Alexander & Baldwin / Hawaiian Commercial and Sugarcane

Closing the door on sugar

The situation

In 2016, landowner Alexander & Baldwin made the difficult decision to close the last sugarcane plantation in Hawaii. Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar was one of Maui’s largest companies and employed generations of local families.

Nearly 700 workers would lose their jobs.

Local farmers, restaurants and other businesses would be affected.

The potential for community backlash and negative media coverage was huge.

The objective

We need to shut the door on a significant era in Hawaii’s history and lay off hundreds of workers. We also need to maintain goodwill in the community for our future business endeavors.

The solution

Closing the door on sugar was a nostalgic and highly emotional event. Rather than sidestep the “end of an era” messaging, we owned it.

A&B executives took every opportunity to acknowledge the loss to the community and express sincere gratitude to their employees — at town hall meetings, in internal communications, and in the media.

Proactive media outreach enabled A&B to generate positive buzz and tell its own story, shifting the focus away from potentially negative coverage.

Our strategy and execution resulted in more than 200 local and national media stories, with virtually no negative articles.

The vast majority of media coverage cemented HC&S’ legacy in Hawaii, praised A&B’s handling of a difficult situation, and laid the groundwork for A&B’s bright future in diversified agriculture.

The work

MEDIA RELATIONS

MESSAGING

INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS

COMMUNITY RELATIONS

GOVERNMENT RELATIONS

EXECUTIVE MEDIA TRAINING

CREATIVE COLLATERAL

We build + protect reputations

Recognition

Creative work