Page last updated at 17:00 GMT, Monday, 14 December 2009

Cadbury: The factory in the garden

By Katie Dawson
BBC News, Bournville

Cadbury in Bournville
The Bournville Cadbury factory opened in 1879

Thousands of people have joined campaigns to keep Cadbury British, amid fears an American firm like Kraft would not understand its moral ethos.

However, the current chief executive is American himself and no member of the Cadbury family has owned it since the 1960s.

The BBC investigates the way it runs its business.

When Quakers George and Richard Cadbury decided to expand their chocolate-making empire in the late 1870s, their aim was to create more than just a factory.

Keen to move away from the dirty and cramped conditions of Birmingham, they bought farmland a few miles outside of the city centre to create their "factory in a garden".

Later, they bought more land and built the surrounding village of Bournville - complete with schools, leisure facilities and parks.

'A utopia'

Their Quaker beliefs - that all human beings should be treated equally and should live in peace - were at the heart of the newly-created community.

We are still an aggressive forward-looking company but that does not mean to say we have lost sight of the ethos that has always underpinned the company
Tony Bilsborough, Cadbury

Each house built had a long garden to encourage people to grow their own vegetables, daily bible readings were given at the factory and employees were encouraged to exercise.

"George wanted to create a utopia," says Alan Shrimpton, of the Bournville Village Trust (BVT), set up by George Cadbury to look after the village.

"He knew both from his workers and his time in adult education the conditions that ordinary people were living in, and it affected him.

"This was the first planned and balanced community in the world."

The Cadbury family has not owned the company since the 1960s, and the last member to be its chairman was Sir Dominic Cadbury, who retired in 2000.

International firm

Also, the current chief executive, Todd Stitzer, is an American himself.

So what, if any, of those Cadbury family ethics and traditions still exist in today's international firm?

Alan Shrimpton
Alan Shrimpton, from BVT, and the bust of George Cadbury in Bournville

According to Tony Bilsborough, who has worked in Cadbury's communication department in Bournville for 13 years, caring for others remains an important part of the way the firm is run.

Around 80% of employees have or are currently volunteering for charities and community projects, and staff are allowed time off to organise fundraising events.

"The Quaker ethos of understanding the role of the community and the part we need to play is still very much part and parcel of what Cadbury stands for," said Mr Bilsborough, who has himself been a volunteer for a project that helps the homeless.

Plant operator Michael Huggins, 43, who has worked for Cadbury for 22 years and regularly fundraises for charity, said it was the employees who ensured the firm's "community-spirited ethos" continued.

'Philanthropist approach'

"It's the people at Cadbury that drive the ethos - people volunteer their time," he said. "The company supports them."

Since news of potential takeover bids hit the headlines, thousands of Cadbury supporters have joined newspaper campaigns urging the company not to sell to a foreign firm, amid concerns that they wouldn't understand its ethos.

Last week, Business Secretary Lord Mandelson warned he would oppose any buyer that failed to respect Cadbury's traditions.

Bournville village was built by the Cadbury family along with the factory

Mark Artus, chief executive of 1HQ, a British branding consultancy, which has worked with Kraft in the past, said any firm that takes over Cadbury would have to understand its culture in order to ensure the brand was successful.

"If a potential American CEO is not an Anglophile before they take the job, they will need to get themselves up to speed pretty quickly if they are going to make a success of the job," he said.

"Cadbury's values are firmly rooted into the fabric of all that is British and the original Victorian philanthropist approach to giving people jobs."

But as Mr Bilsborough acknowledged, Cadbury is a business, which has changed and taken risks in order to succeed.

"We are not just a nicey-nice company that is warm and cuddly and hopeless at business," he said.

"We are still an aggressive forward-looking company but that does not mean to say we have lost sight of the ethos that has always underpinned the company.

"It is possible to be successful and community-minded at the same time."

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