What Does It Mean to Be a Good Corporate Citizen?

MAPEI employees donate their time at AEC Cares.
MAPEI employees donate their time at AEC Cares.

The term “corporate social responsibility” refers to initiatives coordinated by business that benefit society in some way and may include such tactics as donating a portion of the company’s proceeds, products or services; implementing greener business practices; or actively involving employees in a hands-on, ongoing volunteer program or activity. The goal is to make a positive impact on the environment, community or residents—in short, to be a good corporate citizen.

At the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Paris, France, attendees negotiated the Paris Agreement—a global commitment to reduce greenhouse emissions which was signed by 174 countries, April 22, 2016 (Earth Day) in New York. This agreement encourages businesses to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. This agreement likely fueled a growing trend toward corporate social responsibility—not just toward climate change, but to our global community that faces issues of poverty, disease, disability, illiteracy, and a host of other challenges.

Corporate social responsibility can take many forms. At Tom’s Shoes, it’s part of their business model. For every pair of shoes sold, they donate a pair. The Walgreen’s “Get a shot. Give a shot.” Program, in cooperation with the United Nations Foundation, has provided 7 million life-saving vaccines to children in developing countries.

Even small businesses can make an impact by starting or expanding a recycling program, using more energy-efficient LED lighting with motion control sensors, or giving staff time off to deliver meals to the homebound. Even the smallest act matters.

And sometimes that small act grows into something wonderfully large.

Sheoga Hardwood Flooring vice president Barbara Titus was the spark that led to the National Wood Flooring Association’s involvement with the Gary Sinise Foundation and its commitment to helping build more accessible homes for people with disabilities through the foundation’s R.I.S.E. (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment) program.

Interactions with Kyle and Ashley Hockenberry. Photos courtesy of Sheoga Hardwood Flooring.
Kyle and Ashley Hockenberry. Photo courtesy of Sheoga Hardwood Flooring.

Titus had seen a story about war hero and triple-amputee Kyle Hockenberry of Marietta, Ohio, and the Gary Sinise Foundation’s plans to build a “smart house” customized with wider hallways, automatic doors, elevators and other conveniences to help the veteran be as independent as possible.

Titus wanted to make sure an Ohio-based manufacturer was involved. And the rest, as they say, is history. (Read more about the Gary Sinise Foundation R.I.S.E. program in Supporting Wounded Veterans One Floor at a Time)

But that’s only part of the Ohio-based company’s commitment. Sheoga Hardwood Flooring works closely with the Geauga Growth Partnership, a local organization that supports local businesses.

High school interns who participated in Sheoga’s internship program. Photo courtesy of Sheoga Hardwood Flooring.
High school interns who participated in Sheoga’s internship program. Photo courtesy of Sheoga Hardwood Flooring.

“We host a high school internship program that includes a career readiness day where volunteers help juniors and seniors prepare for interviews and write their resumes. Then some of those participants are hired by corporations as paid interns during their junior or senior years,” explained Titus.

At Sheoga, students get a comprehensive view of manufacturing. “We rotate them through every moulding side of the plant where they get involved in all phases of preparing the lumber for manufacture into solid or engineered flooring. Eventually, they go to production safety meetings, board meetings, management meetings and work in the office,” shared Titus.

The program benefits the community, the company and the student. The program has placed 34 students in 2016 and that number grows every year. Titus has seen firsthand how students have grown in confidence and skills during the program. The employees who mentor the students also benefit. “It gives our guys an opportunity to be a mentor and helps their self-esteem and self-worth as well,” She says. Sheoga Hardwood Flooring has even hired several employees from the program.

Titus has also seen morale increase with Sheoga’s involvement in the Gary Sinise Foundation. “It gives our employees a real morale boost when I come back from a home dedication and show them photos of these true warriors who had needs that weren’t being addressed. We’re making a difference by giving them their dignity and autonomy back.”

Sheoga Hardwood Flooring is also one of six companies that participates in NWFA’s Responsible Procurement Program which requires ensuring that all lumber they purchase is harvested responsibly. “We take sustainability very seriously,” says Titus. “We want forests for our future generations.”

Similarly, international wood flooring adhesives manufacturer MAPEI Corporation is committed to conducting business in a way that equally values social, environmental and economic factors—called the triple bottom line—to conserve environmental resources for the future of the planet.

Explained MAPEI Public Relations/Corporate Communications Specialist Diane Choate, “From recycling industry by-products for use in our products, to reinvesting 5 percent of our annual revenues in research and development of products that meet and exceed environmental standards, we’re committed to sustainability.” MAPEI also uses rapidly renewable, plant-based raw materials in many of its adhesives; has incorporated recyclable plastic bags in their packaging; and recycles many packaging and shipping materials in its warehouses.

On the community side, employees at MAPEI’s individual plants participate in community cleanups, sponsor education and training for young people considering the flooring trade, and provide flooring materials for the Gary Sinise Foundation’s R.I.S.E. program. Photos below courtesy of MAPEI.

Sheoga Hardwood Flooring’s Barbara Titus put it best when she said, “Having your soul fed when you do something this worthwhile and this needed… it’s very rewarding.”

Katrina Olson is an Illinois-based marketing consultant and freelance writer.
Reach her at katrina@katrinaolson.com.