Corporate citizenship is thriving

Jul 24, 2009

Last week I attended a conference on Corporate Community Involvement in Chicago. I was interested to hear how the economic environment is affecting corporate citizenship in other businesses.

Despite the recession, Amway has continued to grow. We have also been fortunate to have solid backing of corporate citizenship values from our leadership. However, our company continues to push innovation, cost reduction and growth. So even though we are not facing the drastic pressures other companies are, we continually ask what we can do better, and how we can add business value.

What I saw with other companies is that corporate citizenship is not at risk of going away; it’s just beginning to grow in earnest. However, the outcomes of corporate citizenship activities are coming into sharper focus. And there is more focus on tying citizenship efforts to business value.

Companies used to measure success by the number of activities they are doing or the number of people served in our communities. Now we are asking what change our activities are making – what are the true outcomes.

We see that trend at Amway. We measure our One by One activity numbers – $70 million given, 1 million volunteer hours, 6 million children impacted. But at the local level, each program is measured by specific outcomes.

In Japan, we measure the level of awareness and reduction of child abuse and neglect. In Turkey, it’s the education level of children in an impoverished area of the country, served by a newly built school. In the Philippines, it’s literacy rates of the children who take part in a storytelling program with local distributors. In Australia, it’s how many special needs children have customized bicycles of their own. In West Michigan, it’s test scores of inner-city students who receive scientific calculators they cannot afford on their own.

The same holds for other aspects of corporate citizenship within our company, some that are just taking shape. We are looking at ways we can use our product knowledge to help children who are undernourished and to help families that do not have access to clean water. We are taking a comprehensive look at our operations and how we can make them even more sustainable – from energy reduction, to recycling, to the life cycle of our products.

Despite the severe economic climate, I’m not seeing companies looking for cuts or shortcuts in their citizenship activities. Instead, they seem to be incorporating sustainable, values-based solutions into the way they view innovation and they way they affect social issues around them. These efforts add measurable value to our communities, and to our companies.

It’s an exciting time to be part of this wave that will shape the way we do business in the future.

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