Corporate Conscience Thrives at Businesses of All Sizes

Chris Latham
Contributor

Businesses that engage in philanthropy get more out of it than good PR. They receive the benefit of operating in healthier, happier, and more interconnected communities.

“Companies that engage in philanthropy help solve critical social problems,” says Tricia Fusilero, executive director of the Association of Consultants to Nonprofits (ACN), a Chicago-based organization that helps nonprofits achieve their goals. “Companies look to partner with nonprofit organizations whose missions are aligned with their own. They also assess the nonprofit’s leadership structure, finances, and outcomes to ensure the greatest opportunity for impact.”

All types of companies are conducting innovative campaigns that target societal improvement. Here we spotlight four very different businesses that are contributing to the public good.

SALESFORCE

Based in San Francisco, Salesforce is a Fortune 500 company and one of the world’s most successful technology businesses, with more than 150,000 firms using its customer relationship management (CRM) platforms. Its philanthropic wing, Salesforce.org, provides software for charities, schools, and other nonprofits and has invested more than $260 million in societal enrichment grants.

Through its Power of Us program, Salesforce.org donates subscriptions to its software and provides steep discounts on other subscriptions to organizations around the world engaged in such causes as social work, education, science, worship, athletics, or arts and culture. Eligible groups must supply legal documentation proving their nonprofit status as well as financial statements declaring their mission and purpose.

Grants from Salesforce.org focus on three core areas. School Ready aims to enhance the learning environment in grades K-12. Tech Ready aims to enhance success in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education for girls and minorities. Workforce Ready aims to enhance career opportunities for young adults in the fast-evolving job market.

MURPHY OIL

In 1997, Claiborne P. Deming, former president and CEO of the Murphy Oil Corporation, founded the Murphy Education Program with the mission of promoting academic excellence in the El Dorado, Arkansas, public school system. The program gives monetary prizes to students who earn high scores on benchmark and college entry exams.

For instance, first graders have earned $1,000 prizes for scoring in the 85th percentile on their standardized test; $500 given upon winning and $500 held in an interest-bearing account until they graduate from El Dorado High School. Students attending that high school have received prizes ranging from $100 to $1,000 based on their scores for the ACT, SAT, and Advanced Placement tests, as well as for qualifying under the National Merit Scholarship Program. To date, the Murphy Education Program has given more than 13,000 awards and over $2.3 million to El Dorado students.

In 2007, Murphy Oil launched the El Dorado Promise as a $50 million college scholarship program for all El Dorado High School graduates who have been enrolled since at least the ninth grade. If students attend an accredited institution of higher learning in the U.S., the El Dorado Promise covers their tuition and mandatory fees up to the amount of the highest annual resident tuition at an Arkansas public university. So far, it has funded the higher educations of more than 2,200 high school graduates who have attended colleges and universities in over 30 states.

Headquartered in El Dorado, Murphy Oil employs more than 1,200 people globally in the production of oil and natural gas with both onshore and offshore assets. In addition to its educational gifts, the company has partnered closely with the United Way for more than 50 years. During the last two decades, Murphy Oil and its employees have raised over $13 million for United Way organizations.

FLOWERS FOR DREAMS

Proving that smaller businesses can make a big impact in their communities, the Chicago and Milwaukee-based floral shop company called Flowers For Dreams has ingrained philanthropy into its business model. What began as a college project between friends several years ago has evolved into a business that donates an impressive 25% of its net flower profits to charity. These donations have surpassed $425,000 since 2014.

The Flowers For Dreams website allows visitors to suggest local nonprofits that should receive donations, and every October the company opens applications to qualifying 501(c)(3)s in Chicago and Milwaukee. As a Certified B Corporation, the company is legally required to assess how its decisions affect workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. B Corp certification is administered by the nonprofit B Lab to ensure third-party verification.

DONEGOOD

DoneGood’s entire business model is about corporate conscience—and the consumer’s consience. The online retailer partners with a large network of socially and environmentally responsible brands that customers can “feel good about supporting,” according to its website. This encompasses everything from apparel to cosmetics to home goods.

While also B Corp certified, DoneGood is structured as a “public benefit corporation,” or PBC. This is a business that abides to legal commitments around accountability, transparency, and creating sustainable value in addition to profits. Done Good, like other PBC companies, is a for-profit entity.

So how exactly does DoneGood turn a profit? It receives commissions on sales made by the brands featured on its platform. DoneGood also allows customers to search on its website for brands by specific values-based criteria, such as philanthropy, organic materials, women and minority ownership, or even made in the U.S.A.

FREE TO CHOOSE

These businesses show how corporations can operate with a conscience in any number of ways. Just as these companies have chosen their strategic path to growth, they also have chosen their own unique strategies for improving society. This freedom to choose works for the firms, their customers, and the world at large.

“More than half of consumers say they will pay more for a product or service if they know the company producing it is committed to positive social and environmental impact,” says Michelle Pittman, Chief Strategy Officer of JConnelly, a communications and marketing firm that launched a Corporate Social Responsibility division in 2018.

“CSR programs can motivate employees, support the larger community, engage clients and prospects, drive the bottom line, and raise a brand’s profile—all while letting companies carry out and communicate their values day to day.”