Sandra Perez Hawthorne
Outstanding Corporate Citizen of the Year (Large Business)
Why do you believe CSR strategy is important for a company?
Responsible organizations lead with their values, align their resources, and tackle complex problems that have far-reaching effects. The solutions to these problems not only improve business outcomes but also improve the environments in which businesses operate, and where employees build their lives. From an investment perspective, CSR is important for a company’s business performance, reputation, and growth in a global economy. From a values perspective, it’s about mission. Shirley Chisholm once said, “Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.” Businesses are no different, and society now looks to industry to lead on social, environmental, and governance issues.
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?
CSR has seen a rapid evolution from philanthropy, to volunteerism, to supply chain management, to actively solving global problems with an organization’s resources. Companies can better achieve their business goals when a corporate citizenship program is directly tied to their business strategy. It is critical to create a CSR program that is also tied to the operating context of a business so that the organization supports initiatives and activities that put its best resources to work. Not only does this help communicate intent; it also helps leaders successfully conduct change management, secure executive buy-in, and demonstrate positive results for the company. That said, organizations committed to fostering a culture of service can use employee-driven programs like dollars-for-doers to incentivize service and enable employees to pursue the issues they are passionate about.
What makes your company stand out compared to other companies participating in CSR?
LMI’s heritage of improving the management of government gives us a running head start. We live our values every day in the work we do, and we have the privilege of recruiting people with the same set of values to do the work that gives us pride and fulfills our deep desire to serve. LMI’s not-for-profit status in the government consulting world gives us flexibility to explore, research, and solve problems that require investments not tied to preconceived outcomes. That is what service is all about. Our corporate citizenship strategy reflects this spirit. We support causes, organizations, and activities that advance public service; whether it is hiring and retaining veterans, funding STEM initiatives, or providing historically black college (HBCU) and university MBA candidates a competitive case competition, we’re laser focused on making sure that our government has and will have the best talent working on its behalf.
Do you believe contributing back to the community allows your company to have a deeper connection with its clients/customers?
In LMI’s experience, we are deeply involved in the issues that face our customers because we’ve been there. Our employees have a history of service, whether as civil servants or military veterans, and they are deeply connected to the mission. Corporately, we enable our employees to connect further by funding their causes through our charity committee, by exploring partnerships with other non-profit organizations they introduce to us, and by allotting annual service hours to get outside our offices and client sites to make an impact right in the community.
What advice would you give to companies trying to participate in CSR?
Identify opportunities that are within your corporate capability matrix, and identify issues—whether social, environmental, or governance—that can benefit the most from your resources. Once you have a program in place that has been crafted in partnership with executive leadership, ensure that you can follow the course for more than one fiscal year to properly measure the impact on your business and the issue or community you serve. Evidence shows that CSR programs significantly increase business performance after several years of commitment. A successful citizenship plan is also predicated by good communication, effective program management, and honest performance management.