Outstanding Corporate Citizen of the Year (Large Business) Nominee
Submitted by: Lisa Cochran, Employee Engagement Specialist
1. Why do you believe CSR strategy is important for a company?
Employees experience a sense of personal pride when they work for a company that cares about
the community, especially when the CSR strategy has a direct correlation to the employees’ profession. By supporting community-oriented causes and volunteering as teams, employees also learn how to work better together to accomplish important projects. CSR opens up opportunities to forge corporate partnerships with communities to the benefit of all parties involved by leveraging skills, expertise, and human resources.
2. Do you believe that the CSR work you participate in should be affiliated with the work you/your company does? For example, should an Oil company’s CSR be in cleaning up oil spills?
Absolutely! At Dewberry, it’s our experience that employees are most passionate about CSR work that ties directly to their professional responsibilities. Engineers love sharing engineering principles with grade school students. Architects are passionate about CSR activities that involve the built environment. For this reason, Dewberry advocates regular employee involvement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in the many communities we serve. Our engineers and architects know that it’s vital to our industry and our nation that we challenge curious minds, teach them the value of good engineering and design, and prepare next generations to assume their roles of building sustainable and resilient future communities.
3. What makes your company stand out compared to other companies participating in CSR?
At Dewberry, we have a guiding principal that states,“Build strong relationships. Make building relationships with clients, the community and others at Dewberry a priority.” This guidance comes from the very top of our organization and is reinforced by a formal employee recognition program. Employees are also actively encouraged to serve on boards, join professional associations and participate in organizations on the community level. Since 2013, we have been tracking our company hours through the Presidential Volunteer Service Award (PVSA) and have achieved the gold level each year by volunteering more than 1,000 hours as a company. In 2015, we had more than 2,700 hours recorded.
A great example is Dewberry’s 20-year partnership with Luther Jackson Middle School, located right across the street from our headquarters. We financially support and our employees actively participate in the Expanding Visions program that encourages students to pursue STEM courses and increase their understanding of the application of these concepts in real-world scenarios; and tutor students in math and volunteer at Luther Jackson’s annual Olympiad event where students use teamwork and critical thinking skills to competitively solve various challenges. Being a community-oriented company is also at the core of our business model. We are often the “engineering consultant of choice” in many communities because of the close ties we nurture among community leaders, organizations, and the public at large.
4. Do you believe contributing back to the community allows your company to have a deeper
connection with its clients/customers?
Of course; for example, for more than 50 years Dewberry has designed public safety and justice facilities. The architects and engineers who work in this field are passionate about the contributions they make to the overall safety, health, and welfare of the nation. When it was announced that the 2015 World Fire and Police Games would be in Fairfax, we knew we had to be involved. In addition to being the corporate sponsor of the swimming events, employees volunteered many hours at the swimmer hospitality booths and meets as a way of giving back to these first responders and law enforcement agents.
5. What are some events or causes that inspire you and your team?
One of the most inspiring programs most people don’t know we actively support is the S. John Davis Center. For more than 15 years, we’ve partnered with Fairfax County Public Schools and its Career and Transition Services Department to support post-secondary special needs students. They spend Tuesdays through Fridays at Dewberry’s Fairfax office learning how to provide clerical and administrative support services in a real-office environment. Our employees’ Toastmasters group has also organized a “Loud & Proud” program where these students are teamed with Dewberry mentors to also learn and practice public speaking and presentation skills. Our employees also have a passion for sustainability and the conservation of natural resources. Employees around the country participate regularly in stream clean-ups, tree recovery initiatives, Earth Day, and events that contribute to educating communities about sustainable practices and resiliency.
6. What advice would you give to companies trying to participate in CSR?
Grass-roots and local efforts are effective, especially for organizations with a wide geographic spread and multiple locations. At Dewberry, we encourage our employees to apply their passion for their profession to their local community-related activities. Employees are eager to participate with well-established groups like Habitat for Humanity, CANstruction, Restore America's Estuaries, ACE Mentor Program, Engineers for International Development, and institutions like George Mason University and Fairfax County Public Schools that promote STEM-related activities. Align your CSR strategy with your corporate values and disciplines to put your values into practice.