Outstanding Corporate Citizenship Awards Finalist Interview with Doug Brammer Manager, State Government Affairs, Verizon
1. Why do you believe CSR strategy is important for a company/you?
There’s more to Verizon’s reputation than our performance in financial markets. We believe that using our talent and technology to address society’s biggest challenges will both grow our business and change the world for the better. We call this strategy ‘Shared Success.’ It involves the totality of our identity; the quality of our people; the value of our brand; and our standing in the community. We want to share our success with the community to make the world in which we live better than it was yesterday. When we do this, when we make CSR a priority, everyone wins.
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?
Yes, it makes good business sense to leverage our strategic assets in ways that benefit the communities in which we live, work, and play.
We believe technology can solve almost anything precisely because it connects people and resources in new combinations, transforming our society and providing powerful answers to the big challenges of our day. But the application of technology to social problems is simply not enough. We analyze social problems closely, identifying the right opportunities for our technology, and anticipating what stumbling blocks may exist to its effective use. Taking this analytical approach is the best way that the technology we can provide fulfills the promise of effecting social change.
Verizon is focused on driving that change by using our technology to solve pressing problems in education, healthcare and sustainability, particularly in underserved communities. Our strategy goes beyond charitable contributions to deliver innovative technology solutions to transform lives. Through the Verizon Foundation, we created a social innovation incubator that accelerates the use of technology to address these problems. We partner with committed, dynamic non-profit organizations, combining their unique expertise with our advanced technology and financial resources to achieve entirely new breakthroughs.
3. What makes you/your company stand out compared to other individuals/companies participating in CSR?
We bring the latest mobile communications technology to the communities that would normally be the last to receive it. And, by doing this, we are able to measure the social value and impact that our technology-based programs provide to these underserved communities.
We implement responsible business practices and focus on social issues that mirror our business practices. Managing our CSR work this way is of great benefit to the business in that it creates freedom to operate and enter new markets; and it is of great benefit to society in that it identifies technology solutions that can solve big challenges that people in our own communities face every day.
We further differentiate ourselves by measuring impacts to continuously improve our solutions, and scale the most promising initiatives to benefit the broadest possible community. Throughout the process we evaluate the business and social value of our initiatives, provide new insight and research into how best to integrate technology into solving social problems, measure a program’s concrete results and identify when to scale-up results. As the Foundation furthers its role as an incubator for new social solutions, this logic-based model also will enable us to better understand how best to replicate programs for greater impact.
We also partner with third-parties to measure results. For example, The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) continually evaluates our Verizon Innovative Learning Schools program. By working with the results gleaned from these evaluations, we can identify areas of success that are scalable, allowing us to expand our programs.
4. Do you believe contributing back to the community allows you/your company to have a deeper connection with your/its consumers?
Absolutely! Our Credo states: “We are good corporate citizens, and share our success with the community to make the world in which we work better than it was yesterday.”
As a result, we’re intent on tapping the talents and interests of our employees to improve the communities we serve. We want to make a positive impact on society, not only through our work, but outside of work as well. Whether they’re mentoring students, helping non-profits build capacity or providing emergency support for a community in crisis, our employees are generous, caring people who are committed to making a difference.
One national program in which Verizon’s team has made a real difference is the Verizon Innovative App Challenge, an exciting, creative and collaborative competition that offers $20,000 grants for winning middle and high schools and Samsung Galaxy tablets for students on the winning teams. Designed to ignite our students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), the Challenge introduces them to exciting new possibilities for their futures. In 2014, a group of 6 remarkable young women from Resaca Middle School in Los Fresnos, Texas, created “Hello Navi”. Inspired by their blind classmate, Andres Salas, the middle schoolers thought up the app as a guide for the visually-impaired. Designed to measure a user's stride and combine this information with digital building blueprints, the app gives verbal directions that help users easily navigate unfamiliar spaces. Their idea was so innovative, the girls won Best in Nation for their school and were invited to the White House Science Fair to demonstrate their winning app and meet President Obama.
Verizon also offers our employees key resources to encourage participation in community-engagement programs, including matching gift and volunteer grant programs, team fundraisers, collection drives, training, and various award and recognition programs to celebrate the contributions they are making.
And Verizon supports a variety of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) within the workplace. ERGs enable our people to connect, learn and grow through their experiences, heritages and histories in ways that benefit our communities and our company. The cross-functional nature of ERG membership fosters collaboration, information sharing and connections across and within our diverse communities.
5. What are some events or causes that inspire you and your team?
What really excites me is having the chance to see our employees working in their communities - on the ground, so to speak - really making a difference locally. We like to say that we are a global company with a local heart, and I think this shows in the myriad of events and causes that our employees participate in every day. Our employees play a significant role representing the organization, rolling up their sleeves in the communities in which they live and work to benefit Verizon’s social programs and the local causes that they care deeply about.
For example, employees host an annual ‘Recycle Rally’ on our Ashburn campus. Last year ~550 citizens dropped off ~68,300 pounds of e-waste, all of which was reused or recycled. ~800 employees at the Ashburn campus joined the company’s ‘Green Team’ and are helping Verizon achieve its sustainability goals by working and living ‘Green.’ Employees regularly participate in blood drives, ‘Tools for School,’ which collects school supplies for underserved students, park and stream clean-up projects, as well as participation in most any school and local sporting event you can imagine.
Through the Verizon Foundation and our employees’ investment of time, talent, and treasure we make investments in our communities that make a real difference
6. What advice would you give to individuals/companies trying to participate in CSR?
Make it a priority. Include senior leadership. Create a culture that encourages both corporate and employee involvement and their investment of time, talent, and treasure. And be sure to measure results so that best practices and learnings may be leveraged to create even greater results.