmers, farmer associations and local fishermen across Colombia.
WOK offers employees a career plan that encourages professional and personal growth. Promoting equal access to opportunity, WOK accepts applications from anyone interested in working for Wok, regardless of their education or experience levels. New recruits complete a training program with a specific syllabus for each job function to prepare them for their new position. In addition, WOK provides activities to engage employees, their family, their community and the environment, such as open lectures, workshops and support groups. Currently, WOK’s staff come from more than 200 different municipalities in Colombia; 83 percent are low-income earners, and 69 percent are women.
“WOK’s approach of investing in the people it engages with along its entire value chain is an excellent example of putting people at the heart of a business, and balancing company profit with social impact,” said Luciana Aguiar, Head of BCtA.
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BCtA membership does not constitute a partnership with its funding and programme partners, UNDP or any UN agency.
About Business Call to Action (BCtA): Launched at the United Nations in 2008, BCtA aims to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by challenging companies to develop inclusive business models that offer the potential for both commercial success and development impact. BCtA is supported by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), UK Department for International Development (DFID), and hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). For more information, please visit www.businesscalltoaction.org.
About Wok: Colombian restaurant WOK was established in 1998. The restaurant specializes in serving Southeast Asian and Japanese food, using local ingredients and offering dishes at fair prices in order to reach a wider audience. Currently, WOK has 19 locations in Bogota and Chia, and is recognized as a restaurant that serves quality dishes, using ingredients obtained through responsible production practices.
Not all suppliers are local. We still need to import a percentage of our ingredients.
Business Call to Action is a global joint advocacy platform that works to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by challenging and supporting companies to develop inclusive business models that offer the potential for both commercial success and development impact. It is hosted by the United Nations Development Programme and funded by Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, UK Department for International Development (DFID). To date, 230 companies from around the world have signed on to commit to contribute to the SDGs, from large multinational companies to national and small- and medium-enterprises in 70 countries.
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