Giving something back to society
US companies supported 7,300 community projects last year, including initiatives in the areas of education, sport, health, STEM, culture, homelessness, social justice and inclusion
Of the approximately 700 US companies operating in Ireland, 69 per cent have formal CSR programmes. Photograph: iStock
A report prepared last year for the American Chamber of Commerce by a research from Notre Dame College revealed the extent and impact of corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities by US companies in Ireland. The Beyond Business: The Social Impact of US Investment in Ireland report found that US companies supported 7,300 community projects last year, including initiatives in the areas of education, sport, health, STEM, culture, homelessness, social justice and inclusion.
The report also showed that 52,150 staff at US companies were engaged in CSR over 603,237 company-supported volunteer hours during 2016 alone. In addition, of the approximately 700 US companies operating in Ireland, 69 per cent have formal CSR programmes; 61 per cent support individual employee volunteering; 73 per cent support projects that are youth-related; 66 per cent have formal CSR budgets; and 55 per cent publish CSR statements
“A huge proportion of the projects supported are education- and skills-related,” says Miriam O’Keeffe of the American Chamber. “For example, Abbott has really active programmes that target families as well as students. In 2009, the company’s programmes reached 10,000 students. The company’s Operation Discovery is targeted at second-level schools and bring students in to see what working in the medical technology sector would be like.”
There are also direct tie-ins with the third-level sector. “Many member firms are developing really important relationships with their local institutes of technology,” O’Keeffe adds. “Pramerica has formed a great relationship with Letterkenny Institute of Technology where courses are being designed to meet its needs while MSD has built a strong partnership with Carlow Institute of Technology. ”
Google is playing its part in helping people participate in the digital society. “In Ireland, our outreach includes working with content creators, start-ups, established SMEs, trade organisations, NGOs, teachers and young people, as well as older people to enhance their digital skills,”says Fionnuala Meehan, vice president and head of Google in Ireland. “People of all ages, backgrounds and interests have taken part in our training programmes. As an example of the impact of our outreach, we have just celebrated the three-year anniversary of our partnership with Trinity College on the Trinity Access programme, a Google-funded initiative to promote computer science in schools where third-level education is not the norm. Over these three years, we have enabled 320 secondary schools to gain a postgraduate computer science qualification, and trained 1,700 teenagers on coding and computer science.”
Workday Ireland is another US company with a very active CSR programme. “Our location in Smithfield makes it very easy for employees to get out and do things in the local community,” says Chris Byrne, senior vice-president Global Operations & Support.
Packing food bags
Just around the corner from Workday, employees volunteer for packing food bags for the homeless and working on the floor at the Capuchin Centre serving meals and clearing plates. Workday also does two collection drives annually – one mid-year for canned and dry food and another at Christmas for food and toiletries.
Francis Street CBS benefits from Workday’s Time to Read programme in conjunction with Business in the Community, where 10 Workday volunteers spend time developing reading skills with school children, across a period of 20 weeks.
Another organisation supported is Daisy House, which is focused on helping bring women out of homelessness. Women@Workday volunteers help with practical work including painting and decorating houses. Workday also provides laptops and TVs.
Dun & Bradstreet is also very engaged in CSR activities. “We have been around for quite a while, more than 175 years,” says Donal Cavanagh, Dublin site leader. “Being a responsible corporate citizen is very important to us as a business.”
The company encourages employees to ‘do the right thing’ and, according to Cavanagh, is committed to transparency and integrity in everything it does. “When our global CEO came to the company four years ago, it was decided that our success would be based on three principles: being data-inspired, relentlessly curious and inherently generous. Inherently generous means that we succeed by helping others succeed. We openly share our time and talent, and we welcome the help of others.”
The company’s Do Good programme gives each employee two days’ paid time off each year to volunteer for the cause of their own choice. “Last year during one of my visits to our development centre in Austin, Texas, I worked in the Central Texas Foodbank for a day. The foodbank provides 30 million meals to Texans every year. The experience of doing that with 40 colleagues was great. Locally, here in Dublin our Do Good and CSR activities are consistently cited in our Great Places to Work surveys and we have been ranked in the top 10 medium-sized places to work in Ireland for the past two years.”
Those activities have seen Dun & Bradstreet employees help refurbish emergency accommodation for homeless people, support Special Olympics Ireland athletes, and participate in bake-offs for Temple Street Children’s Hospital. “A lot of what we do in Dublin is in the tech space so we also support STEM initiatives like Teen-Turn, which aims to provide teenage girls with the opportunity to spend a few weeks during their summer holidays in a tech environment,” Cavanagh adds.
And companies don’t have to be around for more than a century to take CSR seriously. “We have an emerging FDI programme for high-growth phase companies and it’s amazing how quickly CSR gets on their agenda,” says Miriam O’Keeffe. “Very quickly after arriving here they are asking us what they can do.”