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CSR

How Companies Can Make the Most of the Holiday Season

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How Companies Can Make the Most of the Holiday Season

by Anne Rackow

Many holidays are celebrated out of the office by spending time with loved ones, eating particular foods, and participating in various family traditions. But what if they could also offer opportunities to demonstrate corporate social responsibility and make an impact? This goes for all holidays – even those you may forget about until you suddenly realize you have a three-day weekend. In fact, some of those national holidays might be the perfect places to start.

We first started thinking about this in response to Columbus Day, which we and many others now choose to refer to as Indigenous People’s Day. This day is an important opportunity for social impact, in particular, because of its controversial origin. In case you aren’t aware of what we’re referring to, here’s a little background:

 It is widely discussed that Columbus Day honors a man who did not discover America, but rather invaded a land populated by peaceful people, and then systematically enslaved and even murdered its inhabitants. This article by Irwin Ozborne explains in detail how Christopher Columbus’s “discovery” of America “resulted in mass assimilation, raping, slaughtering, enslaving, and intention to wipe out all evidence of a native population of between 50 and 100 million indigenous people from the land — the greatest genocide in recorded history.“  Some of the atrocities he notes include: 

  • Abducting and selling children into the sex trade as young as nine-years-old
  • Mass raping of women and children
  • The amputation of limbs if slaves were not producing ‘enough’
  • Offering cash rewards for the scalps of men, women, and children as proof of murder
  • Intentionally spreading smallpox disease, an early means of biological warfare
  • Death marches of more than one-thousand miles to these reservations in which, if you were unable to continue the walk, you were left for dead with family members prohibited from offering assistance

As a result, many recognize that we either need to stop celebrating this tragic part of American history, or change who and what, specifically, we are honoring. Some states have already begun to do this. South Dakota has celebrated Native American Day instead of Columbus Day since 1990, and in recent years, cities and states like Seattle, Denver, and Vermont have also begun to acknowledge the injustices perpetrated against native populations by Columbus and his fellow explorers. They have renamed the holiday, and use the day to lead important conversations around the historical and current discrimination and maltreatment of indigenous people. 

Photo by  Maranie Rae

Photo by Maranie Rae

That got us thinking about what we can do around holidays like Indigenous People’s Day, and other federal holidays that are less controversial but provide opportunities for impact nonetheless. While it’s wonderful for local community members and state governments to spread awareness and create change, we began to ask ourselves what socially conscious businesses could be doing on this holiday and other holidays to have a positive social impact on their employees, customers, and communities.

According to the Pew Research Center, about 50% of states and U.S. territories get time off from work for Indigenous People’s Day.  As a business, you have an opportunity to encourage a different, more informed, and respectful manner of celebration. For example:

  • Refer to the second Monday of October as Indigenous People’s Day in relevant company documents and communication, regardless of what your city or state calls it
  • Share information about why you’ve opted to make this change as a company
  • Encourage your employees to attend an event or celebration hosted by an indigenous group on their day off
  • If your local and state law allow for it, provide the option for employees to work on the second Monday of October in exchange for a different day of

For more ideas on how your business can honor indigenous populations, check out this article by Ecopreneurist.

Celebrating Other Holidays

While Columbus Day is in a league of its own in terms of impropriety, there are many other federal holidays that can also serve as opportunities to raise awareness and participate in service activities related to important social justice topics. When one of these holidays is approaching, contemplate what your company can do make the most of the day and the time off from work. You can start by asking yourself the following questions:

What is this holiday about, and what social justice issues are related to it? Here are some examples to get you started:

Veterans Day: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs calls Veterans Day, a day to honor American veterans of all wars.”

Examples of Relevant Social Justice Topics:

  • Veteran homelessness

  • Mental health issues associated with military service

  • Policies that make it difficult for veterans to seek treatment for their mental and physical health

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: The King Center says, “the King Holiday honors the life and contributions of America’s greatest champion of racial justice and equality, the leader who not only dreamed of a color-blind society, but who also lead a movement that achieved historic reforms to help make it a reality.”

Examples of Relevant Social Justice Topics:

  • Modern day racism in America

  • Institutionalized racism

Labor Day: According to the Department of Labor, Labor Day “is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

Examples of Relevant Social Justice Topics:

  • Setting a fair minimum wage across sectors

  • American companies sourcing products made with slave labor

  • The gender pay gap

Photo by  Maranie Rae

Photo by Maranie Rae

How can I educate my employees or colleagues around these relevant social justice issues?

  • Post informational flyers and handouts in break rooms, on community boards, and in other shared spaces
  • Include a special feature section in the company newsletter that shares information on the topic and links to further reading or helpful resources
  • Host a “lunch and learn” meeting where staff can volunteer their lunch hour to learn more about a topic or issue

How can I use this holiday to engage my employees in relevant activities that have a positive social impact?

  • Host voluntary company-wide community service days on or around the holiday that take place in a location or with a population impacted by the topic
  • Collect food, clothing, toys, or money for local communities impacted by the topic during the weeks leading up to the holiday

Are there steps we can take to raise awareness about the related social justice topic as a company?

  • Share information and show support on your company’s social media platforms, as appropriate
  • Encourage or incentivize employees to share information and show support on their personal social media networks

As we go into a holiday-heavy season, we’re starting to think through how we as a company can celebrate in a way that aligns with our own values, and help other companies do the same. In the coming months, we’ll be sharing tips on what your company can do to be socially conscious around Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

Do you have creative ideas on how companies can use holidays to do good? If so, please share with us by:

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15 Ways You Can Curb Your Energy Use Every Day

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15 Ways You Can Curb Your Energy Use Every Day

by Kate Vandeveld

Earlier this month, we talked about how solar power is changing the game when it comes to energy use, and shared our favorite options for solar powered products that can fuel your summer fun. If you’re planning on camping, grilling, or even just relaxing outside this summer, be sure to check it out!

That got us to thinking about how we can be better about our energy use in other aspects of our lives, even when renewables aren’t necessarily on the table. As it turns out, there are so many seemingly small things that we can change in our daily habits that will have a big impact on our energy use.

Here are just a few small steps that you can take today:

Cooling

Lighting & Appliances

Technology

If you really want to go big this summer, plant a tree or two! If you plant one on the east, west, or northwest side of your home, it will create shade that will reduce summer air conditioning needs, and could cut your costs by up to 35%.

Have any tips for small changes we can make to save energy? Share them with us in the comments below or on social! We’re on TwitterFacebookInstagramLinkedIn.

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Cause Marketing 101: Getting Started

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Cause Marketing 101: Getting Started

by Kate Vandeveld

Did you know that 90% of U.S. consumers say they would switch to a brand associated with a cause, given comparable price and quality? In other words, even beyond the positive implications on our communities and our world, it’s also good for the bottom line.

This is one of many reasons that an increasing number of businesses are finding ways, big and small, to incorporate social and environmental causes into their business models. 

One effective and relatively uncomplicated way for businesses to do so is through cause marketing, or a marketing campaign geared toward a social or environmental cause. Such campaigns or initiatives can be run as a collaborative effort between a for-profit business and a nonprofit organization, or by a business on its own. And they can have a variety of goals, from fundraising, to raising awareness, to advocacy. 

If your business is interested in developing a cause marketing campaign, here are our tips for getting started:

Find a Cause That’s Aligned With Your Values 

As you might expect, the most important aspect of a cause marketing campaign is determining which cause you’ll be supporting. As with all CSR-related initiatives, it’s crucial that you align with your brand’s identity and core values. If you don’t approach your campaign from this angle, it’s likely to come across as insincere or irrelevant, which makes it difficult for consumers to connect and engage. When the connection between your values and your campaign makes sense and feels genuine, it will be easier to market, resonate with your audience, and achieve your intended impact.

A great example of alignment in cause marketing is Reebok’s partnership with the Avon 39 Walk to End Breast Cancer. This annual walk is meant to increase awareness about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, educate people about the importance of early detection, and raise money for cancer research, and an athletic event with a cause is a natural opportunity for an athletic shoe company to get involved. With Reebok’s support, the campaign has been able to raise over $500 million for breast cancer prevention and research.

Find the Right Partner(s)

Once you’ve decided on the cause you want to support, the next step is choosing a potential partner(s). Here’s what you should look for:

  • Their mission(s) align(s) with your cause marketing goals
  • They are able to clearly measure and demonstrate the positive outcome of their programs
  • They have the internal capacity to work with you on a campaign (i.e. they have at least one staff member with bandwidth and strong interest)
  • They have a built-in audience you can activate in addition to your own

Remember, the best partnerships create mutual benefit for everyone involved, thereby incentivizing strong participation on both sides.

Get Creative with Your Plans

These days, there are a number of social responsibility initiatives and cause marketing campaigns out there. While this is a great thing, you’ll need to get creative to get your message out in a way that is attention grabbing, genuine, and impactful. Simply aligning yourself with a nonprofit partner and talking about it online won’t be enough – you need to think outside of the box and be smart with your timing, designs, and messaging.

For example, in 2011, Patagonia launched a cause marketing campaign around Black Friday and Cyber Monday called the Common Threads Initiative, which called on consumers to buy less – including less of Patagonia’s apparel. The campaign encouraged conscious consumption by calling out the environmental cost of producing every item we purchase, while simultaneously selling sewing kits for clothing repair. It was risky and innovative enough to garner a great deal of attention while still achieving its purpose of touting the durability of Patagonia clothing.

Use Your Available Assets

To run an effective campaign, you’ll also want to be sure you’re leveraging all available assets – both your own as well as those of your partners.

One great example is Dunkin’ Donuts’ annual Cop on a Rooftop campaign. Each year in Chicago, Dunkin’ Donuts partners with Illinois Law Enforcement to raise money for Special Olympics Illinois. To promote the campaign, Dunkin’ Donuts utilizes  its brick-and-mortar Chicago stores as well as the manpower of Illinois Law Enforcement. Law enforcement officers stand on the rooftops of participating locations and encourage patrons to make a donation to the Special Olympics, offering prizes to those who donate certain amounts. Since its inception 13 years ago, the campaign has raised over $2.3 million.

Have you seen or participated in a particularly unique or effective cause marketing campaign? Tell us about it – here’s how:

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Empower Mint: Ben & Jerry’s Takes Action for Change

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Empower Mint: Ben & Jerry’s Takes Action for Change

by Kate Vandeveld

Hopefully, it’s finally started to warm up in your neck of the woods. And if so, we’d venture a guess that your ice cream intake is about to increase…ours is!

So it’s probably a good time for us to share a really cool initiative that one of our favorite companies (and a fellow Certified B Corp!), Ben & Jerry’s, recently launched as we lead up to this year’s presidential election. But it isn’t about which political candidate you should support – it’s about the greater issues that our country’s democratic system is facing as a whole.

Ben & Jerry’s Takes Action for Change

What are these issues?

The two overarching issues that the campaign seeks to address are financial corruption in politics, and the challenges that low income and minority voters face as a result of unfair voting laws. 

When the Supreme Court made the decision to give corporations the same rights to freedom of speech as it does American citizens, it made it so that “the richer you are, the louder your voice.” Beyond that, corporate money that goes through Super PACs is largely unregulated and untraceable, so wealthy donors and corporations can give as much money to the candidates they support as they’d like. This means that not only do a small number of Americans have the most power when it comes to getting their candidates elected, but that once those candidates are in office, they’ll owe their supporters and be inclined to pass laws that benefit them.

This problem is exacerbated by the Supreme Court’s recent decision to invalidate a key part of the Voter Rights Act, which was in place to ensure that citizens’ right to vote is upheld across the board. Now, states with a history of discrimination are no longer subject to the same level of federal oversight as they once were when it comes to voting laws. For example, voter identification legislation in some states means that the 21 million Americans who do not have the necessary government-issued ID can’t vote. And some states have limited voting hours to remove those times that have historically been most popular with hourly workers – evenings and Sundays – making it extremely difficult for them to vote.

How is Ben & Jerry’s working to fix them?

Through their ‘Democracy is in Your Hands’ campaign, Ben & Jerry’s is seeking to call attention to and inform a greater number of citizens about these crucial issues, and provide support to the organizations and initiatives that are working to address them.

The company launched their new ice cream flavor, Empower Mint, in conjunction with a campaign that supports recent efforts by the NAACP to increase voter turnout in North Carolina, one of the many states that has passed legislation to make it harder for people to vote in recent years. The Empower Mint flavor will benefit the state’s NAACP chapter, an organization “dedicated to ensuring the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all persons and eliminating racial hatred and discrimination.”

Ben & Jerry's Takes Action for Change - WhyWhisper Collective

Why do we love this so much?

As you probably know by now, we’re big advocates of businesses that choose to support a particular cause or set of causes and stay committed to those causes over time. Long-term, sustained support is important for creating real change.

We also love that Ben & Jerry’s regularly uses its products and brand to support a variety of causes. They often choose to partner with social enterprises and organizations that are working for change, like their collaboration with New Belgium for action around climate change.

Plus, their campaigns always include an educational element. This one, for example, provides clear and easy to understand information about issues around voting rights and money in politics. It even provides links to voter registration, and a petition for the Supreme Court to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act.

What other companies do you know of that are openly discussing the need for change in politics? Tell us about them! Here’s how:

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Treat Yourself to These Socially Conscious Goods

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Treat Yourself to These Socially Conscious Goods

by Kate Vandeveld

When you think of social enterprise, what comes to mind? Probably not beer and chocolate, right? If that’s the case, we have good news: Even when you’re indulging, you can still support social good.

Our team keeps an ever-growing list of great sources, so we know exactly where to turn when we’re treating ourselves. Here are some of our favorites:

via  Unsplash

Eat Chocolate

Chocolate is one of the most universally loved candies – and maybe even one of the best-loved foods, period. In fact, 52% of Americans have said that chocolate is their favorite flavor. But here’s the problem: Much of the chocolate sourced by major companies like Nestle and Hershey’s comes from countries notorious for child slave labor, like the Ivory Coast and Nigeria. As a result, it’s crucial that we pay attention whenever we’re craving a candy bar.

Thankfully, if you’re one of the many chocolate lovers out there, you have plenty of ethical, eco-friendly options to choose from – here are just a few:

 

via  Unsplash

Get Your Caffeine Fix

The coffee industry is another that is known for unethical treatment of its farmers. Dominated by large corporations that sell inexpensive products in mass quantities, these corporations often opt for the cheapest beans. In turn, the farmers that grow those beans seek out cheap labor. At best, this means that their workers aren’t paid livable, sustainable wages, and at worst, it can mean child slave labor.

While it can be easier to turn to the big names found in any supermarket, it’s always best to take the time to seek out ethically sourced beans whenever you can. Here are some of our favorites:

If you want to go the extra mile here, check out these sustainable coffee makers and filters from Able Brewing.

 

via  Unsplash

Have a Drink

When it comes to drinks, especially of the alcoholic variety, sustainability is a major issue. To produce just one bottle of beer, it takes nearly twenty gallons of water. That’s a lot – especially given the water scarcity issues our world is now facing. On top of that, beer packaging requires a substantial amount of materials and energy, from the bottles and cans themselves to the cardboard containers they’re often sold in.

If you’re looking to kick back with a cocktail or beer this weekend, choose one of these options to do it without the guilt, by choosing brands that focus on using minimal resources in their production and packaging: 

 

via  Woron

via Woron

Get Intimate

Have you ever stopped to think about how your lingerie is made? We wouldn’t blame you if you hadn’t. But, as with all areas of garment manufacturing, unethical and unsustainable sourcing can be a major problem when it comes to your underwear. The unfortunate truth is that most garment workers in the world earn around 25 cents an hour, and child labor is incredibly common.

If you want to avoid perpetuating these norms, check out these companies the next time you’re shopping for lingerie:

 

Splurge on Diamonds

When it comes to treating yourself, diamonds have long been considered the ultimate luxury. But, as you may know, the diamond industry is one of the most unethical and dangerous of them all. The diamond trade has fueled civil war and violence all over the world, and their harvesting and production methods have long been centered on exploitation and unsustainable practices.

So, if you’re thinking about splurging on a diamond anytime soon, put in some time to research where it came from and who was involved. Here are some trustworthy options: 

Do you have go-to sources for your favorite indulgences? Share them with us – let’s spread the word together! Here’s how:

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These Financial Companies Incorporated Purpose & Profit

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These Financial Companies Incorporated Purpose & Profit

by Kate Vandeveld

As tax season comes to a close (thank goodness!), a few of us are starting to think about how to make better financial decisions in the coming year. 

After all, if you aren’t an accountant or money manager, making financial decisions on your own can be overwhelming. That being said, putting your finances into a stranger’s hands can be stressful (and costly). Thankfully, there are a number of companies working hard to simplify the complicated, build trust, and provide free or affordable education to those who are interested in becoming more financially literate.

By offering innovative and accessible resources, these companies are disrupting the traditional finance sector and making a crucial impact on the lives and futures of the individuals with whom they work. Here are some of our favorites:

To Access Low Cost Financial Education: LearnVest

Financial illiteracy is a major issue in the United States. According to the 2015 S&P Global FinLit Survey, a detailed and comprehensive analysis of worldwide financial literacy by the World Bank, Gallup, and George Washington University, just 57% of Americans were deemed financially literate. Also, student loan debt is over $1.1 trillion, 56% of people in the US don’t have “rainy day funds,” and only 14% of baby boomers have a written retirement strategy – all troubling numbers. Even when you feel like you understand certain elements of your finances, the market changes so frequently that “you must be a lifelong learner” to stay on top of your game.

That said, there are resources out there for those who want to become more financially literate – you just have to know where to find them. One of our favorites is LearnVest, an online platform providing affordable access to financial planning services, tools, and classes. Their incredibly informative blog provides a plethora of free resources about topics like understanding credit, getting out of debt, and budgeting based on your salary. LearnVest also offers hands-on personal financial planning for a fraction of the traditional rates, making it much more accessible.

To Invest in Social & Economic Progress: Global Impact Investing Network

In traditional investing, investors and their financial managers choose investments based solely on projected financial return, with little concern for what the company they’re investing in actually does. In recent years, a new kind of investing has been on the rise: impact investing. What is impact investing? When people make investments in entities and funds that are focused on positive social and environmental impact alongside financial return. Impact investing goes beyond a “do no harm” approach of screening out potential negative industries or products and instead, seeks to create positive impact in a measurable and transparent way.

If you’re interested in impact investing, start by informing yourself of how it works and who you should work with. The Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) provides myriad resources to that end, including a knowledge center, tools and training materials, and a network for impact investors to connect with one another.

To Work with the Right Investment Experts: Aspiration

Once you’ve made the decision to invest, you’ll likely want guidance. But, again, finding the right people to work with at a price you can afford can be a daunting task. That’s why we were thrilled to learn about Aspiration, an investment firm that is “built on trust, focused on the middle class instead of millionaires, and founded on the idea that we can do well and do good at the same time.”

While this mission alone is enough to seriously interest us, there are two other differentiating factors that definitely warrant attention: When you invest with Aspiration, you decide what to pay them for their services. They believe that since you’re trusting them to make you money, they need to trust you right back.  They also donate ten cents of every dollar of their revenue to “charitable activities expanding economic opportunity” through their Dimes Worth of Difference initiative. 

To Access Better Loans & Services: SoFi

Our banks and financial institutions play a critical role in our finances. Traditional banks operate without a holistic view of an individual and his or her needs. This can lead to financial trouble down the line, which you’re then left to manage on your own.

Enter SoFi, a modern finance company that is putting people at the center of finance. SoFi offers an array of financial services, from personal loans to wealth management. Unlike traditional finance companies, they “evaluate applicants based on a holistic view of their financial well-being rather than a three digit score.” The company is revolutionizing the banking industry, going beyond traditional banking to offer such services as affordable and easy-to-understand student loan refinancing, career support, and an Unemployment Protection Program.

SoFi also offer a wealth of valuable financial literacy resources, including a blog, student loan repayment calculator, and clear information about complex topics like when you should consolidate versus refinance, and how variable rate loans work.

These are just a few of the increasing number of financially-focused companies that are choosing to turn the market on its head, helping us plan for a better future, both for ourselves and our world. Do you know of others? Share them with us, and we’ll spread the word to our community. Here’s how:

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The Role of Corporations in the Clean Water Crisis

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The Role of Corporations in the Clean Water Crisis

by Kate Vandeveld

Did you know that 1.8 billion people do not have access to clean water worldwide?

It’s a major issue, and one that’s close to home – today, over 1.6 million Americans don’t have indoor plumbing at all. And in some places, like Flint, Michigan, water sources are so contaminated that even with indoor plumbing, consuming it poses a serious health risk. 

There are a number of incredible nonprofit organizations that are working to address these issues, but they often lack the necessary funding to implement effective, sustainable change. One solution to this problem is corporate partnership, and in recent years, a number of large-scale corporations have opted to partner with nonprofits focused on solving water issues. Here are a few:

H&M Foundation & WaterAid

WaterAid is an international nonprofit organization focused on improving access to safe water, hygiene and toilets in impoverished communities, with a goal of getting safe water and sanitation to everyone by 2030. They work with these communities to find sustainable solutions to their water issues, financing the work of local partners on the ground. They also advocate for policies that will end the water and sanitation crisis.

The H&M Foundation is an independent foundation that supports initiatives focused on women, children and water. In 2014, the H&M Foundation and WaterAid launched a three-year global program meant to bring safe water, hygiene and toilets to 250,000 of the world's poorest students. Together, they’re also working to drive change at the policy level, aiming to integrate these necessities into education policies. WaterAid reported that after the first year, they were able to reach 75,000 students through the program.

Bank of America & Water.org

Water.org, a nonprofit founded by Matt Damon and Gary White, focuses on expanding access to clean water around the world by working within communities to find sustainable solutions. Rather than attempting to implement a one-size-fits all solution to places that are so different from one another, Water.org works to understand each community’s specific barriers and develop innovative solutions that address them, and empower those communities to maintain them.

In 2015, Bank of America provided Water.org with a $1 million to go toward their microfinance program Water Credit, which provides affordable loans to those who need to purchase water connections and toilets. The goal of the grant was to help 100,000 people in South India get access to safe water and sanitation solutions. While we look forward to the reports that show the impact of Bank of America’s grant specifically, we’re happy to see that Water.org has reported that grants like Bank of America’s have helped them to empower more than 2.5 million people in 9 countries to obtain access to clean water.

Nestle, Walmart, Pepsi & Coca-Cola & the Flint Crisis

In 2015, drinking water in Flint, MI, was exposed as containing over two times the EPA’s limits for the amount of lead in safe drinking water. This dangerously high lead count has resulted in a variety of health issues for those who’ve consumed it, including skin lesions, hair loss, hypertension, vision loss and depression. All children under the age of 6 were “exposed to toxic, lead-tainted water that may cause life-long damage.” In light of this, the city’s water was declared unsafe to drink, and many were left with few hydration options.

In January of 2016, four large-scale corporations, Nestle, Walmart, Pepsi, and Coca-Cola, provided 6.5 million bottles of water to the city’s students. These corporations, which are generally in competition with one another and often under scrutiny for various reasons, came together in a time of crisis to make a life-saving contribution. As the city seeks long-term solutions, this donation will allow students and their parents to focus on education and meeting other basic needs.

World Water Day: Keep the Conversation Going

This past Tuesday was World Water Day, a day developed by UN Water to raise awareness about today’s most pressing global issues around water access. We encourage you to use the tools and resources they provided to educate yourself about these issues and keep the conversation going.

Do you know of a business or corporation that has chosen to focus on water in its CSR efforts? Comment below or share with us on social (Facebook, Twitter or Instagram) – we’ll help spread the word about their work.

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How Can You Better Care For Your Employees? Focus on Mental Health

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How Can You Better Care For Your Employees? Focus on Mental Health

by Kate Vandeveld

Stress and anxiety in the workplace have a major impact on both performance and employee happiness, and most working Americans experience both daily. So why aren’t we doing more about it? Or, perhaps more importantly, why aren’t we even talking about it?

There is significant stigma around discussing mental health, and this increases even further in the workplace, given expectations and definitions of “professionalism”. Despite the widespread prevalence of workplace anxiety, employees still don’t discuss it for fear of being perceived as lazy, incapable, or undependable by their peers and superiors.

In reality, it’s actually when we don’t address mental health in the workplace that work really suffers. In fact, fifty-six percent of employees say that stress and anxiety sometimes impacts their workplace performance, and fifty percent say it impacts the quality of their work. Those numbers are significant, and it’s time we address them.

In light of this, as companies are considering implementing employee wellness programs in increasing numbers, we encourage them to consider programs that address mental health, specifically. Here are a few options to get started:

Provide Free Mental Health Assessments

For those who are struggling with stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues, it can be difficult to even take the first step of acknowledging it, much less actively addressing it. Whether you provide employees with access to a confidential online assessment tool, or bring professionals into the workplace to offer anonymous screenings, encourage your employees to take stock of their mental health so they can address their needs accordingly.

Offer Employee Forums & Workshops

Perhaps the most important way we can break down the stigma around mental health is simply by talking about it as openly and frequently as possible. You can do this in your workplace by hosting employee forums and workshops in which respected guest speakers come in  to talk about how they’ve managed their own mental health. Recognizing that even the most successful professionals struggle with mental health can have a huge impact on the willingness of others to open up.

Build Internal Infrastructure That Supports Employees

When feeling stressed and anxious, employees often avoid speaking to their direct supervisors or teammates about it. Instead, they may opt to forge ahead with their work, so as to avoid being perceived as a burden or a weak link. Create other options by developing new internal check-in systems that allow employees to voice concerns about their roles, certain projects, and work-life balance, and adjust when necessary. You can do this by connecting your employees with HR representatives or building in regular reviews with other employees that they don’t work with directly. On the flipside, you can also provide trainings to leaders in your business or organization to ensure that they enforce work-life balance and have reasonable expectations of the employees on their teams.

Offer Access to Yoga & Meditation

Practicing yoga and meditation can have a significant and positive effect on relieving stress and anxiety. Both practices decrease symptoms of physiological arousal, like increased heart rate and blood pressure, and encourage feelings of mindfulness and calm. In your workplace, you can provide a workshop on meditation for stress relief, and encourage employees to practice these techniques on their own. If you’re able, you can offer employees time off during the day to take an off-site yoga class, a meditation break, or even provide in-office yoga classes several times per month.

 

Before you determine which program is best for your team, its crucial to first do an internal assessment. Ask your employees to weigh in anonymously on what causes them stress and anxiety, and encourage them to be open about how they manage those feelings. Taking this time will teach you a lot about how you can best address mental health in your specific workplace.

Do you know of a particularly innovative or unique employee wellness program centered around mental health? Tell us about it – here’s how:

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Ready to Develop an Employee Volunteer Program? Here’s How

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Ready to Develop an Employee Volunteer Program? Here’s How

by Kate Vandeveld

Today, employees are intent on finding meaning at work. In fact, a recent study showed 55% of millennials (currently the largest generation in the workforce) were influenced to accept a job based on that company’s involvement with causes.  

As a result, an increasing number of businesses are contemplating corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs at their workplaces. If you’re currently evaluating options, volunteer programs are an impactful and relatively straightforward way for your team to make a big difference. Whether you work at a large corporation, a small business, or a collective of freelance consultants, you can develop a volunteer program that is both impactful and works for your team.

Ready to get started? Here’s how:

Define Your Goals

As with any new initiative, you want to begin by clearly defining what it is you’re working to achieve and how you’re going to measure it. Do you want to address an issue in your local community? Improve employee morale? Attract new hires? Build a stronger relationship with your customer? Don’t shy away from applying business goals to your philanthropic endeavors. By simultaneously creating wins for the community AND your business, you’re much more likely to build a sustainable and scalable program.

Consider Your Industry & Values 

When you’re starting a volunteer program, you want to first consider how you can connect it to your industry and values. Without that connection, the relationship will likely feel less authentic to everyone you touch – partners, employees, and consumers.

As an example, if you’re a sporting goods company, it may make more sense for your team to volunteer time at an inner city summer camp than it would to volunteer at a food pantry. The stronger the tie between your industry, values, and volunteer efforts, the more your program will thrive.

Ask Your Team

When you’re looking to make a real impact on your community, the best thing to do is to tap into your team’s interests and passions. If you choose a cause relevant to your industry, but your team doesn't find it engaging, your commitment will likely be perfunctory and short-lived. Schedule a team meeting or send out a survey to find out:

  • Their level of interest in giving back
  • The specific social, economic, or environmental issues they care about
  • The type of volunteer activities they’re interested in (e.g. physical, skills-based, mentoring)
  • Their preference for team-based or individual activities

Choose the Right Model & Partner

Once you know the type of work you and your team want to do, you will next need to figure out the who and how.

In terms of structure, there are a number of options, but here are a few to get you started:

  • Company-wide paid volunteer days: Choose a certain number of days each year during which your team will come together to volunteer with a specified nonprofit partner.
  • Company-wide drives or fundraisers: Commit to supporting a nonprofit’s annual needs through collective employee fundraising and community advocacy.
  • Skills-based projects: Explore structures where individual company departments use their particular skills to solve a specific problem (i.e. The marketing team can help boost a nonprofit’s fundraising revenues, while accounting can search for ways to make the nonprofit’s budget more efficient).  
  • Individual volunteer hours: Encourage your team to commit to a certain number of personal volunteer hours each quarter, to be carried out with the nonprofit partner of their choice. You can incentivize these by allowing employees to do their hours during regular work hours, or by offering paid volunteer hours outside of work.

If you’re choosing to align your volunteer activities with one nonprofit organization (as opposed to letting employees choose their own), you also want to be sure you’re starting off with the right partner. Here are some preliminary questions to ask as you’re researching potential nonprofit partners: 

  • What do the organization’s programs and services look like, and where do they need the most help? It can be helpful to list out each of the nonprofit’s needs and see how they match up to your employees’ skillsets.
  • How long has the organization been around, and what is their experience with corporate partnerships? If the organization has been around for a long time or seems to be substantial in size, they may have good ideas and case studies for effectively engaging your team. On the other hand, a newer organization might have a greater need for corporate partners or volunteer support. Chat openly with prospective partners to figure out which of the two situations feels like a better fit for your team.
  • How do they measure the impact of their efforts? Find out if the organization publishes reports on their website, or if they have data available upon request. This will give you a better idea of what your impact will be, and also help to further engage your employees. 
  • What is their staffing structure? Find out whether their staff is made up of volunteers or full-time employees, as well as their general workload and time commitments. Though it’s common to find nonprofits are understaffed, you still want to be sure you’re investing your team’s time in an organization that has the infrastructure in place to be responsive and properly leverage your contributions. A word of advice: At the beginning of the relationship, you’ll also want to ensure you have a key contact with whom you can coordinate your team’s volunteer efforts – it’ll be a game changer.

Formalize the Commitment 

Draw up a company statement that spells out the goals and specifics of the partnership. This should be available on your website, so all involved and any external parties who are interested in learning about your work can access it. This will ensure that your team honors the commitment you’ve made to your community and that nonprofit partners stay within the boundaries of your agreement. Making the commitment public may also help you recruit new millennial talent who are searching for employers that are making an impact.

Engage Your Team 

Whichever model you settle on, recruit ambassadors from each of your company’s departments. This will help with participation and enthusiasm, as well as reduce the overall work involved with organizing and coordinating the activities. If your company is large, you can also use this as an opportunity for testing your volunteer program: Start with one of your departments, and closely track the program’s success.  

 

Once your program is developed and formalized, choose the communication channel you’ll use to keep your employees informed. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Bulletin boards in common areas
  • Email newsletters
  • Internal company messenger systems or groups (e.g. Slack, Facebook Groups),
  • SMS alerts

 

Know of a company that has implemented a particularly interesting or impactful volunteer program? We want to know all about them – here’s how you can tell us:

If your company is ready to launch a volunteer program, but needs some help getting it off the ground, get in touch with us – we will help you make it happen.

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CSR is Good for Everyone – Here’s How

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CSR is Good for Everyone – Here’s How

“Giving back to society brings benefits that far exceed any costs – whether it’s in terms of employee morale, or strengthening the brand name.” – Cisco CEO John Chambers

These days, it’s not just non-profits and social enterprises that are focusing on making a positive impact on our world. Right now, businesses and corporations are stepping up to the plate in unprecedented ways to rethink the way they operate internally, and how they’re affecting the communities they interact with.

CSR is Good for Everyone – Here’s How -- WhyWhisper Collective

On the rise for the past several years, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is much more than a passing trend. In fact, it’s increasingly clear that social and environmental responsibility in business should not and, in many ways, cannot be ignored. Once a brand differentiator, CSR is now a necessity.

Companies who consider and implement programs around social impact are seeing huge benefits, and so are their employees. If you’re on the fence about CSR, here are just a few of the many ways that implementing these programs is good for everyone:

It benefits businesses:

  • 96% of consumers have a more positive image of companies when they support social or environmental issues. 
  • 90% will switch to a cause-branded product when choosing between two brands of equal quality and price.
  • 51% will pay extra for products and services committed to positive social & environmental impact.

It benefits employees:

  • 67% of professionals prefer to work for socially responsible companies.
  • 53% of workers said that “a job where I can make an impact” was important to their happiness.
  • Companies with wellness programs saw a 25% reduction in sick leave, 25% decrease in health costs and 32% reduction in workers compensation and disability costs. 

And, of course, these programs are good for our world. Here are some amazing examples of these ‘unusual suspects,’ and the positive impact their CSR programs are having on their businesses and the world:

 All of these companies are focused on different aspects of social responsibility. Some are focusing their efforts internally, some on environmental impact, others on sourcing their products ethically, and the list goes on. It’s amazing to see how different companies are developing and implementing innovative CSR programs that are also beneficial for them as businesses.

That’s why we’re excited to officially announce that WhyWhisper is now taking clients in the for-profit sector that are looking to identify opportunities for impact, build strategies to make it possible, and communicate that impact to the world. With so many opportunities, it’s crucial that businesses and corporations identify and implement their optimal models – and that’s where we come in. Check out a full list of our corporate services here, and get in touch with us any time here

To learn more about CSR going forward, subscribe to our newsletter, or follow us on social (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn).

If you know of a company that is looking to take better care of their employees, consumers, or community, please get in touch with us -- we're excited to connect!

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Reduce Your Company’s Environmental Footprint in 2016

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Reduce Your Company’s Environmental Footprint in 2016

by Kate Vandeveld

If you work in an office, you may have noticed that you and your colleagues use a lot of paper, leave the lights on a lot, or throw away a lot of things that could be recycled. If so, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that offices generate a huge amount of waste on a daily basis. Even if you work from home or a co-working space, it can be difficult to keep track of your environmental footprint. Unfortunately, we’re all constantly generating waste, overusing resources, and unconsciously hurting the earth through the things that we purchase. But the good news is that we can, somewhat easily, change the way we consume and utilize resources in our offices and workspaces to reduce that footprint.

While we’d love to encourage you to get your company on board with a large-scale sustainability program, in the meantime, there are simple changes you can make right now to kick off 2016 on an environmentally-friendly foot:  

Reduce Your Company’s Environmental Footprint in 2016 -- WhyWhisper Collective

Be conscientious about office supplies

Paper products

Did you know the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper each year? Paper and cardboard account for almost 40 percent of our overall waste. The best solution to this problem is to reduce (or even eliminate!) office paper use, though this may not be possible for every office. If it’s an option for yours, here are some tips on how you can reduce paper waste. It it’s not, be conscious about purchasing recyclable paper for your offices.

Bathroom & kitchen supplies

For dish or bathroom soap, try products from method. For toilet paper, paper towels, or disposable tableware, opt for Seventh Generation. Both offer eco-friendly and affordable alternatives to the products that you use on a daily basis.

Light bulbs

Choose compact fluorescent bulbs for office lighting, as these use about 25%-80% less energy than traditional incandescents, and last anywhere from 3-25 times longer.

Coffee & tea

If your office serves coffee and/or tea, go for local roasters rather than the big names. Shopping small business is good for the local economy and your community in general – learn more about the benefits here

If you already purchase eco-friendly office products, what is your go-to source? Share with us in the comments, and we’ll pass along the word to our community!

 

Reduce Your Company’s Environmental Footprint in 2016 -- WhyWhisper Collective

Minimize employee transportation 

Transportation has a significant impact on the environment. Each day, Americans use over 2.9 billion gallons of gas, due in large part to the fact that 77% insist on driving alone to work. Luckily, there are ways you can reduce that – here are a few options: 

Share a ride to work

Whether you opt for public transportation or carpooling, sharing rides makes a huge difference. It reduces traffic congestion, uses less gas, and decreases fuel emissions. If you’re an employer who is looking to incentivize ride sharing, try subsidizing public transportation costs for your employees.

Bike to work

If you live in a place where it’s an option, biking is the most environmentally friendly, financially smart, and health-conscious option. Here are some of the environmental benefits of biking rather than driving a car to work. If you’re an employer, consider offering bike parking to make it easier on your employees who are interested in biking.

Work from home

If your company offers an option to work remotely, try it out! If you can’t bike, this is clearly the best way to reduce the environmental effects of car transportation.

 

Reduce Your Company’s Environmental Footprint in 2016 -- WhyWhisper Collective

Keep energy usage low

Use your thermostat

Rather than keeping your office the same temperature at all times, utilize the feature that turns on heat or air conditioning at specific times and turns off automatically at the end of the day. Tip: Set it to start a bit before anyone gets into the office, and no one will even feel the difference.  

Turn off your electronics

In many offices, computers are left on all the time – even after hours. Encourage your employees or co-workers to shut down at night before they leave. Also, unplug lamps, chargers, and other electronics whenever you’re able as well – they use “stand-by power” when plugged in, even if not in use. If everyone in the office makes these small changes, it’ll make a big difference over time.


Reduce Your Company’s Environmental Footprint in 2016 -- WhyWhisper Collective

Reduce, reuse & recycle

Start a recycling program at the office

According to the EPA, about 80 to 90 percent of solid waste is recyclable in the average workplace. Whether you start with setting out recycling bins in highly trafficked areas (such as near the printer and in the kitchen), or launch a full-fledged office recycling program, taking this initiative will greatly reduce your office’s environmental footprint. 

Compost

If there’s a kitchen in your office, it’s very possible you’re throwing away a lot of things that could be composted and used differently. You can keep compost in-office for fertilizing your plants, or take it home with you to use in your own garden. If this is an option for you, here’s a great guide to office composting.

 

Do you have innovative ideas for how companies can reduce their environmental footprint right now? Share with us! We want to know every tip in the book.

If your company is looking to invest in a larger-scale sustainability program, or even if you’d like some support in implementing these ideas, we can help. Get in touch with us here.

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What We Learned in 2015

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What We Learned in 2015

What We Learned in 2016 -- WhyWhisper Collective

2015 was an exciting year! We worked to expand access to integrative healthcare for communities in need, designed programs to support new mothers, expanded awareness of clean energy initiatives in New York, and so much more. We connected with inspiring individuals who are working to change the world every day. We made big internal changes (that we’re excited to share with you in 2016!). And, perhaps most importantly, we learned a lot.

Along the way, we’ve been sure to share many of our takeaways with you via our blog. As 2015 comes to a close and you’re kicking of 2016, be sure to check out the posts below to find insights on the subjects (both personal and professional) that are most relevant to you!

Start with Yourself

This year, we learned a lot about the importance of taking time for self-care and self-improvement. The positive effects of taking care of yourself extend to all areas of your life -- from mental health to workplace effectiveness. Self-improvement looks different for each individual, and can encompass anything from taking time off, to making more responsible purchasing decisions, to educating yourself about things that matter to you. To help you get started, here’s some of what we’ve learned:

 

Learn from the Experts

We believe one of the best ways to learn about social impact is by example. This year, we’ve been lucky enough to connect with and learn from innovative and effective leaders from nonprofits, social enterprises, and corporations. Here’s a bit of what we’ve learned: