Free Enterprise Staff  | November 23, 2016

These 8 Corporate Business Leaders Are Tackling The World’s Biggest Challenges

Every year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Corporate Citizenship Awards honor businesses that go above and beyond to make the world a better place. These standout companies serve as powerful forces for good in communities throughout the country and across the world.

This year’s awards ceremony, held on Nov. 17 in Washington, D.C., recognized and celebrated eight corporate businesses leaders for their outstanding contributions to addressing some of our society’s greatest needs through expertise, innovation, capital, and collaboration.

“Businesses act as a powerful force for good in their communities every single day, and these winners reflect some of the best social and community initiatives within the business sector,” Marc DeCourcey, senior vice president for the U.S Chamber Foundation’s Corporate Citizenship Center, said in a statement. “It is an honor to showcase the contribution of these eight companies, who are setting the bar for excellence in corporate citizenship.”

Here’s a look at this year’s winners and the important problems they’re each tackling.

FedEx: Best Disaster Response and Community Resilience Program

FedEx was quick to take action in response to the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25, 2015. Immediately after learning of the devastating quake, the shipping giant’s Global Citizenship arm began mobilizing its disaster relief partner network.

“It was like a giant chess game happening in real time with all hands on deck,” a FedEx spokesperson wrote in the company’s Chamber Foundation Corporate Citizenship Awards application. “Lives were at stake if relief aid didn’t arrive. Thankfully, FedEx team members are all experts at what they do and eagerly rose to the challenge. Collectively, we developed a workable solution that was executed flawlessly.”

Together with Heart to Heart International, Water Missions, and Direct Relief, the Memphis, Tenn.-headquartered company transported more than 178,000 pounds of relief supplies—including medical equipment, medicine, food, shelters, and water purification tools— from the U.S. to Kathmandu. In all, the company provided $1 million in charitable support, including chartered flights, transportation support, and cash donations.

Best Environmental Stewardship Program: Optoro

Optoro is on a mission to minimize landfill waste while paving the way for a future of sustainable commerce. The Washington, D.C.-based tech firm works with retailers and manufacturers, such as Home Depot and many others, to manage and resell their returned and excess merchandise. The company’s software helps retailers sell these goods directly to consumers, bypassing landfills altogether.

This year, Optoro partnered with Groupon to its handle returns in order to springboard the local commerce platform’s sustainability goals. “At Groupon, we are always looking for innovative partners that will help us become a more sustainable, profitable, and community-oriented business,” said Groupon Goods vice president of logistics Andrew Bowerman. “The Optoro solution enables us to do all three by reducing waste and carbon emissions in the supply chain, increasing recovery, and providing consumers with great deals.”

Best Health and Wellness Program: Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC)

Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC), an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, is the largest customer-owned health insurance company in the U.S. As part of its core commitment to corporate social responsibility, the Chicago-headquartered company partners with the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest to improve the quality of care delivered to pediatric asthma patients.

As part of the “Enhancing Care for Children with Asthma” project, the two organizations worked closely together for more than three years to roll out community-based programs that improved the health outcomes of children with asthma through various training and awareness efforts.

Best Corporate Steward—Large Business: GSK

GSK, the global healthcare company behind the world’s first malaria vaccine candidate and a groundbreaking HIV treatment called AZT, aims to “help people do more, feel better, and live longer.”

The company, which operates on a shared-value social impact business model, increases access to medicines and invests in research to combat diseases in the developing world. In 2015 alone, GSK doubled the amount of the medicine it supplies to sub-Saharan African countries as part of its Investing in Africa and Developing Countries initiative. Additionally, it supported the training of more than 40,000 healthcare workers who assisted 11 million underserved individuals.

Best Corporate Steward—Small and Mid-Market Business: Network for Good

Network for Good, a Certified B Corporation, provides fundraising management software to some 125,000 small- to mid-sized charities and nonprofits, enabling them to raise a collective $1 billion-plus from millions of donors. By sharing expert advice and mentorship, as well as data-driven insights, the Washington, D.C.-based enterprise allows nonprofits and charities to build highly targeted fundraising campaigns that not only meet or exceed fundraising goals but also convert one-time supporters into repeat donors.

Best Economic Empowerment Program: Walmart

As the world’s largest retailer, Walmart works with others to leverage its strengths—its jobs, brand reach, and philanthropic initiatives—to create a “more inclusive economic system that increases mobility and growth in countries around the world.”

The company’s Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative (WEE) is built upon its commitment to source products from women-owned businesses and to train those business owners on how to develop and scale their ventures. Since 2012, Walmart has trained more than 762,000 female founders across the globe and sourced in excess of $16 billion in products and services from women-owned businesses.

Best Community Improvement Program: The Wonderful Company

When The Wonderful Company found its way to the unincorporated farming community of Lost Hills, Calif., it found hope for its residents. The agricultural giant—maker of POM Wonderful, Wonderful Pistachios, and Fiji Water—has operated in the surrounding area for three-plus decades. Its reach goes so deep in Lost Hills that 50 percent of households in the town are home to at least one person who works at its pistachio plant 13 miles away.

Giving back to those who work to further its mission and reach, The Wonderful Company has invested more than $15 million to revitalize the Central Valley town. Thanks to its continued commitment to improving the dusty rural sprawl, and the lives of those who call it home, long-abandoned parks are now lush soccer fields where children are safe to play.

A Wonderful community center illuminated by solar-powered lights bustles daily with activity. And a once-blighted basketball court has made an impressive rebound. Next Fall, a charter elementary school supported by the company will open its doors, further extending the restored sense of pride brought back to its neighborhoods.

Best Commitment to Education Program: Lockheed Martin

Through its innovative Imagine Science program, Lockheed Martin is doing its part to inspire children across America to learn about the wonders of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Recognizing that the U.S. lags in academic performance—ranking 17th in science and 25th in mathematics among industrialized countries—the global aerospace company has made advancing STEM education a critical focus.

To increase access to STEM learning opportunities, Lockheed funds educational programs for elementary- through college-age students, with a special emphasis on initiatives that enhance teacher development, student achievement, and diverse (gender and ethnic) participation. The company has joined forces with some of the nation’s largest youth development organizations—including Girls Inc., the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and the National 4-H Council—to inspire underserved children to explore STEM.