35 Companies With Powerful Social Impact Initiatives
These companies are committed to making an impact.
Study after study has shown that today's college students – Generation Z – are a socially-conscious generation, with their commitment to social good influencing everything from their purchasing decisions to their career paths. One study by Cone Communications found that 94% of the Gen Z individuals surveyed believe companies should help address critical social issues, while a survey by DoSomething Strategic found that 76% of Gen Z respondents said they have purchased or would consider purchasing from a brand to show support for the issues that the company supported. When it comes to their professional lives, data from RippleMatch reveals that Gen Z candidates place the same importance on a company’s social impact initiative as they do on compensation, and 60% of candidates cite a company’s mission and values as a prominent reason for interviewing with a company.
However, not every student who values a company's commitment to social impact aspires to work for a non-profit. For some young job seekers, it may feel like there's no middle ground between a profit-driven company and a non-profit organization, but that's simply not the case. While going the non-profit route can be a great career move, there are plenty of for-profit companies that have powerful initiatives to drive social change. For folks who are looking for a company committed to making a difference alongside their business goals, here are 35 companies with effective corporate social responsibility initiatives.
The famous producer of the ‘three stripes’ athletic wear prides itself on a corporate responsibility structure built on 3 complementary pillars: community involvement, employee engagement, corporate giving. An example of community involvement is the BOKS by Reebok, an Adidas company, before school program, which is designed to bring access to fitness to children between the ages of 5 and 12. The impact of BOK has been measured by an independent evaluator called NOIST which found that the students in the program has not only improved their memory and executive function, but also shaved an average of 16 seconds off their 400-meter run times. Adidas has launched various programs and initiatives like these around the world; such as their Pakison Women Empowerment Program which helps improve the skills of female workers and helps them find strong opportunities in the workplace and their SOS Children’s Village which has grown into one of the largest non-governmental organizations dedicated to to supporting children without families in the world. These amazing programs are a few examples of how Adidas makes a large positive social impact beyond great activewear.
With the holiday season right around the corner, A-LIGN is gearing up for the company’s eighth annual Charity Donation Program. Since 2013, A-LIGN has been working with their clients to support local charities all around the country. The firm recognizes that, in order to achieve their mission of providing clients with a better community, giving back has to be part of the equation. That is why, every holiday season, A-LIGN donates to charities like Junior Achievement and ASPCA on behalf of the people they’ve served over the last year. In 2020 alone, the team donated nearly $6,000! Outside of the holidays, giving back remains a year-long focus. A-LIGN encourages employees to partake in a community service event and provides a day off every month solely for that reason. Employees, then, do not just commit to a program for a day but are able to truly establish a relationship with local community service organizations and continue contributing monthly. Since the program launched in 2013, A-LIGN employees have clocked over 1,000 hours to organizations close to their heart. Being a part of A-LIGN, whether as an employee or client, means being supported and encouraged to give back-- during every time of year.
This digital agency is at the forefront of instigating social change through advertising, fundraising, and marketing for different advocacy and non-profit groups. From email marketing to social media and graphic design, Anne Lewis covers it all for their clients which include organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Sandy Hook Promise, and the Environmental Working Group. Since 2007, they have raised over $320 million for these causes and have done it all through online donations.
Since their inception Ben & Jerry’s has been connected to promoting grassroots efforts for social justice, protecting the environment, and supporting sustainable food systems. While often they connect their social initiatives to the process of making ice cream, like supporting Fairtrade, Ben & Jerry’s also partners with different social equality groups. One of their initiatives “Justice ReMix’d” focuses on criminal justice system reform and how people of color are disproportionately affected. Their employees are also involved in the Ben & Jerry’s foundation where they serve on committees that review grants for grassroots organizations.
Back in April 2020, when the seriousness of the impact of COVID-19 was becoming all too clear, Breakthru Beverage Group stepped up and committed $500,000 to “partner with local nonprofit organizations, restaurants, and restaurant groups to purchase meals for front-line responders battling the COVID-19 outbreak and vulnerable populations affected by it, such as children and the elderly”. This included contribution to the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation (RWCF), a nonprofit created by and for restaurant workers whose mission includes supporting those in the industry. The funds Breakthru Beverage Group provided have helped out-of-work restaurant employees, and they remain committed to looking for ways to make a positive impact in their communities.
Burlington Stores partners with the national non-profit organization Delivering Good in order to keep members of their communities warm through the Burlington Coat Drive. Every holiday season, “Burlington customers, associates, and vendors donate new and gently worn coats at their local Burlington store locations across the country. Through Delivering Good, coats are distributed locally to those most in need within each store community.” With over 2.3 million coats collected by the drive to date, it’s made a significant impact for neighbors in need of a warm coat.
CBRE has made it very clear that they are ‘committed to developing healthy communities and actively address[ing] environmental/sustainable, economic, health & wellness, social, transportation and governance impacts’. They launched the Green Machine Campaign to plant 1 million trees and enhance the US canopy, the CBRE shelter program to pattern with US housing nonprofits and create rebuilding projects for homeless shelters, transitional housing and private residences, the Birthday Cakes and More for Homeless Children program to deliver birthday cakes to homeless children, and the CBRE Disaster relief program to support regions affected by disaster, such as Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and California.
Instead of handing out t-shirts and other company merch at tech conventions, Cockroach Labs Events Manager JP Sisneros wanted to offer something that spoke to who they were and what they cared about. His solution, introduced at two of the biggest trade shows a year ago, was a commitment to donating to Women Who Code for each scan they received. The result of their campaigns run through email, social, and grassroots efforts at the booth was $14,000 in donations to Women Who Code, which seems a lot more impactful than merch that ends up in the closet. Cockroach Labs also introduced a creative and impactful way to donate to causes that matter: Employees who refer a new hire not only receive a $5,000 bonus, but an additional $5,000 to donate to a charity of their choice.
One of the ways this global communications company is making a social impact is by powering the potential of promising startups that are focused on addressing today's most pressing social and environmental challenges. The Cox Enterprises Social Impact Accelerator, powered by Techstars, supports mission-driven for-profit startups by guiding them in the early stages of the business, providing access to mentorship, and facilitating pitches to potential investors. Aside from their investment in social innovation, Cox Enterprises has had a national sustainability program since 2007, and has invested more than $100 million in sustainability and conservation projects.
The Walt Disney Company believes that education is the key to opportunity and proudly supports its workforce by sponsoring the most comprehensive employer education program in the country. Launched in 2018, Disney’s Aspire initiative covers 100 percent of tuition costs and provides support services to employees as they complete their coursework, including onsite “study hall” spaces and private career coaching. Disney Aspire was launched to expand access to education for its cast members and The Walt Disney Company has pledged $150 million towards high school equivalency, English-language learning, vocational training, college and master’s degrees, and more. The resource allows access to eleven universities and technical schools- including online programs by the University of Arizona and the University of Central Florida and pays the tuition directly to the campus along with textbooks, materials, and other fees. More than half of Disney’s 90,000 full- and part-time hourly employees have taken the initial step to enroll. The Walt Disney Company views this effort as a commitment to build futures and uplift communities through workforce development and does not require that employees pursue an education which relates to the titles they hold with the company.
As the world's leading mapping technology, Esri has a special focus on designing a smarter future. That means much of their technology is used by companies working to build a better, more sustainable future. Esri supports organizations working in conservation, education, environmental management, ocean science, green energy, sustainable development, and humanitarian affairs. The technology provided by Esri helps their customers find solutions to local and global problems, from delivering clean water and electricity, sustaining population growth, educating a community, fighting crime, slowing climate change, and stamping out disease.
Organizations have been using mapping for hundreds of years—and GIS in recent decades—to understand the spread and impacts of epidemics, and Esri’s technology has proved invaluable during the COVID-19 pandemic. Local, national and international organizations have used Esri’s technology to map and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including John Hopkins University’s widely referenced COVID-19 dashboard. Esri also made all its software, virtual training, and on-call technical assistance freely available not only to all its users but also to any organization anywhere in the world that was battling the pandemic. Read more about their efforts here.
This innovative healthcare tech company is driven by its mission of improving lives by learning from the experience of every cancer patient. Flatiron Health believes that learning from the experience of every cancer patient is the key to accelerating research, but cancer data is heavily unstructured. By organizing and standardizing that data, Flatiron helps doctors provide the best care and researchers find more effective treatments faster. Launched in 2012, the company now has 2.2 million active patient records available for research, 280+ community oncology practices, and works with the FDA, the NCI and over 15 of the top therapeutic oncology companies.
F5 Networks has their priorities clear when it comes to social impact and helping communities. They offer paid time off for volunteering; donation matching; opportunities for employees to participate in localized philanthropic campaigns, grant committees, and the Global Good Ambassador program; and Community Impact Grants. Aside from all of these benefits to ensure their employees have the chance to become involved in service opportunities, they do meaningful work with other organizations: they partnered with NASCOP, the National AIDS and STI Control Programme, to help in their efforts to bring HIV/AIDS under control. In fact, ‘After tech partner DataposIT implemented F5 and NGINX solutions, test results can now be returned in 10 days—350% faster’. Learn more about this initiative and many more here.
Not only has Google pledged to donate $1 billion to nonprofits in just five years, but they also committed to 1 million hours of employee volunteering. In order to achieve this goal they offer paid time off for volunteer work, especially in roles where they can use their tech expertise to help a good cause. Google also has strong environmental and ethical initiatives, like how they’re committed to sourcing conflict-free minerals in 2012. They also impressively achieved 100% renewable energy in 2017 as the largest corporate buyer of renewable power.
Community involvement has always been important at Groupon. With coronavirus making it increasingly difficult to volunteer through traditional means, the Groupon team wasn’t afraid to get creative in order to make contributions to their communities. This past summer, “hundreds of Grouponers around the world celebrated [their] value of Community by participating in the company’s first Virtual Volunteer Week. The projects in which employees volunteered “remotely” ranged from transcribing historical documents for Ancestry.com to helping Missing Maps — an international humanitarian organization — use aerial images to map the needs of vulnerable populations.”
Herman Miller began a new tradition this year: giving employees Election Day off for a Day of Purpose. While the company has always supported having worker’s voices heard, Herman Miller recognized the barriers that work could unintentionally create during Election Day. Instead of just encouraging employees to vote early, Herman Miller gave everyone a paid day off. For employees that voted already, Herman Miller encouraged those individuals to spend the day giving back and even constructed a bingo-like game for employees to work towards. For every 5 activities completed by employees, Herman Miller donated to the non-profit Direct Relief. Herman Miller has a history of giving back. This last year alone, for instance, Herman Miller switched their manufacturing plans to mass-produce masks that could be distributed to their community. Mel Trotter, the largest emergency homeless shelter in West Michigan, and MOKA, a non profit helping individuals with disabilities, are just two of the organizations that have received mask donations from Herman Miller.
IKEA focuses on bettering the lives of children through their social initiatives. In the 1990s, they began fighting child labor practices and have continued to support healthy living conditions for children since then. Since 2001 IKEA has donated over $200 million to UNICEF, to help supply a healthy environment, like access to clean drinking water, for children around the world. In 2016 the home brand also launched their “Let’s Play for Change” initiative that focuses on providing children a nurturing space to grow and develop in areas where they often lack a safe space to play.
In their 2019 Global Sustainability Report, JLL’s Global CEO expressed that their first priority remains the health, safety, and well being of their people, clients, and communities. Not only are they spearheading sustainability initiatives - like their commitment to zero carbon emissions for their UK workplaces by 2030 as a part of the World Green Building Council’s (WGBC) Net Zero Carbon Buildings commitment, but also are supporting their communities in various ways. They are partnering with REP (Refugee Employment Partnership) to help documented refugees find work, supporting female leaders in Mozambique by gifting over 300 scholarships, and establishing chapters of WiAM (Women in Account Management) in Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan and SouthEast Asia, just to name a few. Learn more about all of their social impact initiatives here!
This high-networking and cybersecurity solutions company believes that is their responsibility to support philanthropic programs that create a network of opportunities for the world’s next generation of engineers, critical thinkers, and technical thought leaders. The Juniper Networks Foundation has been granting millions of dollars to non-profit organizations that support K-12 STEM education for more than 15 years. Specifically, the organization targets underprivileged and underrepresented students in the field. Some partnerships that Juniper Networks support include: Techbridge Girls, Code for Fun, City Year San Jose, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Silicon Valley. This company also encourages employees to mirror this dedication to making the world a better place. Juniper Networks offer Junipers 40 paid hours a year to volunteer for a cause they believe in and matches donations up to $1000 per year per full-time employee. The Juniper Networks Foundation has created a company culture rooted in positive social impact.
Since 2000, the Kohl’s Cares program has launched a special collection of merchandise every few months to benefit health initiatives nationwide. The company releases limited editions of popular children’s books along with matching plush toys and tote bags, with each item retailing for $5. The collections, which have raised nearly $360 million thus far, donate 100% of the net profits to hospital partners in 48 states, Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Alliance for a Healthier Generation. These partnerships are designed to educate kids and families about healthy development, safety, wellness, childhood obesity, and chronic disease management. Browse the merchandise and learn more about the program here!
As a toy company rooted in plastic products, LEGO is aiming toward a more sustainable future for their company and their blocks. They partnered with the World Wildlife Fund to help source more responsible materials for their toys, and in 2018 released a line of legos that are made entirely of sugarcane. Also, in 2015 they pledged to invest $15 million over the following 15 years to reduce their carbon footprint. As part of this initiative, 100% of the energy used to create the bricks comes from renewable wind power.
LinkedIn achieves their social initiatives through a range of nonprofit partnerships and a commitment to sustainable practices in their offices. They have ambitious eco-friendly goals including being on the path to being “zero-waste” by improving their recycling and composting efforts. Their offices also use 80% renewable energy from wind and solar sources instead of harmful greenhouse gases. Employees get involved by commuting to work, with 70% of their global workforce using more eco-friendly forms of transport like biking, walking, and carpooling.
The world’s leading enterprise technology provider, NCR established the NCR Foundation in 1953. Since then the NCR Foundation continues to give grants to non-profit partners aligned with the company’s values. Specifically, the foundation partners with organizations that take innovative approaches to helping members of the communities from which their employees and customers live/work become self-sufficient. The foundation has a long list of criteria that an organization must meet to partner with the foundation to ensure that no money is given out to an organization that allows bias or disrcrimination of any kind.
For over 100 years, The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund has distributed generous donations from readers to organizations across the globe which provide direct assistance to those in need. Currently, The Fund supports 10 nonprofit organizations through GoFundMe campaigns and special grants from The Fund’s endowment. So far, The Fund has raised $300 million for disaster relief, medical care, food banks, and countless other efforts. Read more about The Fund and read profiles of beneficiaries here!
This well known retailer has always recognized that the impact they have on their employees, customers, and communities goes well beyond their day to day operations. In 2019-2020, Nordstrom Cares is proud to say they have increased clothing donations by nearly 42%, employees logged 176,538 hours of volunteer service, reduced energy use by 20.3% per square foot over five years and even committed to making 1 million masks for healthcare workers on COVID-19 frontlines. But Nordstrom is not stopping at those accomplishments. Pete Nordstrom, their Chief Brand Office, has declared that through their partnership with Fashion Pact and their launch of a category of thousand of responsibility products called Sustainable Style Nordstrom will meet 6 key environmental sustainability goals by 2025: reduce single use plastic by 50%, use sustainably raw materials in 50% of Nordstrom Made products, extend the life of 250 tons of clothing, ensure 15% of all product is considered sustainable, donate $1 million dollars to support textile recycling innovation and set a science-based target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. With concrete goals like these, it is clear that this retailer doesn’t aim to just save your closet but the entire planet.
This energy provider is committed to becoming a sustainable source of power for businesses and residential communities. Rather than shying away from the topic, NRG addresses the reality of climate change head-on and outlines the importance of taking substantial action to drastically reduce CO2 emissions in the coming years. The company's own goals include achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 and cutting their current emissions by 50% within five years. NRG has already made significant progress on their goals, and continue to document their initiatives and results in-depth with their annual sustainability report.
This famous electronics brand has always known that at the core of every successful institution was a giving heart. Panasonic’s Office Of Social Impact is dedicated to driving positive change through technology-- more specifically to address the widespread gap between future tech jobs and education in STEAM in underserved communities. The Panasonic Foundation invested $100,000 in Camp Skyhook. This immersive outdoor learning experience in the Angeles Forest aims to encourage 4th and 5th grade students’ interest in STEM and has a curriculum developed by UCLA and NASA. Panasonic is also dedicated to supporting students right in their city headquarters of Newark New Jersey by partnering with nonprofits to open the Students 2 Science Newark Technology Center. This center works directly with public schools to provide students with the resources to study real world investigations such as global overpopulations strains on food sources, water pollution, pandemics, and more. The center also provides professional development and technical assistance for local students. Panasonic’s awesome dedication to enabling underserved students to fill representation gaps in STEM is making a tangible difference in thousands of lives.
The outdoor clothing company is well-known for their commitment to sustainability and fleeces made from recycled plastics, but they also support a number of other social initiatives. They pledge at least 1% of their sales or 10% of their pre-tax profits (whichever is more) to environmental grassroot groups. Since 1985 they’ve donated over $100 million to these organizations. Patagonia also supports local involvement through their initiative Action Works where individuals can see what volunteer opportunities and events are happening in their area.
Besides being the store where many of us brought home our first furry, scaled or feathered friend, PetSmart supports families around the nation through the power of animals. Since 2012, PetSmart Paws for Hope has been helping sponsor animal assisted therapy programs in 8 hospitals. Since 1992, PetSmart for Patriots and the Canine Companions for Independence have helped increase access to assistance dogs for veterans. Currently, any veteran can visit a PetSmart to get more information on how to obtain a service dog. PetSmart makes a positive impact on thousands of lives through support of hundreds of organizations across the country that help connect people with animals.
Salesforce decided to take their social initiatives to the next level by creating a Philanthropy Cloud. Not only do they donate over $250 million toward grants and education initiatives themselves, but they created a resource to help other companies make a difference too. The Philanthropy Cloud provides the resources for companies to organize corporate social responsibility initiatives, and the resources for nonprofits to grow their network, including Salesforce’s own CRM integration technology. The Cloud is in partnership with United Way, who uses their expertise in workplace giving to help inform the program.
This food consumer brand company known for Mrs. Smith’s pies and Tony’s pizza is committed to reducing environmental impact and creating a better quality of life for their communities. According to their 2019 Corporate Responsibility Report, the company successfully spearheaded initiatives for driving delivery trucks more, recycling and packaging products more efficiently. But besides helping the environment, the Schwan’s Corporate Giving Foundation proudly supports local communities through direct donations to support many causes associated with ending hunger and developing youth. Schwan’s Food Company has donated over 6 million pounds of food in the last five years to Feeding America. They also enable the School Nutrition Foundation and enhance school food service management by awarding scholarships up to $2,500 each. This company is awesomely committed to improving lives beyond their products in the freezer aisle!
Signify is not only the world leader in lighting professionals, they are also the creators of the Signify Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing safe, sustainable lighting to underprivileged and underserved communities around the world. In addition to providing necessary, long-term, affordable lighting to underserved areas and natural disaster zones, the foundation also provides training and lighting to entrepreneurs in those areas, which creates a long-term impact to help upkeep the necessary lighting and foundation in their communities. Last year alone the Signify Foundation lit 994,184 lives with sustainable lighting and provided technical and/or business training to 721 people in underprivileged areas.
Southwire is committed to creating the highest standards of excellence for its employees through environmental stewardship and corporate sustainability. Southwire’s commitment to sustainability is multifaceted, with a key focus in five distinct areas: Growing Green, Living Well, Doing Right, Giving Back, and Building Worth. Through the combination of these efforts Southwire is able to reduce their carbon footprint, build a safe and inclusive workplace, ensure transparency and responsiveness throughout the organization, engage staff in meaningful community service outreach, and deliver the best quality service for their customers and stakeholders.
Synovus is a regional financial services company serving communities in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Florida, and Tennessee. In addition to offering commercial and retail banking, investment, and mortgage services, Synovus gives back to the community with its locally-focused community outreach program, Here Matters. The outreach program focuses Synovus’ volunteer and financial contributions in three areas: education, needs-based opportunities, and health and wellness. From gathering supplies for local food banks and schools, to providing financial literacy classes and college scholarships, Synovus is committed to enriching and strengthening the hundreds of communities they serve.
You may have heard about the startup eyewear company’s “buy one, give one” initiative, but Warby Parker’s social mission is actually more involved than a one-for-one tradeoff. Through their program and partnerships, they help train individuals in over 50 countries on how to administer eye exams and then sell glasses at a low cost. This allows the program to be an empowering resource that can create a continuous income and provide more accessible eyewear. Since starting this initiative they’ve distributed over five million pairs of glasses and continue to grow. And in an interview with Inc., co-founder and co-CEO Neil Blumenthal named their social mission as “the No. 1 reason people want to come work for Warby Parker.”
While there are countless companies with awesome social impact initiatives, these are just a few of the options available for students researching where to begin their career. For those interested in giving back while growing their career, these companies could be a great place to start.