We believe that companies have an obligation to give back to the communities that that our employees, customers, and other stakeholders call home. It is simply the right thing to do. For a company like Eco-Products, it also provides an opportunity to engage our employees and build our credibility as a brand.

Last year we took a close look at our community engagement efforts and asked ourselves “what can we do better?” After assessing various approaches for corporate giving, we decided to focus on donating our products and donating our time. We also determined that we can achieve our objectives of corporate giving without branding these efforts at this time.

Giving our products

We have long supported our community through product donations. Often, non-profits addressing environmental or social issues, or organizations such as schools and fire departments, host fundraising lunches, dinners, or cocktail hours. Donating environmentally preferable foodservice packaging to these groups helps defray their costs, thereby allowing more of the money raised to support their mission. It also allows us to demonstrate our commitment to supporting the community.

Sadly, we cannot support every request we receive. Saying “no” to organizations dedicated to serving the greater good is one of the hardest decisions we have to make. In order to be more thoughtful, consistent, and strategic about our donations, in 2014 we developed formal criteria to help us assess the many requests we receive. The following considerations now help us prioritize donation requests:

  • Is it a Colorado 501c3 nonprofit or civic organization?
  • Do they address environmental, health, or social causes?
  • Will they compost organic waste to divert it from the landfill?
  • Will they send us photos or other content with composting success stories?
  • Did they provide 45 days notice?
  • Will they recognize Eco-Products in event or organization communications and marketing?
  • Will this relationship help build Eco-Products’ identity as a socially responsible company?

These guidelines were helpful in enabling us to donate over $153,000 in product and shipping to worthy causes in 2014.

Giving our time

Our employees are our most valuable resource. The time and energy our Eco-Patriots give to Eco-Products makes us the company we are.

We have often used Earth Day as an opportunity to get out of the office, give our valuable time to the community, and strengthen our bonds as a team. For Earth Day 2014, we volunteered with Wildlands Restoration Volunteers – a local non-profit whose mission is “to foster a community spirit of shared responsibility for the stewardship and restoration of public, protected, and ecologically important lands.”

In the fall of 2013, the Boulder area experienced devastating floods. Restoration was still underway in the spring of 2014 and continues to this day. We supported Wildlands Restoration Volunteers’ flood recovery efforts by cleaning flood debris from a local stream bank so native vegetation could reestablish. We lucked out with a beautiful day, and after the physical labor of clearing away branches and other deposits, we returned to the office for a happy hour featuring beer brewed by one of our employees. Talk about a great Earth Day!

Company-sponsored volunteering is great, but it is just that – company sponsored. We recognize our employees often have causes near and dear to their hearts. That is why we proudly offer a new benefit: one day/eight hours of paid time off each year for employees to volunteer with the cause of their choosing.

Corporate giving professionals attending the CECP Summit in May 2014 ranked volunteer time off as the most effective socially motivated tactic for increasing employee satisfaction with their company. Between 2010 and 2013, the percentage of companies offering this benefit increased from 47% to 58%, and employee participation rates increased from 32% to 37%.

Because this is a new offering, we have no idea how many Eco-Patriots will take advantage of their paid time off to volunteer, but we’d like to think we’ll beat the national average. We have set a goal for 50% of our employees to use their paid time off to make their community a better place.

Giving back in other ways

In 2014 we found several additional opportunities to give back to the Boulder community, where the vast majority of our employees work.

One World Running:In the summer of 2014, our Eco-Patriots hosted a shoe drive for One World Running, an international organization that facilitates the donation of gently-used running shoes to those in need. With the help of our employees and their friends and family, we collected thirteen pairs of shoes that were collecting dust in our closets but were perfectly suitable for helping others log some miles.

Community Food Share Food Drive: Last November, our headquarters held “We CAN Make a Difference,” a month-long food drive in support of the Community Food Share (CFS). The CFS supplies food to local organizations serving individuals in need. Everyone loves competition, so in order to get the troops motivated, we had a friendly, interdepartmental challenge. We collectively donated 1,036 pounds (1,046 items) of groceries to our neighboring Boulder and Broomfield communities. Our employees personally delivered the goods to the facility, where they received a tour of the organization’s headquarters.

We enjoyed serving our community in a way that engendered some inter-departmental rivalry. A little competition never hurts, right? As a way to give thanks and conclude our food drive, we had a Thanksgiving pot luck. Fully bellies and great coworkers were on our list of things to be thankful for.

Community Giving Case Study: Roaring Fork Conservancy

In 2014, we supported two events put on by the Roaring Fork Conservancy (RFC), a nonprofit whose mission is to inspire people to explore, value, and protect the Roaring Fork watershed. Since 1996, they have brought people together to protect and keep water in their rivers, monitor water quality, and preserve riparian habitat.

During their annual Fryingpan Clean-up, 150 volunteers of all ages cleaned up some of the most beautiful sections of river in the country. In addition to the satisfaction from protecting the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork rivers, volunteers were also rewarded with a pancake breakfast from the local Lion’s club. While we all know trash sucks, in this case it could earn prizes for the volunteers. Awards were given for Best of, Most Toxic, Most Useful, and Most Unusual Trash.

The annual River Float & Festival gave participants the opportunity to spend a morning on the Roaring Fork River with RFC ambassadors. Attendees learned about issues such as drought, water rights, transbasin diversions, and conservation efforts. A cookout; live music; and demoing boats, stand-up paddle boards, and fly fishing gear were part of the fun. The 2014 event attracted over 200 participants.

Why do we love the Roaring Fork Conservancy so much? In addition to the awesome work they do, they are dedicated to making their events zero waste. EverGreen Events works with RFC to maximize recycling and composting, and minimize what goes to the landfill. In fact, between the Fryingpan Clean-up and the River Float & Festival, they collected four cubic yards of composting and 100% of the recyclables generated at the event. Rock on, RFC!

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2014 Goals:

  • In 2014, reassess our community engagement program.

2015 Goals:

  • In 2015, at least 50% of our employees will take advantage of their paid day off to volunteer.