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.
Empower Retirement’s Asian American BRG in action.
Well before the recent nationwide racial-justice protests started, The Civic 50 Colorado were pursuing social equity. This isn’t surprising since these companies were honored for being the most community minded in Colorado. What have these exemplary corporate citizens been doing that the rest of us could learn from? Several of their world-class diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) practices are listed below.
· Empower Retirement’s DEI efforts start at the top, with a Diversity and Inclusion Council comprised of senior leaders across business units. The Council champions the DEI work and keeps it moving forward. For example, its efforts have spurred 97% of employees to take the internally created "Uncovering Your Bias" course, which explores the types of unconscious bias that can show up in the workplace. Furthermore, the company now has seven business resource groups (BRGs), including the Black Organization for Leadership Development, the Women’s Empowerment Network, Empower Abilities, Aspiring Latinos Moving Ahead, Pride, Voices of Experience Through Service and Network of Asians Making Strides Together at Empower. These BRG’s identify diverse and underrepresented populations for the company to support with monetary donations, organize volunteer events and otherwise help ensure that the company’s charitable efforts are inclusive.
· KeyBank values diversity and inclusion throughout its business, from the employees it hires to the customers its serves. Over the past three years, KeyBank has deployed over $744 million to low-to-moderate income individuals and communities in Colorado through its Community Benefits Plan. This plan is a comprehensive, community and client-focused strategy that guides Key’s community investments.
In 2018, KeyBank Colorado completed a three-year $300,000 investment in the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, with the goal of increasing access to education for underrepresented and underserved student populations. KeyBank’s support, however, extends beyond financial donations. For example, Key employees give high school students in the Leeds School’s week-long KeyBank Business Leadership Program feedback on their capstone project and serve as speakers, panelists, coaches and mentors to students through a variety of other programs. Furthermore, Adam Warner, President of Key Equipment Finance, serves on the Leeds School’s Board of Directors.
· S&P Global recently committed to accelerating progress in DEI through the following actions: leading courageous conversations with employees across teams to develop greater understanding around issues of racial justice; expanding their fulltime staff devoted to advancing Diversity & Inclusion; doubling their financial investments in DEI initiatives and Employee Resource Groups (ERG’s); expanding existing inclusion training globally to address bias and microaggressions; and contributing $1 million via the S&P Global Foundation to nonprofit organizations that support equity and racial justice. In 2018, the company added a DEI metric to its strategic goals to track performance and a global DEI council leads and governs all such efforts across the enterprise.
“At S&P Global, we put our people first and we live and demonstrate our core values. That means that we’re not just talking about diversity and inclusion, we believe it to be a critical part of our success and we’re taking action accordingly, in our workplace and in our communities,” said Annette O’Hanlon, Chief Corporate Responsibility & Diversity Officer, S&P Global. “Diversity unlocks opportunity, inclusion drives growth, and together they spark innovation, unleashing potential in each of us, for all of us.”
· TIAA recently launched a program called “Be the Change” focused on stepping up as individuals and as a company to live our company values in the fight for racial justice. Last month TIAA rallied over 1,200 employees to Race Against Racism by challenging employees to virtually race with a colleague of a different color and use that time to discuss what they could do to “Be the Change.” The event raised funds for the Innocence Project, a nonprofit fighting racial injustice.
· Xcel Energy has 10 BRGs’ focused on employee networking, development, community service and recruiting. Furthermore, active listening sessions have been led by the company’s DEI team and the BRG’s to garner employee feedback and create a safe space for dialogue. Following the death of George Floyd, Xcel Energy immediately and publicly condemned the horrific crime as well as the racial inequities that have plagued our communities for so long – including signing a joint statement with 50 executive leaders in Minnesota (where Xcel Energy is headquartered) condemning racism and reaffirming its commitment to the principles of greater equity, diversity and inclusion in its companies and community. A similar collective statement is being drafted here in Colorado and Xcel Energy will be a leading voice on that pledge. Finally, Xcel Energy has a long-standing commitment to supplier diversity and has received numerous awards for its partnerships with diverse suppliers.
In all, 70% of The Civic 50 Colorado companies have long-standing diversity, equity and inclusion programs. There’s a lot of work to be done around social justice in the United States. The Civic 50 Colorado companies appear to be off to a strong start.
Is your company community minded? Apply to The Civic 50 Colorado 2020!
To learn more about The Civic 50 Colorado, read the 2019 research report.
Students from the KeyBank Summer Bridge Program visit Key Equipment Finance to learn about professional opportunities in the financial industry and develop job skills.
Colorado appears to outperform the country in terms of corporate volunteering. Specifically, the companies recognized for being the most community minded in Colorado, The Civic 50 Colorado, involved a 51% of employees in volunteering with community organizations last year. This compares favorably to the 43% of employees that their national counterparts, The Civic 50 US, involved. As would be expected from companies recognized for exceptional community engagement, these rates of volunteering are considerably higher than the 30% overall volunteer rate for Americans.1
Within The Civic 50 Colorado, smaller workplaces lead the way in employee volunteer participation. For example, the Denver Community Credit Union, i-Orthodontics, Prologis, PNC Financial Services and S&P Global, all of which have fewer than 800 Colorado employees, involved over three-quarters of their employees in volunteering last year.
Although many companies responded to COVID-19 restrictions by pausing their employee volunteer programming, The Civic 50 Colorado companies found ways to continue them. For example:
· Denver Community Credit Union employees, for example, baked treats and made cards for nurses at Craig Hospital.
· Despite the necessary postponement of Prologis’ annual day of service, employees of this global logistics real estate leader have been contributing to food drives and nonprofits on the frontlines of the COVID-19 recovery. These efforts include a team of 28 employees and their families sewing 1,660 handmade masks for the Children’s Hospital of Colorado, which is using them for non-clinical staff as well as patients and their family members.
· S&P Global has encouraged virtual volunteerism with its nonprofit grantees and local organizations. For example, Colorado employees have participated in the Bessie’s Hope Staying Connected Initiative, writing cards and letters to seniors in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. This volunteering has combated the isolation that the suspension on in-person visits from families and volunteers has generated among nursing home residents. “We’re proud to support our colleagues as they continue to make an impact through virtual volunteerism and use their skills and expertise to make a difference in the lives of others,” says Stacey Queroli, Global Lead, Corporate Responsibility Employee Programs.
In addition to helping to serve more meals, tutor more children and make society more just, companies with high levels of employee volunteering can expect to benefit from higher employee engagement. One study, for example, found that participation in employee
volunteering increased employee engagement, defined as willingness to do more than the job minimally requires, by 20% compared to the control group that did not participate.2 Furthermore, academic studies find that volunteering improves worker happiness and wellbeing.3 As founder of i-Orthodontics, Dr. Anil Idiculla, discovered, volunteering is a good way to “focus on the good that we can do each and every year.”
In other words, it’s smart to involve the majority of workers in volunteering as many The Civic 50 Colorado companies do. Not only does it strengthen the communities where the companies operate, it increases employee engagement, happiness and well being.
Is your company community minded? Apply to The Civic 50 Colorado 2020! To learn more about The Civic 50 Colorado, read the 2019 research report.
It’s going to take business assistance of all types for Colorado to emerge from this pandemic as healthy and strong as possible. We’ve all heard of businesses making monetary donations to the Covid-19 response. This assistance is vital. However, the companies known for being the most community-minded in Colorado, The Civic 50 Colorado, are responding in ways that go beyond cash giving. Many are donating professional skills (what is known as “skills-based volunteering”).
One example is The Civic 50 Colorado honoree Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, a national law firm with over 300 employees in Colorado. The Civic 50 Colorado honoree is sharing its expertise with any interested employer trying to navigate the trials and challenges of these times by establishing a website with insights on the legal issues and government response related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Another way to share professional expertise to help with the Covid-19 response is what a managing partner of The Civic 50 Colorado developer East West Partners, Amy Cara, does. She serves on Denver’s Economic Relief and Recovery Council (ERRC) where she provides strategic pandemic recovery recommendations to the Mayor and the city’s executive leadership. Another example of The Civic 50 Colorado donating expertise to the Covid-19 response is the Denver office of the Employers Council, a national membership organization that offers professional services to over 4,000 employers. Employers Council’s President and CEO, Kim Koy, says that, “Employers are facing unique challenges in these unprecedented times.
We have a dedicated page on our website that provides useful information for employers struggling to effectively operate during this time.” A final example of The Civic 50 Colorado honoree using its expertise to combat Covid-19 is Comcast NBCUniversal with over 9,000 employees in Colorado. Its "The More you Know" campaign, established in partnership with the White House, CDC and Health and Human Services, offers videos and graphics in both English and Spanish to help educate people on reducing their risk and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
These and other The Civic 50 Colorado companies don’t contribute their expertise only during global crises. For them, supporting societal causes with skills-based volunteering is standard practice. In fact, The Civic 50 Colorado honorees out-perform their national counterparts (selected for being the most community-minded companies in the country) in skills-based volunteering. Not only do The Civic 50 Colorado employees volunteer more hours per year for community organizations than The Civic 50 National employees (an average of 10.4 versus 7.1 hours) but a higher percentage of their hours are skills-based (35% versus 28%).
Any type of corporate volunteering benefits nonprofit organizations but skills-based volunteering, where employees apply professional skills in support of a cause, is especially valuable. In fact, according to Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose (CECP), the monetized value of skills-based volunteering to nonprofits is at least three times higher than extra-hands volunteering such as packing meals or planting trees. Colorado’s exceptional skills-based volunteering, then, is a significant bonus to our communities during Covid-19 and beyond.
To learn more about the practices of The Civic 50 Colorado, read the research report. Also, consider applying to become a 2020 The Civic 50 Colorado honoree.