Corporate social responsibility critical to communities and governments

The most visible Island Heritage corporate social responsibility initiative is probably its annual charity 'drive,' during which motorists pass through the Island Heritage Roundabout on the Esterley Tibbetts Highway.

Though it may be labeled as “enlightened self-interest,” corporate social responsibility is almost obligatory in 2016, generating countless exhortations to industry and small business, pages of “how to” achieve the most efficient and effective community outreach, and the benefits likely to accrue.

Politically, corporate social responsibility appeals to governments – from the local level right up to the national level – as instances of public-private partnerships helping to address community needs and complementing official budgets too often constrained by competing demands.

So even while “enlightened self-interest” may be seen in CSR allocations, the needy are nonetheless served, aid is nonetheless provided, the community nonetheless benefits and a measure of social cohesion is achieved.

Business News Daily, which offers advice, tutorials and insights to small-business owners, names 22 global companies as outstanding examples of CSR, including Out of Africa, People Water, and Survey Monkey, which donates 50 cents from each survey completed to charity.

In 2013, Business News Daily says, Survey Monkey alone donated more than $1 million to such organizations as the Humane Society, Boys and Girls Club of America, and Teach for America.

Local examples

In Cayman, dozens of companies, including Scotiabank, Island Heritage and the The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, dedicate time, money and staff resources to community outreach.

The Ritz, for example, boasts a comprehensive program called “Community Footprints” that means Ritz staffers at all levels might be found on any given day donating time and effort to a dozen local causes.

“I personally have been a ‘reading buddy’ at Sir John A. Cumber Primary School for six years, a mentor with the Chamber of Commerce for three years, created a robust learning program for Caymanians in a summer internship program seven years ago, and am a board member for the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre … and more,” says The Ritz-Carlton’s Director of Human Resources Janette Goodman.

Goodman’s activities are not unique among the hotel’s nearly 800 staff.

Community Footprints, she says, “is our brand’s global social and environmental responsibility initiative,” aligning Ritz hotels and resorts “around issues that are important to the communities in which we operate.”

The program has “three distinct pillars: hunger and poverty relief, improving the well-being of children, and environmental responsibility. We have community partners in each of the pillars, and I actively contribute to all three, as do many of us,” she says.

The “ladies and gentlemen of The Ritz-Carlton,” she says, volunteered more than 4,000 hours at nearly a dozen Cayman social and environmental organizations in 2015.

“We honestly can’t pick a favorite,” she says, but lists Sir John A. Cumber Primary, John Gray High School, Cayman Islands Crisis Centre, Meals on Wheels, Save Our Youth Foundation, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Sunrise Adult Care, University College of the Cayman Islands, the Humane Society and Cayman Islands Cancer Society, among others.

“Additionally, the ladies and gentlemen of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman collaborated with the resort’s corporate group guests to donate more than US$100,000 to local initiatives in 2015.”

The 145 employees at Scotiabank – celebrating its 50th anniversary locally – focus chiefly on youth, health, sports, and arts and culture, according to Caribbean North Marketing Manager Jennifer O’Leary.

She offers a list of at least two-dozen of Cayman’s most-familiar charities that have benefited from the bank’s largesse through the years. Prime among them are Little League, Cayman Islands Cancer Society, the National Council of Voluntary Organisations, HospiceCare, Red Cross, The Pines, the Pink Ladies – themselves a charity fundraiser – and the Breast Cancer Foundation and the Cayman Heart Fund.

“In 2015 Scotiabank also launched its Student Bursary Program, providing US$5,000 bursaries to Caymanian students in financial need looking to pursue an undergraduate degree in business or finance at a college/university overseas,” O’Leary says.

The funds help defray tuition, fees, books and supplies, she says.

In 2015, the Toronto-based bank – with operations in more than 55 countries – contributed more than CAD$70 million globally in donations, sponsorships and other forms of assistance, while staffers registered more than 575,000 hours volunteering and fundraising for local causes.

“With [more than] 125 years in the Caribbean and 50 years in the Cayman Islands, Scotiabank,” O’Leary says, “is truly part of the fabric of the region. The Caribbean and Cayman have been good to us, and it’s in our DNA to give back to support the communities in which we serve.

“Our aim is to help these communities become better off. By giving generously to important community projects and recognizing employees who volunteer their time and energy to local causes, the bank strives to make a positive difference,” she says.

Island Heritage mascot Sonny presents Breast Cancer Foundation founders James Bovell, left, and Kim Lund with the CharityDrive and CharityPlunge proceeds, totaling $25,843.
Island Heritage mascot Sonny presents Breast Cancer Foundation founders James Bovell, left, and Kim Lund with the CharityDrive and CharityPlunge proceeds, totaling $25,843.

Charity ‘drive’

The most visible Island Heritage CSR initiative is probably its annual charity “drive,” during which motorists pass through the Island Heritage Roundabout on the Esterley Tibbetts Highway at the foot of The Ritz-Carlton bridge.

For every vehicle navigating the roundabout, Island Heritage contributes to a chosen charity. Each year in the five-year history of the “drive,” the company has supported three organizations, but in 2016 decided to focus on a single fund, the Breast Cancer Foundation, “so we could give them a little more money,” says Latina Young, assistant manager for marketing and communications.

“To date,” she says, “we have donated more than $200,000 to the community. Recipients include not just “drive” charities such as Save Our Youth, Feline and Canine Friends, and the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, but a host of others: Meals on Wheels, the Kiwanis Club, the Humane Society and the Cayman National Cultural Foundation.

In fact,” Young says, “In 2011, the CNCF named us as the sponsor of the year.

“We also support a host of community projects that are sponsored by various charity organizations,” she says, referring, for example, to the YMCA’s after-hours program at Red Bay school, Rotary Central’s “Little Libraries,” and the National Trust. Triple C School, several golf tournaments and a selection of 5K runs also feature on Island Heritage’s calendar.

The company regularly provides meals for as many as eight senior citizens in George Town, and at Christmas expands the program to include a score of residents across Grand Cayman.

“Our staff goes out to deliver in George Town, and we pay for others to do the distribution at Christmas,” she says.

The newest Island Heritage initiative is its island-wide support of Cayman Automotive’s network of electric-vehicle charging stations. The $1,500 cost of each new installation – the total number is close to 15 – is equally shared with car dealer John Felder. The insurer was the first to offer policies on electric vehicles; its first charging project was Lorna’s Rubis in Bodden Town, which offers free one-hour “top-ups.”

Island Heritage already owns the Governors Square station, Cayman’s largest, and will ultimately take a share in units at Kaibo, three Foster’s Food Fair installations and Sunshine Suites.

“We’re not just about insurance,” Young says, “but about people. We promise that we will be there for you. Our aim is to show a commitment to improve the lives of the people of the Cayman Islands.

“One of the things we realized is that the more you do for people, the more you get back. They trust us and they will come back to us,” she says.

Cheryl Strayed, author of New York Times best-seller 'Wild,' spoke at this year's Scotiabank 'Power of the Purse' lunch. Ticket sales and a silent auction raised more than US$29,000 for the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre.
Cheryl Strayed, author of New York Times best-seller ‘Wild,’ spoke at this year’s Scotiabank ‘Power of the Purse’ lunch. Ticket sales and a silent auction raised more than US$29,000 for the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre.

Community Footprints

Goodman says The Ritz-Carlton’s traditions of service underpin its Community Footprints program. That “legacy of extraordinary service,” she says, “deeply inspires us to impact the lives of others. Every contribution we make is an opportunity to leave an imprint on our communities. It is through this collection of imprints that we can make a meaningful difference in the places where we live, work and welcome guests.”

As an example, she cites Feed Our Future, a group supplying school breakfasts and lunches.

“Our executive chef and assistant director of food and beverage helped plan not only the event, but also its menu upgrades in order to maximize profitable donations to the organization. More than 90 hours went into planning, serving and cooking for the event, which raised enough money for more than 20,000 meals for schoolchildren in need.”

Feed Our Future President Stacey VanDevelde said the hotel has been “a driving partner” for the foundation, helping “develop our signature fundraiser into a world-class and sought-after event … This in turn has translated into more funds raised, enabling us to expand our reach and support more needy children [and] families in our community through our school meal and food programs.”

Goodman spoke of her own time as part of the Sir John A. Cumber “Reading Buddies” program, which started in 2009. Thirty-one Ritz staffers, including members of the resort’s executive team, visit the school each week to read with their young partners, and have spent more than 1,000 hours with the students.

“Additionally, our employees supported Commonwealth Day by sharing the cultures of the many countries of the Commonwealth, such as India, Britain, Scotland and more,” she says.

“The children were able to learn about cultures, languages, dance, food and more.”

“The Banquets and Engineering departments also helped beautify the primary school’s outdoor lunch area. It was a big project that lasted two weekends. The area was repainted, and the children got involved by … painting the local animals as well as the walls,” Goodman says.

School Principal Joseph Wallace complimented hotel staffers as “our closest corporate partners,” making “significant contributions to the lives of our children and our school.”

He offered thanks for “their commitment to our children and their continued support of our school. We look forward to maintaining and improving our relationship.”

Ritz environmental initiatives have included the long-established Ambassadors of the Environment, as well as beach and roadside cleanups, which, Goodman says, “are popular with our team.” They tallied 150-plus hours of participation during April’s Earth Day cleanup.

She also notes that Ambassadors of the Environment and 14 hotel volunteers led Sir John A. Cumber students to clean up Barkers Beach.

“Teaching children to become stewards of the land is important for us and for generations to come. Furthermore, 1,910.5 pounds of garbage were picked up in the second annual Dolphin Discovery Clean Up, which is a partnership between the Dolphin Discovery Centre and Ocean Conservatory.”

She offered a second reason that corporate social responsibility is critically important to The Ritz-Carlton: “Providing service and support to neighbors can be a life-altering personal experience for our own employees and guests. It inspires personal growth and a deeper understanding of local communities. It also provides the kind of real-world education and appreciation that you can’t always get in the workplace.

“In this sense, these activities and this sense of commitment can become enduring for all of us. It is not uncommon for employees who are serving an organization on behalf of the hotel to then take it up as an ongoing personal cause, often sharing their own volunteer enthusiasm with their own friends and neighbors.”

Putting people first

Scotiabank’s O’Leary detailed the organization’s two most recent corporate social responsibility projects: the annual “Power of the Purse” lunch and the “Caring for Life” Golf Tournament.

“The Power of the Purse luncheon was created in honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month,” she said.

“The objective of the luncheon is to increase awareness of the importance of diversity and inclusion while giving back to the community.” Last year, Erin Brockovich addressed the group at its initial Cayman gathering, while this year Cheryl Strayed, author of New York Times best-seller “Wild,” spoke.

Ticket sales and a silent auction raised more than US$29,000 for the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre, O’Leary says.

The $41,000 raised though more than 70 company sponsors and supporters at the sixth Caring for Life Golf Tournament will help local residents gain “continually improving, world-class healthcare,” O’Leary says, enabling the Health Services Authority to “purchase much-needed equipment that improves patient care, help with building and property improvements, and recruit highly qualified medical professionals for the long term.

“Putting people first lies at the heart of Scotiabank’s culture in the Cayman Islands,” she says. “Scotiabankers have had a history of giving back to our communities in order to create better places to live and work. That’s why the bank contributes, organizes and participates in a range of community initiatives each year.”

Finally, Island Heritage’s Latina Young says the company’s flag football team sponsors an annual competition at West Bay’s Ed Bush Stadium, and provides volunteers to the Humane Society for dog-walking and labor services for the SOY Foundation.

“We also donate insurance cover,” she says, providing one-year blanket policies – including auto, building and public liability – to three major groups, including the Humane Society: “Whatever is needed, since everyone has their own needs,” Young says.

CSR defined

The Financial Times has defined corporate social responsibility as a wide range of activities “aimed at encouraging companies to be more aware of the impact of their business on the rest of society, including their own stakeholders and the environment.”
The practice, the organization said “is a concept with many definitions and practices. The way it is understood and implemented differs greatly for each company and country. Moreover, CSR is a very broad concept that addresses many and various topics such as human rights, corporate governance, health and safety, environmental effects, working conditions and contribution to economic development. Whatever the definition is, the purpose of CSR is to drive change towards sustainability.”

“One of the things we realized is that the more you do for people, the more you get back.”

Latina Young, Island Heritage