(November 28, 2016 / Hendersonville Standard. Click HERE
for full article)
Companies of all sizes are developing initiatives focused on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practices. At its best, CSR is a transparent initiative embedded within a business's culture that contributes to the overall welfare of the community. Many businesses - large and small - benefit from being socially responsible, providing overwhelming support that CSR programs are imperative to success.
Local non-profits like Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee
, which serves 46 counties across Middle and West Tennessee including Sumner, often work with companies to execute CSR initiatives, creating a mutually beneficial partnership. These initiatives are intended to make a positive impact on causes that matter to a business as well as its employees and the community. By partnering with a non-profit that is focused on an issue such as hunger relief, the outcome of CSR efforts are greater.
Hunger continues to be a national issue with the latest study
released by the USDA showing 42.2 million Americans are suffering from food insecurity, meaning they do not have access to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle. Locally 19,940 Sumner Country residents, including 8,050 children, are struggling with hunger according to the 2016 Map the Meal Gap Study
. The fact remains that hunger is a reality in our community, but local businesses are using CSR strategies to make a difference.
, director of the Nashville Social Enterprise Alliance, emphasizes that businesses that create "long-term, concrete projects with a measurable impact" are mutually beneficial to both the business and the non-profit. The commitment to invest in one cause allows a non-profit to use its resources more efficiently and effectively, which leads to more stable communities, and in turn, improves area businesses. The benefits become cyclical - higher quality communities equal better business.
One example of this involves a community-wide campaign built around creating a "Hunger Free Summer" for all. For the past three years, Sumner-based Goodall Homes has been an advocate against hunger, especially during the summertime, in partnership with Second Harvest.
"Second Harvest is grateful for Goodall Homes' efforts to help provide healthy, nutritious food to children in need during the summer months," said Jaynee Day
, president and CEO of Second Harvest. "Hunger is a year-round struggle. In fact, summertime means thousands of children no longer have access to school meals, and parents are left struggling to provide. This partnership brings attention to the issue in that has not historically been viewed as a time of need."
This partnership continues to grow year over year and provides Goodall Homes with the opportunity to engage employees in the fight against hunger through various volunteer experiences including feeding fresh, nutritious lunches to children in need. Although food insecurity is harmful to an individual, it can be particularly devastating among children due to their increased vulnerability and the potential for long-term consequences. Goodall Homes' efforts aim to combat childhood hunger, which in turn, will create a healthy future for its community.
A strong CSR program can also help with retaining employees and recruiting new talent. Multiple studies have shown that employees take a company's CSR practices into consideration when evaluating employment - 79 percent, in fact, according to one study
. The opportunity to participate in CSR programs allows for both professional and personal development, giving employees the chance to contribute to worthwhile causes.
Hendersonville is home to STR, Inc., a global hotel market data and benchmarking company. With a little more than 150 employees, most born and raised in the immediate area, the company values supporting the local community and does so through various feeding programs, including Second Harvest's BackPack Program
The BackPack Program provides easy-to-prepare food for at-risk children on weekends and during school breaks when other resources are not available. STR funds 50 BackPacks each week for children in Sumner County Schools through the Sumner County School Board's Family Resource Center, one of 24 Second Harvest Partner Agencies in the area.
"Many of our employees have kids in Sumner County schools, and many of us had no idea how many of our neighbors were struggling," said Amanda Hite
, president of STR, Inc. "When Second Harvest was able to connect us with the Family Resource Center, it was a perfect opportunity for the company to give back and support our local community at the Family Resource Center as well as continue to forge our partnership with Second Harvest."
Successful CSR initiatives often lead to more customers. Ninety percent of consumers are likely to switch brands to one associated with a good cause, given comparable price and quality. CSR creates positive conversations about a brand that can be highlighted in both traditional and non-traditional media as well as through word of mouth. More than 80 percent of consumers report
that they would tell friends and family about a company's CSR efforts. These efforts will be noticed, ultimately, by all - community, industry and society at large.
With the acquisition of Avenue Bank last year, Pinnacle Financial Partners is continuing its tradition of fighting hunger through The Tennessean's Ms. Cheap's Penny Drive
. According to Pinnacle's website
, "community initiatives are about supporting quality of life in the communities we serve through financial contributions and programs that bring associates together to make our community better. Because only in a strong community can Pinnacle grow and prosper."
Now in the eighth year, the Penny Drive has raised more than $300,000. As a main sponsor of the campaign, Pinnacle employees will have the opportunity to participate in the drive and encourage involvement from customers, providing an additional touch point beyond client services. This will encourage both Pinnacle customers and the community to get involved in this year's Penny Drive - penny cans are available for pickup at the Hendersonville branch at 270 East Main Street.
"Many thanks to all our partners, including Pinnacle Financial Partners," says Mary Hance
, The Tennessean''
Ms. Cheap. "This year's Penny Drive runs through January 31, 2017, and we hope it is our most successful campaign to date."
These CSR efforts are just a few examples of the great works being done by local businesses to better the community. These valuable partnerships bring greater awareness to the issue of hunger in Sumner County and Middle Tennessee through targeted outreach and increased visibility while ensuring more food is distributed to those in need. Companies of all types and sizes can take part in these efforts and reap the benefits of building a culture of corporate social responsibility.
To learn more about ways to engage your company in the fight against hunger, contact Melinda Judd, director of corporate engagement at Second Harvest, at (615) 367-1620 or visit secondharvestmidtn.org