Giving back: Invested in the community

Auction action gets going at Hedge Funds Care gala fundraiser.

Jenny Gabruch

In the business world, corporate social responsibility, or CSR for short, has become standard practice. A broad term, it essentially sums up the good-will efforts a company makes in the communities where it operates.

This is often approached through philanthropy and volunteerism as well as by modelling good corporate behavior. Some companies focus on a specific area while others contribute through a spectrum of activities.

Ultimately, the goal of a company’s CSR is to increase overall engagement. It is created to make employees, and employers, feel more connected with the community in which they live and work, and with each other.

Making positive social contributions also sends a clear message that the company cares about the local community and its future. It not only helps cultivate a positive business reputation but can boost the bottom line as many of today’s consumers pay attention to what the company supports.

A company’s CSR strategy can also improve its ability to attract top talent and retain staff. The next generation of workers, in particular, are drawn to businesses that give back and those that drive social and environmental change.

In Cayman’s close-knit community, examples abound. Cayman’s business sector gives back by supporting a broad range of programs involving youth, education, culture, arts, heritage, environmental stewardship, health and sports.

For example, numerous businesses pitch in to support St. Baldrick’s Foundation, the largest non-government funder of pediatric cancer research in the U.S. The local event that raises funds for the foundation is called Hannah’s Heroes Big Shave, named after Hannah Meeson, who faced a difficult fight against brain cancer. The initial event five years ago saw 35 people shaving their heads to raise funds. Last year, 107 individuals, many in corporate teams, had their heads buzzed. The event raised $267,000 for the foundation and attracted more than 1,000 people. Since its inception, it has raised more than US$1.6 million.

Participants run in the Deputy Governor’s 5K Challenge.

Businesses here are also big on supporting fundraisers via sponsorships and buying corporate tables at galas. A prime example is Hedge Funds Care, which raises money to combat child abuse and to treat the victims of abuse. Its gala fundraising event typically raises $250,000 each year. Since its inception in 2005, the Cayman chapter of Hedge Funds Care has allocated more than US$3.2 million.

An innovative sustainable project comes from the developers of FIN in South Sound. In partnership with the Guy Harvey Foundation, FIN is pioneering a long-term coral reef conservation program that will see 1 percent of its monthly strata fees going to support the project.

Numerous businesses support further education by offering scholarships and internship programs. The Water Authority, for example, offers an annual scholarship of $30,000 to a student seeking to study a vocational or degree subject relevant to the work of the authority. DMS offers scholarships to Caymanian students who wish to pursue their tertiary education at overseas universities in the areas of financial services, insurance, media or property management, including an internship with DMS during the summer months. Butterfield offers an annual undergraduate scholarship of up to US$30,000 per year, to a maximum of four years, to assist students in pursuing the career of their choice.

It’s not only big ventures that give back. Smaller companies contribute by providing prizes, sponsorships, donations and hands-on help with events and fundraisers. Cayman Yoga Club, for instance, has a charity-based membership program that donates a small one-time initiation fee to one of three Cayman charities of the member’s choice: Meals on Wheels, Cayman HospiceCare and the Alzhiemer’s and Dementia Association. VIVO has a special promotion that boosts sustainability. For every bottle of wine (or every 5 glasses) it sells, the restaurant partners with Sustainable Harvest International to plant a tree in local communities across the globe. To date, it has planted and maintained more than 1,600 trees.

There are numerous fun runs that raise funds for charity including the popular Deputy Governor’s 5K Challenge, which attracted record numbers this year, with more than 2,000 participants. Funds raised are earmarked for Meals on Wheels, Feed Our Future and the Kiwanis Club of Grand Cayman’s “Buy a Kid Breakfast” program.

Cayman’s own “marathon man” Derek Haines, who recently founded Haines Disaster Consultancy, has raised an impressive $3 million for local charities, with more than $1 million raised for Cayman HospiceCare.

Here, The Journal spotlights several companies and organizations that show great examples of CSR in action.