We all know that environmental sustainability, COVID-19 and social justice are issues that belong in the corporate social responsibility (CSR) bandwagon. But what about the politically-charged topic of democracy? Some businesses believe it is.
The Business Roundtable, composed of CEOs from close to 200 major U.S. companies, has urged leaders in both houses of Congress to respect two centuries’ worth of tradition and continue with the peaceful transition of power. The powerful National Association of Manufacturers issued a similar statement. And, on Monday, nearly 200 top U.S. business leaders pressed Congress to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
Taking a public stand on an issue that, by its very nature, is political is not an easy decision for any business leader. Yet this is increasingly the type of leadership Americans expect from its executives. Furthermore, given the frayed state of confidence in American democracy, it’s a cause where companies might make a significant positive impact.
Corporate leaders wishing to explore how to support democracy, might be interested in the Civic Alliance. This non-partisan group of businesses are dedicated to “working together to build a future where everyone participates in shaping our country,” and include Amazon, Burton Snowboards, LinkedIn, McDonald’s and over 1000 other companies.
The bottom line is that soon business leaders might not have a choice. Whether they want to or not, they will need to decide if and what to do about America’s threatened democracy.
The Civic 50 Colorado, now in its second year, identifies the state’s 50 most community-minded companies via a survey modeled after the national Civic 50 award administered by Points of Light. The survey is independently administered and scored by True Impact across four “I” dimensions: investment in the community, integration of corporate social responsibility into its strategies, institutionalization of practices that contribute to societal causes and impact measurement.
The 2020 Civic 50 Colorado honorees are:
BAKER CONCRETE CONSTRUCTION, INC.
BANK OF AMERICA
BROWNSTEIN HYATT FARBER SCHRECK
CHARLES SCHWAB & CO., INC.
CORE CONTRACTORS ROOFING SYSTEMS
DELTA DENTAL OF COLORADO
DENVER COMMUNITY CREDIT UNION
FIRST WESTERN TRUST
GROUNDFLOOR MEDIA | CENTERTABLE
IMA FINANCIAL GROUP
INFO CUBIC LLC
JANUS HENDERSON INVESTORS
MOLSON COORS BEVERAGE COMPANY
MOUNTAIN AVENUE MARKET
OTTEN JOHNSON ROBINSON NEFF + RAGONETTI PC
PEAK RESOURCES, INC.
PREMIER MEMBERS CREDIT UNION
SUZIE’S PET TREATS
WELLS FARGO & COMPANY
The above companies have supported Colorado in countless ways in 2020, including by:
Today is Human Rights Day — the anniversary of the day the global community adopted, in 1948, the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a milestone document that proclaims the rights to which every human being is entitled — regardless of race, color, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. The UDHR has been translated into over 500 languages. One of these tongues, Navajo, is native to our state.
In Colorado, as in the world, much work remains before we can say that we fully recognize the “inherent dignity and… equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family,” as the UDHR establishes. Why not develop ongoing employee volunteer opportunities to help realize this vision? Click the link below for several nonprofit organizations that might be able to help.
As we reflect on last week's Black Friday, one could say that it’s a day dedicated to the opposite of corporate social responsibility (CSR): excessive consumption and unbridled materialism. Yet, there’s a counter-movement to this version of Black Friday.
Nine Black Fridays ago, Patagonia placed a bold New York Times ad. It had a photo of one of its popular fleeces but said, “Don’t Buy This Jacket.” The brand was asking consumers to consider the environmental in their purchasing decisions. It was borderline blasphemous for a retailer to suggest not buying its product, especially on the biggest shopping day of the year.
In 2015, REI followed Patagonia’s lead with an equally bold move. It closed shop on Black Friday. REI gave employees paid-time off and encouraged them, and any would-be customers, to spend the day enjoying nature. Since then, other brands have joined the #OptOutside Black Friday movement. For example, Trouts Fly Fishing, which has stores in Denver and Frisco, invited employees and customers to spend Black Friday not just outdoors, but caring for the outdoors. The company hosted a river cleanup (socially distanced this year). Colorado State Parks also did its part to encourage outdoor enjoyment instead of material consumption, making admission free at all 42 parks on Black Friday.
So, can Black Friday be socially responsible? Apparently so. More so every year.
Researchers randomly divided 73 older individuals suffering from high blood pressure into two groups. One group was given $120 and instructed to spend $40 on themselves every week for three weeks. Members of the other group were also given $120 but asked to spend $40 on others every week. At the completion of the experiment, the self-oriented spenders had no change in blood pressure. The group that donated their funds to others or societal causes, or the social-purpose spenders, experienced a blood pressure drop as large as medication or exercise would have generated. In another study, researchers randomly divided a group of adolescents into two groups, one volunteered for charitable causes and the other did not. Four months later, those who volunteered had lower cholesterol than those who hadn't. Social purpose appears to improve other aspects of health as well. There are studies linking acts of social purpose to reductions in inflammation, infectious disease and obesity, for example.
In cases when acts of social purpose don’t spare us from physical ailments, they might still reduce the associated pain. Academics have scanned the brains of individuals whose hands received a mild electric shock. Individuals who had just done an act of social purpose showed a lower pain response in the brain than those who hadn’t. In another study, the same researchers asked cancer patients living with chronic pain to cook and clean for either themselves or for others at their treatment center. When they were helping others, their pain levels were lower than when they were helping themselves.
Cardiologist Alan Rozanski from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City summarizes the evidence on charitable acts and health with, “The need for meaning and purpose is…the deepest driver of wellbeing there is.”
It’s expected that involving employees in charitable activities strengthens societal causes. After all, this is why we organize such activities. Many of us might be surprised, however, to learn that employee social-purpose acts also support the health and wellbeing of the involved employees. In other words, employee volunteering and giving is a true win-win.
This post is an excerpt from “Do Good At Work: How Simple Acts of Social Purpose Drive Success and Wellbeing” (Morgan James Publishing, November 24, 2020) by Bea Boccalandro, contextualized for this venue.
In early 2017, General Mills tried something new to reduce the deep divide in American society that the 2016 election had exposed. The consumer foods brand started Courageous Conversations, a series of events that consist of a presentation by an external speaker and a small group dialogue facilitated by an employee trained to keep interactions constructive. These conversations dive into the sensitive issues that most organizations encourage workers to tiptoe around: Islamophobia, immigration policy, police brutality, Black Lives Matter and the LGBTQ movement, for example. How did this brave experiment go?
Five years of Courageous Conversations, held seemingly everywhere from manufacturing plants to online forums, suggests that it is possible to organize civil and productive workplace dialogue around divisive issues. The first Courageous Conversation attracted a few dozen participants. Now they attract hundreds. Employees report increased levels of understanding and empathy for other groups. They also say that the techniques learned through Courageous Conversations have helped them improve relationships outside of work, including with family.
Following are resources for companies looking to facilitate team-member conversations that reduce divisiveness:
In summary, it appears that corporate leaders don’t have to feel helpless around the blue-red conflict that’s tearing apart workplaces and communities. On the contrary, every company can play a role in healing America's painful and dangerous divide.
The election is in one week, but it’s not too late to help your employees vote. Colorado law requires that, in many circumstances, employers provide eligible voters two hours of paid time off to vote on election day. But employers can do more than the law requires, including:
Democracy could use an assist from the business sector. Only 55% of voting-age citizens cast ballots in 2016 — the lowest turnout in a presidential election since 1996 (54%). This year has additional challenges to safe voting, including a pandemic, wildfires and social unrest. In other words, it’s as great time for employers to facilitate civic involvement.
Points of Light, a partner of CSR Solutions of Colorado, collaborated with Carol Cone and Hart Research to conduct an AT&T-funded study on the state of American civic engagement. The survey of over 1400 adults in the United States found that:
In other words, this Points of Light research finds that a civic involvement movement is underway in 2020. For our communities to fully benefit from this new energy, however, it’s important for nonprofits to help individuals find opportunities where they can truly add value, ideally with friends and family.
Learn more by downloading the “Civic Life Today” report.
APAC CenturyLink employees support COVID-19 relief efforts by supplying masks, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, Kleenex, etc. for communities in need.
The Civic 50 Colorado honorees, selected for being the most community-minded companies in the state, are doing something unusual: Paying employees to volunteer. Specifically, 78% of The Civic 50 Colorado companies offer volunteer time off (VTO), meaning they have a policy that provides employees the opportunity to conduct employee volunteering without foregoing their salary or wages. KPMG Denver Office Managing Partner, Mike Bearup, explains why these programs make sense, “KPMG’s Community Impact programs empower our people to take action, foster a culture of giving and bring KPMG’s values to life…Our Volunteer Time Release program is a critical component that supports our people in living our values and serving our communities.”
In 2020, many The Civic 50 Colorado companies have revisited their VTO policies to ensure they can be used during these especially challenging times. Some honorees-- including Bank of America and Group14 Engineering, PB-- have encouraged employees to use VTO to attend racial-justice protests. Raju Patel, Denver Market President for Bank of America, explains one enhancement they’ve made, “Nonprofits and other community-based organizations are increasingly being called upon to help the most vulnerable members of our communities and are experiencing staffing and resource challenges. To help address the health and humanitarian crisis and keep our employees safe, we’ve created virtual volunteer opportunities to lend our time and expertise to help organizations continue their important work in our communities.” QEP even increased their annual VTO hours from nine hours to 18 hours in order “to allow our employees to give more of their time to improve the quality of life in our communities where we live and work,” according to Lauren Baer, VP, Human Resources & Community Investments.
Like vacation time, employees typically need to obtain manager approval to schedule their VTO and the specifics vary by company. Some The Civic 50 Colorado honorees offer two paid volunteer hours per week, others offer one day a quarter and some offer 16 hours a year, for example. Examples of The Civic 50 Colorado honorees that offer volunteer paid time off include:
· Bank of America
· Charles Schwab & Co., Inc.
· Core Contractors, Roofing Systems
· GroundFloor Media | CenterTable
· Group14 Engineering, PBC
· Kaiser Permanente Colorado
· KPMG LLP
· Otten Johnson Robinson Neff + Ragonetti PC
· PEAK Resources, Inc.
· QEP Resources, Inc.
· Xcel Energy
Many of these companies have survey data suggesting that this program pays off because it delivers on an expectation that employees increasingly want: Opportunities to make meaningful contributions through work. Paid-time off, then, leads to more effective recruitment, higher employee engagement and lower turnover. Research backs this contention. For example, studies find that robust community-engagement programs can attract 24% more job applicants, increase employee engagement by 20% and reduce turnover by 50%.1
Laura Love, founder and chief cultural officer of GroundFloor Media, might have expressed the value of VTO best, “Giving back not only expands our passion for life, it connects us to communities, partners and clients that share our commitment to helping people who need it the most.”
Is your company community minded? Apply to the 2020 Civic 50 Colorado! To learn more about the Civic 50 Colorado, read the 2019 research report.
A PEAK team member helps to deliver 1000 free books.
 Daniel Hedblom, Brent Hickman, and John A. List, “Toward an Understanding of Corporate Social Responsibility: Theory and Field Experimental Evidence,” National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 26222 (September 2019); Bea Boccalandro, “Increasing Employee Engagement Through Corporate Volunteering,” Voluntare, 2018; Rochlin, Steve, Stephen Jordan, Richard Bliss and Cheryl Kiser, “Project ROI: Defining the Competitive and Financial Advantages of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability,” 2015.
The 50 workplaces recognized for being the most community-minded in Colorado, the 2019 The Civic 50 Colorado support long-term environmental sustainability. As Raju Patel, Denver market president of Bank of America put it, “By working with our communities and cities, we can have a positive environmental impact for generations to come.” Examples of the environmental practices of The Civic 50 Colorado honorees follow.
Being environmentally sustainable is one aspect of being a community-minded business and an increasingly urgent one. Thankfully, many The Civic 50 Colorado honorees are doing their part.
Is your company also environmentally sustainable or otherwise community minded? Apply to The Civic 50 Colorado 2020! To learn more about The Civic 50 Colorado, read the 2019 research report.