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Utah Business

Social Responsibility Roundtable

Every month, Utah Business partners with Holland & Hart and Big-D Construction to host roundtable events featuring industry insiders. This month we invited business leaders known for being socially responsible to discuss what it means to have social responsibility. Moderated by Davis Smith, founder and CEO of Cotopaxi, here are a few highlights from the event.

Do nonprofits and businesses play a different role in the 21st century? 

Lori Morency Kun | Head of Social Impact | Qualtrics

I’m in the cancer research space and it wouldn’t be as far along as it is without the government, certainly. But we’re trying to create a model of how do we crowdfund cancer research? Only certain people can give millions. But what if everyone gave $5 for the fight against cancer? Those dollars add up and it really creates this model that will be sustainable.

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So the best manifestation of it is: what if another company would do an employee giving campaign where it’s just $5 per pay period and the aggregate of that grant goes out to fuel cancer research in this community? That’s kind of the model that we’re working on. How do we get everyone involved? How can we actually invite them to make it easy? Because at the end of the day, things need to be simple and easy for people to be part of it. 

Ayugi Ntambwe-Kalala | Senior Programs Manager | USANA True Health Foundation

I think self-sustainability is very important, and being able to keep going regardless of any influences outside of the work that you’re doing. And it’s something that we have been trying to do more. But a lot of the countries that we work with have traditionally had some programs that were funded through the UN or were funded by the US government. Over the two years, that funding has been pulled and so they have not been able to continue these programs.

As a result, we are shifting our approach to where we’re saying, “okay, how do we help this community? How do we help them get to where they want to get without having to hold their hand throughout the whole process? How do we help them be self-sufficient in a way that, even if the US government today said, ‘okay, we’re gonna come in and give this funding,’ and then they pulled it again, so that they’re not stuck?”

Tim Stay | CEO | The Other Side Academy

We worked on a model that was tremendously successful at helping people overcome the behaviors that led to addiction and criminal behavior. So why hasn’t this model grown and flourished across the country? We saw that all of those effective parts of it have been removed because of government influence or direction or control. And the one organization who kept independent and free from government money was able to retain those core elements that worked.

So we’ve built upon that model and we were very deliberate about saying, “we’ll take their money to help us with a capital expansion but not for operational expenses.” Because with the operational expenses, there’s so many strings that come attached that we think are detrimental to our model. So that’s also led to a real strong belief that we need to be self-reliant and that we can provide a solution by being self-reliant and independent and free from being dependent upon anyone else that we can do what’s best for the patient, not what’s best for the funding model.

How do we think that nonprofits and businesses can do a better job?

Heather Stringfellow | VP of Public Policy | Planned Parenthood Association of Utah

I went to a conference hosted by Twitter, Google, and Lyft, who said, “we’re inviting groups, nonprofits that work with women and families and lending you our best and brightest minds to think innovatively about how to rethink your business model, rethink the way that you do your outreach, and invest your donor base.” And to me, this is such an amazing idea, that these businesses who are invested in social innovation and social consciousness, not only, are creating a foundation and giving to nonprofits, but are also giving us their brainpower. That’s amazing.

Tim Stay | CEO | The Other Side Academy

I think over the last 20 years, we’ve seen a movement from both ends. But 20 years ago, you had nonprofits relying very much on all outside donations, government funds, things like that. We have businesses who’ve very seldom engaged in corporate responsibility. And we’ve since seen a movement from both ends moving to the middle. So we have nonprofits who are profitable, and companies like Cotopaxi who are very engaged in not just doing well, but doing good.

Thom Carter | Executive Director | Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR)

With air quality specifically here in Utah, the government can only do so much, right? The state government’s hands are tied by the federal government and what they can regulate and how they can implement those kinds of regulations. And so UCAIR was started as this idea of, “how do we engage these communities, these individuals, and these businesses to help people understand their own personal emissions space and how they can shift those behaviors?” So we go in and work with organizations to kind of fill that gap. We do a large-scale program in February called the Clear the Air Challenge, where it’s about encouraging businesses to encourage their people to reduce their mobile emissions. We can’t do this if we don’t raise money. And there’s only so much that government can do, especially in a state like Utah, so businesses and nonprofits have to fill that gap or we get nowhere.

What are some of the myths that you would like to debunk about social responsibility?

Sydnee Fox | Director of CSR Communications | Nu Skin

I think some people thought that this would come and go, but I think it’s here to stay with CSR in your business. It’s just not for revenues and I don’t think that’s going to change with the millennial generation. They’re a cause-based generation, they want to be part of something. And, if we can help them to be a part of something that’s bigger than them, they’re more likely to stay on the job. 

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And in the workplace, the millennials have kind of changed how we think about this. But, I think you’re going to see more and more businesses embrace CSR, and find a connection to their brands, and find a connection to their products. And it’s just going to continue to grow and be a win-win for everyone.

Thom Carter | Executive Director | Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR)

I think one of the myths that we run into is that, before you act, you need to have all the answers or that your small effort doesn’t mean anything. I think one of the things we run into is people saying, “well, I can’t have an impact so I’m not even going to try.” And what we see is the people who are willing to take a small step, make a small impact and that’s great. And your small impact can be aggregated together with everybody else’s small impact and we’re doing good things and it becomes a large impact. 

So I think, whether it’s corporations or nonprofits, or even individuals and communities, they just need to get out of their own way and try something. And once they try something, they’ll find that they’re having an enormous impact just by being engaged.

Scott Carr | Brand Manager | Malouf Foundation

Let’s say it’s not just for hippies, but it’s good for business. Our founders started the Malouf Foundation [to donate] millions of dollars, thousands of dollars, but most employees can’t do that. But what the employees can do is give their time or their skillset. So internally we have video teams, designers, copywriters, all these [thinkers who can give] their time, their resources, their mental capacity, even though they don’t have the financial means to.

How are your organizations encouraging employees and customers to give back?

Ayugi Ntambwe-Kalala | Senior Programs Manager | USANA True Health Foundation

USANA has really embraced this whole idea of giving back. And you know, a few years ago it was like pulling teeth trying to get people on board. But we have a CEO now who is all about it and it’s been amazing. There’s a couple things that we’ve done and the very first one is what we call service week. It’s a week every year that is set aside for service. And every employee in the building is, I don’t want to say required, but heavily encouraged to go out and serve. We encourage people to go to whatever they’re passionate about. It doesn’t have to be with the USANA True Health foundation.

Holly Mero-Bench | Director | Vivint Gives Back

Vivint Gives Back is funded through employee donations and then Vivint matches those donations. We right now are in the middle of our charity week [and we’ll raise] about $1.2 million. We work really hard to get everybody involved, this is a part of a Vivint. Just the power of one individual, one company, one week, and doing good together, makes everybody feel bought into what we’re doing.

Cory Talbot | Partner | Holland & Hart

The legal profession is a little unique in that every member of the bar in every state in the US commits to doing 50 hours a years pro bono work. We all know there are too many lawyers, so that should solve all pro bono needs, but it really doesn’t. The Utah Supreme Court a couple of years ago came out with a study that said, if you have a legal dispute and it’s worth less than just about a hundred thousand dollars, you’re probably not going to be able to find effective legal representation given the cost of the services that you need.

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Here, it’s very much the opposite. And our attorneys are expected to do a hundred hours of pro bono work. And, the pro bono committee that I’m on, the purpose of that is not to beat people into getting a hundred hours of pro bono service, but to find opportunities and to reach out into the community and encourage our attorneys to at least get to a hundred hours a year. So that’s one thing I really enjoy in legal professionals―their commitment, and especially our firm’s commitment to providing pro bono services.

What are some ways individuals and other companies can get involved with your initiatives? 

Cathleen Sparrow | Chief Development Officer | Volunteers of America, Utah

Our funding is 23 percent private and 77 percent government. And so we ask people to donate whatever they can. A lot of times people feel like the big gifts are what makes a difference, but it’s collectively all the small gifts. And then finally volunteer. We have volunteer opportunities at our brand new shelter, which is the Women’s Resource Center. And then lastly, donate and volunteer from January to August. Everybody does it from September to Christmas and we love that, but all of us need things year-round.

Sydnee Fox | Director of CSR Communications | Nu Skin

At Nu Skin, if you purchase an Epoch product, 25 cents of that product will go to the Nu Skin Force for Good Foundation, where 100 percent of funds go to support children in need. So, that’s one way that people can get involved. Another way is to purchase and donate a VitaMeal―a product that’s formulated for malnourished children. We donate that to one of our charity partners who make sure it’s delivered to a child in need. 

Tim Stay | CEO | The Other Side Academy

There are a couple of ways that community can become involved with the Other Side Academy. One is to utilize our The Other Side Movers if you need to move, or know someone who is moving. We also have The Other Side Thrift Boutique on 4290 S State Street, if you want to support our services there. And I would say if any of you have a clientele that are in a disadvantaged place and need free moving, we do that regularly. Our last offer is if any of you have events or things where you need some extra manpower, we’re happy to volunteer for those as well. We often invite community members to come speak every Wednesday night so our students can try to connect back to the community, because at the heart of this is the issue of disconnection. It’s not the addiction that has led to these issues.

Scott Carr | Brand Manager | Malouf Foundation

What we’re trying to do [through the Malouf Foundation’s On Watch Campaign] is to be able to help people see the signs and stop the cycle of sexual exploitation of children. It’s broken up into about 10 different training sessions that are about an hour long on our website. We encourage people to watch, be informed, and know the signs themselves and to be able to do something about it when you see it. We also have a VIP program. Basically, you get wholesale pricing on any Malouf sleep product and then 20 percent of the proceeds from that product will be donated, either towards your own foundation, or your own nonprofit, or towards the Malouf Foundation.