Eric Tanenblatt: These Georgia Businesses Are Changing How We View Social Responsibility

Eric Tanenblatt

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

The spirit of consumption that envelops our nation each year in the days that follow Thanksgiving was punctuated this year by something remarkable, something pointedly not about self-indulgence or flashy gadgets: a “global day of giving” that encouraged and celebrated altruism.

The occasion, dubbed “Giving Tuesday” in the mode of our year-end shopping calendar, was said to have raised in excess of $200 million, a significant increase from years prior. That money, which will go to combat hunger and poverty, illness, and illiteracy, comes at an important time for non-profits, for whom more than a quarter of donations received annually register in the slim five-week period between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

That year-end giving crunch is a function of our tendency to view the holiday season as an imperative to help others—specifically, by donating money—but there are other, wildly impactful ways to do good beyond the traditional open wallets-open hearts paradigm, and it’s Georgia businesses that are disrupting this classical view of charity.

Last week, Jackson Healthcare CEO Rick Jackson launched a first-of-its-kind philanthropic initiative to extol and encourage corporate generosity by encouraging local companies to take the “goBeyondProfit” pledge to invest in creative ways of giving back to the communities in which they do business.

Law firms have long-held this view of social responsibility, the belief in “pro bono publico:” for the public good. Consider Dentons, the global law firm where I serve as the chair of the US public policy practice, which has pledged up to $375,000 in legal and public policy counsel over the next three years in support of Atlanta’s Westside neighborhoods revitalization project.

By providing legal services to disadvantaged people or non-profit organizations, law firms like Dentons have provided the broader business community with a basic blue print for some of the most creative skills-based volunteering initiatives through which companies are positively shaping the communities in which they do business.

Choate Construction, the southeast’s largest general contracting firm, has raised some $3 million for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation through its annual “Cars and ‘Q for the Cause” car show, which is supported and managed by the company’s employees. While Choate’s primary corporate charitable focus is cystic fibrosis, for which they raised $324,000 in the last twelve months, they also match $1,000 of employee charitable giving each year.

The online recruiting platform LocumTenens, which matches physicians and other clinicians with medical facilities and health care agencies, used their matching platform to power, pairing health care professionals wishing to volunteer with hundreds of non-profit organizations that require medical aid.

By sharing stories like this, goBeyondProfit hopes this sort of creative charity will become the norm. Already, more than 50 Georgia businesses have signed the pledge, which reads in part:

“We will actively find ways to leverage our company’s resources to further benefit the community. We are committed to offering our employees opportunities to volunteer their time, skills and expertise to help support community needs and will encourage our employees to volunteer on their own as well.

“We will find ways to create a culture of collaboration and community engagement, volunteerism and giving back within our company.”

Not only has Dentons signed the pledge, but I’m proud to serve as one of goBeyondProfit’s founding ambassadors, and joined also in this effort by Mercedes-Benz of Buckhead Co-Owner Juanita Powell Baranco, former The Home Depot CEO Frank Blake, and Georgia Power President and CEO Paul Bowers.

We invite every Georgia business, large and small, to join us and to invest in creative, unique ways to strengthen their communities. We’re all capable—individuals and businesses alike—of making the world around us a better place, more equitable and safer, healthier and happier. And with any luck, the goBeyondProfit pledgers will make it the norm.