By Whitney Dailey
Americans celebrated our nation this month with flags, parades and fireworks, but companies are showing their American pride in a slightly different way. The business trend over the past 20 years may have been focused on globalization and our increasingly connected world, but some companies have decided to concentrate on efforts a little closer to home.
Americans, more than any other global citizens, want companies to prioritize economic development, over issues such as poverty and hunger or the environment, according to the 2013 Cone Communications Cone/Echo Global CSR Study. U.S. citizens are also more likely than the global average to want companies to address quality of life locally (43 percent versus 37 percent global average) and nationally (38 percent versus 35 percent global average) over global issues (20 percent versus 28 percent global average). This all adds up to a strong message to companies to reinvest in the U.S. – and a few major companies are heeding the call.
To make sure America’s small businesses continue to be job creators, a number of organizations have reinvested in the “little guy.” Boston Beer Co.’s founder Jim Koch went back to his roots to help out other entrepreneurs when the craft brewery started the “Brewing the American Dream” program. The initiative provides training to entrepreneurs and micro-loans through Accion. The program has created or saved 1,900 jobs since its founding in 2008. Starbucks, another longstanding supporter of job creation in the U.S., raised more than $15 million with its “Create Jobs for USA” program, doling out small business loans in partnership with the Opportunity Finance Network.
As the U.S. continues to trend toward a more service-based economy, with 4 out of every 5 jobs resulting from service industries (e.g., telecommunications, financial services, computer services), the right education and job training are crucial. That’s why a number of organizations have invested in equipping the next generation with the skills to succeed in this field. STEM, or the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, has been a major focus and natural fit for a number of organizations, only reinforcing President Barack Obama’s $3.1 billion investment in STEM-focused job training.
At the forefront is Time Warner Cable’s Connect-a-Million Minds* initiative. The five-year, $100 million commitment recently achieved its goal of connecting 1 million students to hands-on math and science activities through grants, volunteerism and custom curricula. SAP and IBM have also invested in education programs to fill the 430,000 tech-related jobs that will be created in the next four years.
Aiming to build the economy through new ideas and concepts, Cisco is working to ensure cities have the adequate infrastructure to promote economic growth. The Cisco Smart + Connected Communities program works with city governments to “use intelligent networking capabilities” to create more livable and innovative cities. Kansas City is the latest community to take part in the program, working with Cisco to transform the city into a lab for entrepreneurial development. Patagonia followed the entrepreneurial trend with its own in-house venture fund, distributing capital to startups with similar social or environmental values through the “One Billion and Change” program.
Image credit: Tony Cyphert, Flickr
Whitney Dailey is a senior research associate at Cone Communications on its Research & Insights team, where she works on the development and distribution of industry-leading research studies, including the 2013 Cone Communications/Echo Global CSR Study. Her expertise in corporate social responsibility, sustainability and social media helps to guide thought leadership at the agency as well as the creation of a number of CSR-related tools. Whitney has a personal interest in sustainable food systems, urban gardening and sustainable sites. She holds an MBA in Environmental Management and Entrepreneurship from the University of Massachusetts, Boston and a BA from the George Washington University. She tweets at @WhitneyDailey.