Best Culture & Arts
Harman Inspired is Harman’s global initiative empowering the next generation to realize their possibilities through music, technology and service. Launched on Oct. 1, 2015, the program is helping to bring music and more advanced technology to over 400,000 K-12 classrooms across the country by partnering with Little Kids Rock. Little Kids Rock is a national music education nonprofit. Through this program, the partnership aims to strengthen music education in inner-city public schools by funding the development of a new music technology curriculum.
“Our goal at HARMAN is to inspire the next generation to realize their possibilities through the power of music, technology and service and we are proud and honored to be part of establishing music education opportunities for students across the nation and world,” Dinesh Paliwal, CEO of Harman said.
With HARMAN’s support, Little Kids Rock will hire a HARMAN Technology Education Fellow to develop a brand new technology curriculum for the Little Kids Rock network. This curriculum will be used by the nearly 1,500 public school teachers who have been trained and equipped by Little Kids Rock to run its innovative Modern Band program in schools, which teach kids to play, compose and improvise the popular music styles that are culturally relevant to them. As part of their commitment to bringing music education to underserved communities, HARMAN also donates professional grade equipment.
More than 50 communities have been impacted to date, with more than 76,000 kids reached.
A 20-year-old initiative, ArtSpeak! brings noted theater artists (and sometimes artists from other genres such as dance, classical music and jazz) into public schools to meet students. The goal is to excite young people about theater and the arts, and do this in a dynamic way. In addition to a moderated interview on stage, these artists also perform. Musical theater artists sing about four songs as part of their appearance. To further engage the audience, various tools are used, including having a student “guest interviewer” for part of the program, having students appear on stage as hosts, doing an audience Q&A, having the artists sign autographs after the formal program so everyone can meet them up close and personal and playing ArtSpeak! trivia where anyone can win autographed CDs from the guests, theater tickets, and more.
The program also helps teach marketing skills. A group of students from each school hosting ArtSpeak! (they travel between numerous public schools) is responsible for marketing the event and getting the message out to the audience. Shugoll sends staff to train them on how to execute. This Student Marketing Council is then rewarded with the opportunity to meet the artist and ask their specific questions before the main program.
ArtSpeak! is intended to be accessible to all: It is totally underwritten by Shugoll Research and is free to the public. Past ArtSpeak! guests include some of the biggest stars on Broadway, such as Patti LuPone, Audra McDonald, Kristin Chenoweth, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Sutton Foster, Kelli O’Hara, Lea Michele, Laura Benanti, Stephen Schwartz and the late Marvin Hamlisch.
As part of Shugoll Research’s commitment to the arts, they do a significant amount of pro bono research for arts organizations. A consistent finding from audience research in the arts is that young people do not attend, particularly when the arts are cut out of school curricula. ArtSpeak! works to overcome this lack of interest in attending arts events by presenting a program with well-known stars in a fun and intimate environment that is also educational. Plus, providing this program in public schools fills some of the void of arts cuts in these schools. To further support the commitment to the arts, Shugoll Research management serves on a variety of arts Boards.
Shugoll Research has developed other programs within this initiative including TheatreTrips!, which underwrote theater tickets for students K-12, and the Shugoll Research Voice Scholarship Fund targeted at students of minority backgrounds to help them excel in the arts at their schools.
Best K-12 Initiative
CommonBond is a leading student lender that’s disrupting traditional finance by offering simpler, smarter, more affordable student loans, and helping thousands of members save millions of dollars. The company also has created the first—and only—one-for-one model of its kind in the industry.
Through CommonBond, members gain access to a robust suite of low-fixed and variable-rate student loan products to refinance existing student loans after graduation or to finance an MBA while in school.
Then, for every degree fully funded on the CommonBond platform, they fund the tuition of a student in need for a full year through its partnership with Pencils of Promise.
Social Promise is built on the idea of CEO and Cofounder Dave Klein, who says that “business can and should be a positive force for change.”
Based in NYC, PoP has donated over $400,000 and helped thousdands of kids in the developing world gain unprecedented access to schools, teachers and technology. Plus, each year, a group of CommonBond employees and members travel to Ghana to meet the students and communities they’re impacting firsthand, in what participants have called a “life-changing” experience.
Recyclebank has been working toward a waste-free future by focusing on the real-world impact of inspiring and motivating individuals. By partnering with communities and brands, Recyclebank leverages its Marketing-as-a-Service (MaaS) Platform utilizing data, education and incentives to encourage more than 3 million members to make better purchasing and disposal habits.
Residents who participate in Recyclebank programs earn points for recycling and other green actions, such as taking online pledges and quizzes to learn how to recycle correctly. They then can use their earned points for various incentives, from local and national rewards, to charitable and Green Schools donations.
Since 2007, the RecycleBank Green Schools Program has awarded close to $500,000 to more than 150 schools for projects designed to creatively improve their schools.
With Recyclebank’s Green Schools Program, local schools submit a proposal with a budget of up to $2,500 on how they can make their school more sustainable (schools must be located in a participating community to be eligible).
Recyclebank selects the top 50 proposals and posts them on its site. Then, any Recyclebank member can donate his or her points to a school project. One dollar is rewarded for every 250 points donated, and schools receive a check to fund their projects based on the amount of points they received as donations from Recyclebank members.
Best Higher Education Initiative
UBS’s signature Americas education initiative aims to increase college graduation rates among lower-income, first-generation college students by connecting them with competitive schools and resources that position them for career success. A $10 million, five-year commitment, UBS NextGen Leaders is expanding college success through two innovative programs: the TalentED Project is a partnership with the Tennessee College Access & Success Network (TCASN) and Discovery Education. It was established as an online community of college access and admissions professionals to match high potential students with schools that increase their likelihood of graduation and future success.
The second program is UBS-SEO College Scholars, a free five-year intensive college success program that was launched in 2014. Designed in partnership with SEO Scholars, it prepares 125 African American and Hispanic/Latino young men to attend competitive schools and continue to graduation.
The program is aligned with President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, which is dedicated to providing ladders of opportunity to young men of color and was highlighted by the White House in its “One-Year Progress Report to the President.”
Best Environment Initiative
Cocoa Life represents a long-term commitment to sustainability that also strengthens the chocolate business at Mondelez International, the world’s largest chocolate company.
Cocoa Life’s groundbreaking approach links cocoa farming with community development in programs ranging from detailed farming-technique training to education and literacy programs, to business management and financial literacy.
Cocoa grows in a narrow tropical zone and is quite vulnerable to climate change. Cocoa Life empowers farmers to take simple actions to lessen the impact of climate change and reduce their collective carbon footprint by tackling deforestation. The program operates in the six regions in which Mondelez International sources its cocoa—Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Indonesia, India, Dominican Republic and Brazil.
This initiative provides benefits for those that are involved in the supply chain across several elements. The program helps farmers improve greater yields, which, in turn, lead to higher incomes, and allows men and women to work together to transform their communities, thereby fostering more equality. It also improves business skills and provides access to microcredit, appeals to youth by making cocoa farming a more attractive profession, develops jobs and training in the village, and protects the land and forests in which cocoa is grown to maintain ecosystems for future generations.
Company: Mohawk Fine Papers
Initiative: Greenhouse Gas Reduction Initiative
Started in 1931, Mohawk Fine Papers is a fourth-generation, family-owned manufacturer of paper, specialty non-paper substrates, envelopes and specialty converting. Because paper is a highly disposable item, produced in vast quantities in a very resource- and energy-intensive process, the company believes that conserving energy while supporting emission-free energy projects and responsible forestry practices are fundamental to mitigating climate change.
Mohawk has a firm commitment to recycling—for example, it manufactures two 100 percent recycled products that have earned Forest Stewardship Council certification. Every paper manufactured by Mohawk carries the “Mohawk windpower” designation. In addition to supporting renewable energy, Mohawk commits significant resources to minimize harmful emissions from its mills. State-of-the-art steam plants have been installed to greatly reduce the amount of air pollutants, and air emissions have been capped at a level that will remain set regardless of production increases.
The company also conserves energy throughout its organization and participates in state-sponsored energy research and conservation programs. The results of these savings have been dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that have earned Mohawk a reputation for environmental leadership
Best Sustainability Initiative
Initiative: Internet of Bees
In 2015, Dell’s Limerick, Ireland, campus created a “smart” hive of more than 20,000 bees. This pilot project, driven by the group’s employees, was designed to showcase the broad range of impacts that IoT can have on society, the economy and nature. It saw a hive equipped with sensors to monitor the bees’ activity levels as well as the hive’s carbon dioxide, temperature and humidity levels. The data helped the keepers better tend the hive, but the information was also shared globally with other researchers studying hive and colony health.
Once the proof-of-concept was validated, the bee colony was safely relocated to a nearby farm. The “Internet of Bees” sustainability initiative used the Limerick campus roof for urban beekeeping, where it was placed beside a garden that had already been developed to drive a broad range of sustainable initiatives at the Dell campus.
For instance, engineers from the Internet of Things lab used this garden to develop an end-to-end hive-monitoring solution that showed how technology can have a positive impact on Mother Nature.
Burgerville is a restaurant chain in the Pacific Northwest with 42 locations, known for its progressive business practices and commitment to local resources. It offsets the electricity use of all of its restaurants and its corporate headquarters with renewable energy credits. Burgerville uses only trans fat-free canola oil and sends 7,500 gallons per month to be transformed into biodiesel fuel.
In 2004, Burgerville switched to range-fed beef raised without hormones and antibiotics. In 2007, it began composting food waste, which is expected to result in an 85 percent reduction in waste and $100,000 in savings annually. Additionally, Burgerville sources from local ranch and farm providers whenever possible—72 percent of its food comes from within 400 miles of the headquarters in Vancouver, Washington.
Project 7 is a specialty gum and mint brand dedicated to providing quality products while giving back to seven areas of need. Project 7 partners with seven nonprofits: Save the Earth (helps to plant trees back into the earth); House the Homeless (provides emergency relief in the event of a natural disaster); Feed the Hungry (helps provide meals in U.S. communities); Quench the Thirsty (helps provide clean drinking water to those in need); Heal the Sick (helps provide life-saving malaria treatments to people in need); Teach Them Well (helps provide daily school education in developing nations); and Hope for Peace (helps put students through anti-bullying programs).
So far, Project 7 has planted 3.4 million trees, provided 1 million meals to American communities, and provided around 40,000 people with fresh water for a year.
Best Community & Economic Development Initiative
IBM’s Corporate Service Corps provides small businesses, social enterprises, educational and governmental institutions and community organizations in developing countries with teams of 10-15 top-performing IBM employees for one month to aid select projects at the intersection of business, technology and society.
Since its launch in 2008, the Corporate Service Corps has had a positive impact on the lives of more than 140,000 people through skills transfer and capacity building and has provided over $80 million in pro bono consulting.
The program has sent over 3,200 participants on more than 250 teams to more than 30 countries around the world. Participants have come from over 60 countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Cambodia, Chile, China, Colombia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Vietnam, UAE and Ukraine.
The program continues to expand to new locations each year. At the same time, it benefits IBM and IBMers by increasing IBM’s understanding and appreciation of growth markets, while creating global leaders who are culturally aware and possess advanced teaching skills. A global business and service perspective is instilled in program participants and community partners through a dynamic business environment promoting social, business and economic development.
Eyewear provider Warby Parker tallies up the number of glasses sold and makes a monthly donation to its nonprofit partners, which covers the cost of sourcing the glasses. The nonprofits train men and women in developing countries to give basic eye exams and sell glasses in their communities at affordable prices.
Warby Parker sells the glasses rather than donates them because, in its opinion, donating is a temporary solution and creates a culture of dependency. Training people to offer basic eye exams and sell glasses at affordable prices allows them to earn a living. More importantly, it forces their partners to offer glasses that people actually want to buy: glasses that fit with local styles, look good, work well and make the wearer feel incredible.
To date, Warby Parker has distributed more than 2 million pairs of glasses to people in need. The impact is clear: one pair of glasses sold increases monthly income by 20 percent and productivity by 35 percent.
One of the biggest challenges faced by people who have lost their jobs and/or their homes is getting back on their feet. Without the resources to purchase a workplace-appropriate wardrobe, it can be hard to land a position that will bring these individuals back to financial security. That’s why apparel retailer Twillory launched its RE:Purpose program, which delivers donated work attire to underprivileged men.
Through its partnership with Career Gear, a charity that offers professional clothing, mentoring and life skills to men in need, Twillory helps its customers clear out their old but gently used clothes while contributing to someone else’s success.
Whenever a purchase is made at Twillory, included in the package is a pre-paid mailer bag that a customer can use to donate his unwanted work clothes free of charge. A motto for the program is “Cleaning your closet is good. Filling someone else’s is great.”
Best Health & Social Services Initiative
Company: Estee Lauder
Initiative: MAC AIDS Fund
Estée Lauder’s MAC Cosmetics brand is committed to the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. Since the founding of the MAC AIDS Fund in 1994, MAC has raised more than $430 million (the most in this industry), and $41 million in 2014 alone.
The MAF is the largest corporate foundation and second largest private donor in the United States for HIV/AIDS causes. The fund is focused on three action areas: providing life-saving treatment and care, helping people live longer and healthier lives, and prevention of new infections.
Through a unique 100 percent giving model, every cent of the sale price of VIVA GLAM lipstick and lip gloss is donated to MAF and other programs that help men, women and children affected by HIV/AIDS. The sale of one MAC VIVA GLAM lipstick supports, for example, one month of public transport for a person to travel to and from doctors’ appointments, one counseling session for an HIV positive individual, or 23 female condoms or 233 male condoms.
In addition, the MAC Teams Grants Programs allows three or more MAC employees to volunteer for an eligible HIV/AIDS foundation and earn $1,000 for the chosen organization for every 15 cumulative volunteer hours.
Revolution Foods strives to increase access to high quality, nutritious and delicious food year round. Since 2006, the company has dished out more than 200 million meals to students across the United States through federally funded feeding programs.
To bring its mission to life, the company partners with best-in-class organizations to support schools and after-school programs with nutrition education programs that empower students to make smarter eating decisions.
The DC Free Summer Meals Program is one program that fills the gap between school-year feeding programs by providing a source of quality nutrition during vulnerable summer months. Parents benefit from some help in stretching their food dollars and by knowing that their children are receiving healthy meals in a supportive environment.
Revolution Foods was honored to serve meals through three of the largest summer sponsors—D.C. Public Schools, D.C. Parks & Recreation, and the Capital Area Food Bank (D.C. branch)—providing 40,000 meals daily to children and youth during the past summer.
Based in Los Angeles, LSTN Sound Co. produces sustainably made, high-quality headphones and other audio products, including earbuds and speakers.
For every purchase, LSTN, in partnership with the Starkey Hearing Foundation, helps restore hearing for a person in need by providing hearing exams and hearing aids. Around the world, there are some 360 million people with some level of hearing impairment.
In just three years, LSTN has helped more than 20,000 people dealing with hearing loss in countries including Peru, Uganda, Kenya, China and Sri Lanka, as well as the United State
Best Disaster Relief Initiative
Cisco’s Tactical Operations (TacOps) is a first response team working to establish emergency communications in the wake of disasters, when communication systems are crippled, so that government agencies and humanitarian organizations can coordinate relief efforts and speed food, water and medical care to those in need.
TacOps began in 2003 with the original purpose of military support. But after Hurricane Katrina, they shifted focus to humanitarian crises. They’ve become increasingly mobile, first with the introduction of the Network Emergency Response Vehicles (NERVs) in 2007, and more recently with their portable emergency communication kits. Their first international deployment was to the Haiti earthquake in 2010. To date, they have assisted in more than 30 disasters worldwide.
In 2009, entrepreneur and outdoor adventurer Bryan Papé wanted to create a more functional, customizable water bottle. In the process of creating MiiR, Papé learned that nearly a billion people don’t have access to clean drinking water. Wanting to help, he incorporated a giving initiative directly into the brand: For every MiiR water bottle purchased, one person is given clean water for an entire year.
The MiiR Give has contributed to more than 55 water projects in Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa of various types, including biosand filters, construction and rehabilitation of water systems, and supporting hygiene and sanitation programs.
Every product MiiR makes funds the MiiR Give through trackable giving projects. From its hydration line, which gives directly to clean water, sanitation and hygiene projects, to its bag line, which supports education initiatives around the world, MiiR gives 5 percent of its topline revenue to organizations with sustainable methods of empowerment.
For every bike that MiiR builds/sells, it supports a bike project in a developing country. What’s more, with every purchase a customer makes, they can use their email and product code to track where and how their purchase has changed a life.
Best Children’s Initiative
Initiative: Project Baiterek
Historically, diabetes care has been underfunded in Kazakhstan, which has vast regional differences in access to quality health care.
In 2015, medical technology provider Medtronic completed an innovative partnership, Project Baiterek, with the Kazakhstan government, local thought leaders and patient advocacy groups to improve health outcomes for children suffering from the disease. The program, focused on access to therapy, local capacity building and infrastructure development.
In the pilot program, focused on youth ages 5-15, use of insulin pump therapy increased from 2 percent to more than 50 percent. The program demonstrated that the therapy is cost-effective and increases both life expectancy and quality of life, while enabling children to stay in school.
The program also provided world-class training for 266 health care professionals.
Based on the positive experience of all parties involved, Project Baiterek has expanded from the pilot phase to include all children in Kazakhstan with diabetes. The outcome was good for Medtronic as well: since FY2011, Project Baiterek has generated significant revenue growth for the company in the region.
BedGear became the pioneer in the performance bedding category in 2009 when the CEO, Eugene Alletto, learned that his son wasn’t sleeping well due to bedding-related allergies. He was advised to use a mattress protector to keep away dust.
Recognizing a need in the marketplace for improved bedding products, Alletto developed performance fabric technology. Today, BedGear is currently sold in over 4,000 locations and in the top 100 specialty bedding retailers.
Sleep Fuel Foundation is BedGear’s way of giving back to the community. Sleep Fuel is a nonprofit organization that offers free interactive sleep deprivation programs to youth of all school ages. Its mission is to wake kids up to the importance of proper sleep.
Eighty percent of American students are chronically sleep-deprived. There are multiple programs to fit the needs of all students and their caregivers. Topics covered include sports performance, grades, IQ, memory, ADD/ADHD, obesity, growth, healing, light and the culture of sleep belittlement. All information provided is based on referenced, peer-reviewed scientific studies.
For 20 years, Anton’s Cleaners of Lowell, Massachusetts, has led its annual Coats for Kids drive—throughout its 42 New England-based stores. Coats are accepted from October through early January.
Anton’s provides flyers and posters to promote the program, for all 200 New England companies participating, and the company cleans all donated garments free of charge.
Last year 68,000 people received the gift of warmth thanks to Coats for Kids.
Participating businesses love getting involved—and it’s a great way for their staff members to clean their closets, recycle clothing and help keep people warm during the winter season. Once collected and cleaned, coats are distributed through the Coats for Kids Distribution Partners network, which includes organizations such as Massachusetts Community Action Programs (MASSCAP), Salvation Army, Middlesex Human Service Agency, BU Medical Center Outreach Van Project, Wish Project, Community Giving Tree, Mental Health Association of Greater Lowell, Strafford County Community Action and Catholic Charities.
Best Civic & Public Affairs
Operation IMPACT (Injured Military Pursuing Assisted Career Transition) is a diversity program focused on assisting severely wounded service members as they transition from the military to a private-sector career. Should a service member be unable to work due to the severity of his or her injuries, the same support will be extended to a member of his or her immediate family who may be seeking employment.
Personalized career transition support through Operation IMPACT is provided to the most severely wounded service members transitioning from military service to their next career opportunity.
Company: Seventh Generation
Initiative: ComeClean Campaign
Seventh Generation believes that customers have the right to know what’s in the products they buy, including feminine hygiene products. If tampons and pads do not need fragrances and deodorants to be effective, then why is the industry adding them to your feminine products and not disclosing what is in them?
Seventh Generation believes that customers should have the right to know what they are using on their most sensitive areas, and is therefore launching an integrated marketing campaign called ComeClean. The campaign features Seventh Generation products and Maya Rudolph, and encourages other companies in the industry to disclose the ingredients they use in their products while simultaneously placing pressure on them to use healthier ingredients.
The ComeClean Campaign is much more than what the interns found (above). It encompasses chemical disclosure for all kinds of products, not just feminine hygiene products. Seventh Generation is known for its commitment to sustainability across the board. They also put out an annual Corporate Consciousness Report (see 2015’s here). Their big thing now with ComeClean is getting consumers to contact legislators to demand chemical disclosure in various products. The CEO is very involved in the programs.