Award Winners, Real Winners

Kids in school. Disaster-impacted communities. Kids living in food deserts. Micro- and women-owned enterprises. People at risk of river blindness. The environment. Kids applying to college. Landfills.

 

These were the real winners on the evening of November 21. While the U.S. Chamber Foundation presented its Citizens Awards to an elite group of companies and NGOs, the real winners were our children, our communities, and our natural environment. Here’s a quick recap of some of the highlights from the awards ceremony.

 

Kids in school. For the past 40 years, 3M has partnered with Saint Paul Public Schools. They’ve worked together to make science interesting and relevant and future careers a reality for more and more kids. For a company like 3M this goes beyond philanthropy to tackling a critical business issue: a pipeline of future talent. Introducing kids early to science, technology, engineering, and math curricula (STEM) ensures 3M and other companies can fill critical positions. Beyond the STEM curriculum, students also need career skills to convert an education into a job. That’s why this program includes an eMentoring component to improve students’ abilities to translate what they learn in the classroom into a career. According to a 2012 evaluation, 92 percent of students said that they learned the importance of career skills; 81 percent, interviewing skills; 77 percent, how education relates to future careers; and 75 percent, skills needed for college. From 2004 to 2011, district dropout rates were cut in half, with 67 percent of 2012 graduates pursuing postsecondary education.

 

Disaster-impacted communities. Every disaster is unique, which is part of what makes recovery efforts so tough. To help manage its response to disasters, IBM created a portfolio-based approach that allows it to maintain an inventory of skills, assets, and capabilities that it can quickly deploy to an impacted region through “service grants” customized for the needs of that community. Since 2001, IBM has responded to more than 38 disasters in 22 countries. For Hurricane Sandy, as an example, one grant provided an IT inventory and assessment at nine extensively damaged New York City police precincts to help them come back online. In total, IBM helped more than 50 agencies in New York and New Jersey, 200-plus participants, and ultimately thousands of clients and residents.
Kids living in food deserts. The U.S. Department of Agriculture classified urban neighborhoods in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as “food desert,” areas where affordable, healthy nutrition is difficult to obtain.

 

More than 50 percent of fifth graders are overweight or obese. To tackle this problem, Transamerica teamed up with Matthew 25, a humanitarian nonprofit, to reclaim land devastated by floods and convert it into Iowa’s first urban farm. In one year, the farm produced 3,500 pounds of food. Community members pay for their weekly share of vegetables, which sustains the work of the farm. Members of lower income neighborhoods get a discounted share. Extra food gets donated to food banks or sold to local restaurants, helping support the discounts.

 

Micro-enterprises. More than 2 billion people worldwide lack access to the modern financial system. They find themselves without access to savings, credit, or safe ways of handling and transferring money. To increase their access to financial services and unlock their entrepreneurial potential, Citi teamed up with the Philippine Central Bank and the Microfinance Council of the Philippines to create the Citi Microfinance Awards (CMA). Award-winning entrepreneurs and institutions receive cash prizes, access to training, skill-building opportunities, and mentorship from Citi volunteers. Since its launch, CMA has expanded to 35 countries and the Citi Foundation has invested $14.7 million, of which $7 million went to prizes and support services resulting in more than 5,500 microentrepreneurs growing or improving their firms.

 

Women-owned businesses. Of the world’s 1 billion people living in poverty, 70 percent are women. For women, access to capital is rare. Less than 7 percent of venture capital goes to companies started by women. Programs that find a market often struggle to meet the scale required by most multinational retailers. To address these challenges, Walmart created Women Empowered Together, an online platform to help women business owners around the world drive income and sustainable growth and to help Walmart achieve its goal of sourcing $20 billion from women-owned businesses over the next five years.

 

People at risk of river blindness. 18 million people in 30 countries suffer from onchocerciasis (a.k.a., river blindness). Each year Merck donates hundreds of millions of doses of its product Mectizan, but it also has created a replicable model for distributing Mectizan, along with other drugs, so that volunteers can treat several debilitating diseases in hard-to-reach places. Last year alone, tens of millions of people received treatment for river blindness, and millions received treatment for other diseases through these volunteer drug distributors. Treatment reached 117,000 communities in 28 countries in Africa, six countries in Latin America, and in Yemen. Disease transmission has been interrupted—meaning that no new cases have been identified—in four of the six affected countries in Latin America and nine regions in five African countries.

 

The environment. UPS delivers a lot more than just boxes and packages. Its massive network of 400,000 employees and world class transportation and logistics systems have helped steward our environment and create social value. By aggregating the more than 4 billion shipments in its global network in 2012, UPS helped minimize the fuel and emissions footprint of each shipment. Moreover, the company’s sustainability efforts and community investment projects continue to generate significant economic and social benefit. In 2012, UPSers and UPS contributed nearly $100 million in funding, up from $93 million in 2011. This included in-kind donations of $2.6 million. Its global community and volunteer efforts generated 1.8 million service hours—the equivalent of $40.6 million in monetized social value.

 

Kids applying to college. The complexity of filing for federal financial aid is one of the biggest barriers standing between low-income students and a college degree. To make it easier, the National Community Tax Coalition, with exclusive funding from the Citi Foundation, created Financial Aid U (FAU) to provide free tax preparation for low-income families alongside financial aid education and assistance in completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Since 2008, the Citi Foundation has provided more than $4 million in funding for FAU, helping more than 8,000 students across nine states and driving federal policy to simplify financial aid. Further,

more than 65 Citi employees have delivered in excess of 1,300 hours of volunteer service at tax sites and school events. Of the 3,390 students who received FAFSA services during the 2012 tax season, 54 percent enrolled in college by November 2012. FAU provided these students with access to an estimated $23.5 million in federal and state grant and loan funding.

 

Landfills. According to the World Bank, urban populations worldwide create 1.3 billion tons of solid waste per year, and more than half of that ends up in landfills. In 2009, Hilton Worldwide made a bold commitment to reduce waste by 20 percent in five years. To meet this goal, Hilton Worldwide created LightStay, a proprietary sustainability management system to support initiatives at individual properties around the world. Since 2009, Hilton Worldwide has reduced waste output by 23 percent, achieving its goal more than two years early.

 

These good corporate citizens didn’t do these things just to get a piece of lucite and attend a fancy ceremony. But the Business Civic Leadership Centers believes that conferring such honors encourages more companies to follow suit. While the trophies went to a few companies, we all own that night. Join me in congratulating these incredible corporate citizens. Tweet me your thoughts and ideas: @rjcrespin.

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