News Column

Chiquita CEO: Healthy Workplace Is 'Good Business'

March 30, 2012

Ely Portillo


Fernando Aguirre, CEO of Chiquita Brands International, extolled healthy workplace practices on Friday at the American Heart Association's leadership breakfast in Charlotte.

Aguirre and other speakers told the group of Charlotte business leaders that having healthy employees is also good for the bottom line. "It's not only the right thing to do, it's good for business," said Aguirre.

He talked about specific programs Chiquita has to promote health among employees, such as a requirement that meetings over three hours have a 15 to 30 minute exercise break, water consumption challenges, and free banana Tuesdays (there were Chiquita bananas served at the breakfast, of course). Chiquita's health care costs have stabilized since implementing the programs, Aguirre said.

"I've lost 28 pounds since last summer, although I do need to shed another 20 or so," Aguirre told his fellow executives.

Chiquita announced last year that it would relocate to Charlotte. This week, the company signed a lease for six floors of the NASCAR Plaza office tower, next to the NASCAR Hall of Fame uptown. Aguirre said the company has a temporary floor of the tower now, and will be fully moved in by the end of August.

So far, the company has hired about 40 of the 200 or so new employees it plans to bring on in Charlotte. A total of 155 employees accepted the company's offer to move from Cincinnati, Aguirre said. He expects to move to Charlotte himself by June 1.

Aguirre said he hopes that moves to promote healthier eating, such as the federal government's new "MyPlate" nutrition guidelines, will also boost Chiquita's business. "If we can get more consumers to be conscious of health and wellness, it will be great for business," he said.

Source: (c)2012 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.)

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