The right match: Sonic Drive In and DonorsChoose.org

When Sonic Drive In wanted to give back to the community, it didn’t rush into things. The company, which has 3,500 drive-in restaurants across the country, wanted to make sure any initiative had the support of its franchise partners. And it wanted to focus on education, unlike the health focus of one of its top competitors, McDonald’s.

Sonic ultimately decided it wanted to support teachers at the local level. To do that, it teamed with DonorsChoose.org, a Web-based nonprofit that enables teachers to submit requests for classroom supplies. Five years later, the partnership is still going strong.

“We took the right amount of time to research on the front end” to make sure it would be the right program with the right partner, Christi Woodworth, Sonic’s director of social media, said during a session on corporate-nonprofit partnerships at the Business4Better conference.

Continue reading

Zappos Measures What Really Matters to its Business

Zappos has a transformative vision of business metrics.

At Business4Better, Zappos’s Jamie Naughton presented on the company’s famous customer service culture.We heard the normal stuff: 365-day return policies and surprise shipping upgrades. Zappos even offers new, just-trained employees cold, hard cash — up to $4,000 — to quit if they think the culture isn’t a fit for them. Better to get rid of them fast before they ruin a good thing.

What blew me away, though, was how they measure success in their call center. A company based on service, Naughton explained, can’t measure performance based on call time, time to resolution, or even sales revenue per employee. What matters, the whole point of the phone conversation, is for the employee to connect with the customer. It’s about building relationships. Relationships sell shoes. So Zappos needs to measure that. Continue reading

Web Design Company Gets Business Benefit from Giving Back

Tim Frick, president of Mightybytes, a Chicago-based web development firm, got fed up. After weeks of watching footage of oil-soaked pelicans in the Gulf of Mexico after the BP spill,  he had to do something. He rode his bike.

Tim Frick on Climate Ride

Tim Frick in the redwoods during Climate Ride

“When you are angry, take it out on your legs,” he told his audience at Business4Better.

Frick joined ClimateRide on a multi-day ride from Ventura, Calif. to San Francisco. A lucky case of bronchitis slowed him down, and he ended up getting a behind the scenes look at the organization from the “sag wagon.” A love affair was born. Continue reading

8 Essential Steps of Starting an Employee Volunteer Program

Employee volunteering programs are increasingly the “heartbeat” of where social innovation is happening to improve business and impact communities. At the Business4Business (B4B) Conference, executives from Alcoa, BJs Restaurants, and Edwards Life Sciences shared their knowledge on starting and delivering impactful employee volunteer programs, organized around 8 steps. The session was moderated by CEO of OneOC, Dan McQuaid.

After listening carefully to this lively 45 minute discussion, it is clear there is no single way to go about starting and managing an employee volunteer program. However, there are core steps executives can take. Here is eight as shared in the Business4Better session. Continue reading

Midsize Businesses: Follow Your True North and Grow

Reconciling a balance sheet or analyzing data for the next great product is not the only metric that drives the success of great companies. Rather the secret sauce has to do with empathy for the world around you.

It is not just business for better, it is better for business, says Dev Patnaik, CEO of Jump Associates and author of Wired to Care who opened up the Business4Better show here in Anaheim.

He implored businesses to reconnect with their humanity and gave examples of companies that are doing this today. “When we are fact-based and living our lives with PowerPoint data, we are only bringing in a part of our brains every day to work, says Patnaik. “You have to have that connection and get out beyond your walls and spend the time in the real world.” Continue reading

Shared value: Going beyond traditional CSR

Corporate social responsibility has come a long way from the days of handing out checks and doing good. It’s even gone beyond strategic CSR, in which businesses try to do more than donate money. Today, many companies are shifting to the concept of “shared value.”

This new phase was the focus of a panel discussion here at B4B led by Lalitha Vaidyanathan, managing director of FSG. “Corporate responsibility of the future needs to come from the core business,” she told the audience. “You’re creating social good while creating economic value for the business.”

Adam Lowry, Lalitha Vaidyanathan, Christopher Lloyd

Shared value requires approaching business in a much different way, she said. Corporate philanthropy still has a role, but companies need to think if there are bigger, more scalable ways for them to create social change. Both large and midsize companies can participate, she said. Continue reading

Turning The Tables on #CSRchat’s Susan McPherson

For the #CSRchat initiated, I don’t have to explain how exciting it is that this Wednesday (May 1st) at the Business4Better conference, the one and only founder and host of #CSRchat, Susan McPherson will be chatting live.

And to add to the awesomeness of that, on a very personal note, ‘I’ get to interview her!

I am turning the tables on Susan and making her the guest of her own chat. We will be chatting both virtually and live – at the same time — and we hope you’ll join us for this great experiment. It will be a true test of our social media / multitasking abilities.

Continue reading

Do Great Companies Make Great States?

This post is by guest blogger Bahar Gidwani, co-founder and CEO of CSRhub which provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information on 7,000+ companies from 135 industries in 90 countries. This article previously appeared on the CSRhub blog

“I’d like to thank the great citizens of our wonderful state…”  How many times have you heard this greeting?  It implies that good citizens are responsible for building a better community.  The Citizen’s United Supreme Court case added to the view that corporations are “citizens” in certain senses.  So, do “good” corporate citizens contribute also to building “good” states?  Some intriguing research on this topic is now possible thanks to a new corporate social responsibility ratings database from CSRHub.

It is hard to compare corporate and state social performance without making some fairly broad assumptions.  For companies, we can measure how they treat the environment, their communities, and their employees.  We can also assess how well companies are governed by their investors, boards, and management teams.  For states or other communities, we can measure things such as education levels, unemployment levels, divorce rates, or how many crimes are committed. Continue reading

11 Facts About Mid-Size Companies and CSR (Survey Results)

When we think of corporate social responsibility (CSR), so often we think of large companies with deep pockets that have dedicated staff to run employee and community engagement programs, or small start-ups that are birthed with the gene of sustainability in place.

Last month Business4Better took on the challenge of exploring just how immersed in community engagement efforts mid-size companies were.

Business4Better.org

The greatest potential for doing good is with the mid-market. “If the Middle Market were a country, its GDP would rank it as the fourth largest economy in the world,” states  Scott Vaughan in a previous B4B blog post.

So we surveyed 173 business professionals from mid-size companies (100-5000 employees) about CSR to gauge the status and plans for community involvement. Continue reading

10 Twitter Accounts to Follow for Earthday

Here on the Business4Better blog we talk about all facets of corporate social responsibility, CSR, but in honor of earthday, today we are going to focus on the environment and sustainable existence.

To start the day on the right foot, here are my top ten Twitter accounts to follow to be ‘in the know’ on the topics of sustainability: Continue reading