Solving Problems Kim Lachance Shandrow  | November 20, 2018

These 8 Business Leaders Are Tackling Society’s Biggest Challenges

Companies that serve as powerful forces for good in communities consistently go above and beyond to make the world a better place. Every year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Corporate Citizenship Awards honors these purpose-driven leaders of enterprise. The awards recognize and celebrate the inspiring businesses forging a positive impact on the places and spaces in which they operate — and on the people who live and work within them.

This year’s USCCF annual Corporate Citizenship Awards, now in their 18th year, took place in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 17 at the Foundation’s Corporate Citizenship Conference. The awards saluted eight outstanding business leaders for their exceptional contributions to addressing some of our society’s greatest needs through innovation, education, expertise, capital and collaboration.

“Businesses are a powerful force for good, working to solve the challenges facing people across the globe,” said Marc DeCourcey, senior vice president for the U.S Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Corporate Citizenship Center. “It’s an honor to showcase the significant contributions of companies who have gone above and beyond to create real, lasting change in their communities and around the world.”

Here’s a look at this year’s winners — and the pressing problems they’re helping to solve:

Best Health and Wellness Program: UPS
Global shipping leader UPS, through its Humanitarian Relief & Resilience Program, leveraged its technology and logistics expertise to support Rwanda’s first national emergency medical supply delivery drone network.

The pioneering community initiative, which the UPS Foundation provided $1 million in funds to support, sends drones equipped with critical medical supplies to doctors performing complex surgeries in underserved hospitals. So far, the drone delivery network has executed more than 1,400 successful drone deliveries, putting life-saving red blood cells, platelets and plasma in the hands of rural doctors and patients within 30 minutes or fewer.

Best Commitment to Education Program: Cisco
There are 545,000 unfilled IT jobs across America today due to a STEM skills shortage. Digging deeper, research shows that 75 percent of our nation’s educators and students feel there is a gap in long standing diversity challenges, with minorities and women comprising 70 percent of college graduates but fewer than 45 percent of STEM degrees.

To address these systemic problems, Cisco introduced its revered Networking Academy. The legacy program equips participants with entry-level IT and and 21st-century career skills. To date, the Academy has prepared more than 6.9 million students across 170 countries in underserved communities for successful IT careers.

Best Environmental Stewardship Program: The Renewal Workshop
Approximately 10.5 million tons of clothing are dumped in landfills every year, making the material the fastest-growing form of trash. The Renewal Workshop set out to change that, joining forces with fashion retailers and brands to upcycle tossed-out apparel into reusable clothes, feedstock for recycling and more.

The Cascade Locks, Ore.-based company helps apparel brands and retailers solve their fabric waste issues by seeking out ways to recover value from the product, as opposed to simply getting rid of it. Opting for environmentally-friendly solutions, the small business recycles apparel waste back into its basic parts for reuse — returning it to yarns, fibers and fabrics to manufacture new apparel.

The Renewal Workshops renewal factory produces up to 6,000 renewed items per month. So far, the company has worked with eight brand partners and has sorted and renewed more than 10,000 garments from excess fabric and other materials.

Best Corporate Steward – Small and Mid-Market Business: Antis Roofing Company
Antis Roofing & Waterproofing’s founder and CEO Charles Antis believes in “erring on the side of generosity.” In fact, he hopes that his purpose-driven Irvine, Calif.-based family business serves to inspire other small and mid-sized companies to make a difference in their communities through volunteering and charitable efforts, just as his has since he took the entrepreneurial leap 28 years ago.

“The more I give, the better I sleep,” he told Free Enterprise, “and the more business I realize.”

Rolling up their sleeves — and living Antis’s mission to lead through positive example — 90 of his employees executed more than 100 Habitat For Humanity roof leak repairs, provided 10 large-scale roof maintenance and replacement projects, donating just under 700 hours of labor in 2016 alone. The single-location company also recently partnered with Orange County Ronald McDonald House Charities to broaden volunteer opportunities for its close-knit family of employees.

Best Disaster Response and Community Resilience Program: The Walt Disney Company
Amid the increasingly stark realities of climate change, there’s no denying that natural disasters are on the rise. In fact, there were 6,873 disasters worldwide from 1994 to 2013, claiming 1.35 million lives and affecting on average 218 million people per year, the United Nations reports.

In response, the Walt Disney Company, in partnership with the American Red Cross (ARC) and Save the Children (STC), is stepping up to better prepare children in underserved communities for natural disasters. Alongside these organizations, the legacy entertainment company works closely with schools and youth-focused organizations across America to educate children on how to best prepare for natural disasters.

In addition to a popular Pillowcase Project that equips children with sturdy pillowcases to store their personal emergency supply kits in, the company helped the ARC and STC design interactive, child-friendly tools to promote the importance of disaster risk reduction education. So far, this community initiative has helped hundreds of thousands of children around the world learn how to be ready for natural disasters — before and after they strike.

Best Corporate Steward – Large Business: Intel Corporation
Founded in 1968, Intel has a long history of leveraging innovative technology to empower people to contribute to the well-being of others and the planet. From its dedication to expanding diversity and inclusion, addressing human rights in its supply chain, and conserving energy and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, Intel’s commitment to shared value inspires of all its efforts.

The technology leader’s newest corporate social responsibility initiative is called Intel Innovation Generation. The program springboards off of the company’s legacy efforts to bridge the gap between the jobs of tomorrow and a lack of youth technology skills. The overarching goal of the program is to ensure that the next generation of innovators is diverse not only in gender and ethnicity, but geography as well.

To close critical gaps and to enhance today’s STEM workforce development, Intel’s youth empowerment programs offer hands-on technology education, innovation field experiences, employability skills training and more.

Best Community Improvement Program: The John Deere Foundation
The John Deere Foundation penned an inspiring partnership with PYXERA Global to develop the Joint Initiative for Village Advancement (JIVA), a program to help Smallholder farmers in three villages in Rajasthan, India. JIVA, which translates to “life” or “livelihood” in the local dialect, aims to improve agricultural productivity, increase educational opportunities and build basic infrastructure to improve the overall quality of life for local farmers and residents.

Since the program’s inception, the average income of area farmers has increased by 7.1 percent. Meanwhile, investments in education have increased 10th grade examination passing rates from 30 percent to more than 80 percent. Strides were also made in the farming practices of traditional crops in the area, with average increases in yields ranging from 15.3 percent for cotton to as high as 48.2 percent for sorghum, a corn-like grain cereal.

Best Economic Empowerment Program: Nestle Nespresso
Of the 3 million farmers who grow coffee in East Africa, 75 percent live in poverty. While coffee is one of the world’s most popular beverages, and there’s increasing demand for high-quality beans, many coffee farmers are unable to take full advantage of this economic opportunity.

And that’s precisely why global beverage leader Nespresso launched its AAA Sustainable Quality Program. The initiative educates underserved coffee farmers on how to access sustainable markets, adopt agronomic best practices, as well as on how to leverage bargaining power and processing equipment to yield improved coffee quality. To date, approximately 30,000 farmers, 38 percent of whom are women, have received hands-on AAA Academy training through the initiative, leading to higher incomes, environmental improvements and higher quality coffee.

For more information about this year’s U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Corporate Citizenship Awards winners, click here.