$431,616,130. That’s how much Growth 500 companies invested in philanthropic causes last year—a figure higher than the GDPs of 11 different countries. That’s more than $863,000 given by each company on the list. Here’s how they do it.
Power to the People
One of the major business benefits of having corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs is boosting employee morale. It’s blissfully simple: when we do good, we feel good. Instead of imposing a philanthropic mandate from the top down, many entrepreneurial leaders are putting the power in employees’ hands, giving them choice about where and how their efforts are spent. One example: in 2016, Ottawa-based Martello Technologies (No. 28) launched a program that allows employees to choose the causes the company will support. This, according to president and CEO John Proctor, has generated serious “ripple effects” in a vast breadth of communities; Martello employees have been behind efforts to create a scholarship for Indigenous students at the University of Toronto and finance a youth mountain biking program. Sure, this kind of program makes for some serious warm-and-fuzzy feelings. But according to Proctor, it has also enabled a work environment where employees feel heard, valued and supported. The result? Martello not only makes an impact in its community, but also builds a stronger one of its own. —Kailun Zhang
The Circle of Lifecycles
For many Growth 500 companies, sustainability is baked right into the business model. Several winning businesses are premised on the circular economy, a reimagined model that involves recirculating previously used resources back into the economy. Take Greenmantra Recycling Technologies (No. 20): the company diverts waste plastics from oceans and landfills and upcycles them into specialty materials that can be used for such purposes as roofing, paving and coating. Or Green Standards (No. 147), which helps businesses get rid of used office furniture—you know, those ratty old desk chairs and abandoned filing cabinets—and redistributes the equipment to non-profits, resellers and specialized recyclers. The concept of closed–loop resource consumption is one that has been championed globally, with world leaders and organizations pinning the circular economy as a key driver in achieving environmental sustainability and Paris Climate Agreement goals. By designing value chains that think beyond one product life cycle, an entire system of resilient, responsible and profitable business can be nurtured. To the companies already taking part, it has proven to be a winning game. —Kailun Zhang
Virtuous by design
30% of Growth 500 winners consider their businesses to be social enterprises—that is, organizations designed to create financial, social and environmental well-being in equal measures. That same cohort experienced average growth rates 6% higher than their peers. Coincidence, or correlation?
Perks of Philanthropy
1. “We’ve seen increased engagement and productivity with the team. It’s also strengthened our employer brand, which in turn has assisted in recruiting top talent.”
—Zamir Javer, CEO, Jumpfactor (No. 250)
2. “Personally, I couldn’t run my business without some element of ‘doing good.’ It’s the way I was raised and I believe it’s exceedingly important to lead by example. If it helps with staff engagement and retention, that’s simply a bonus.”
—Debra Goldblatt-Sadowski, president and founder, Rock-It Promotions (No. 432)
The future is philanthropic
We asked Growth 500 winners to share how much their companies donated to charitable, community, environmental and/or social causes, as a percentage of topline sales. The results?