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Don’t Hide Your Good Works Under the Basket

Recently, I judged the U.S. Chamber Business Civic Leadership Center (BCLC) annual corporate citizenship competition. While reviewing applications to select finalists in four categories (U.S. Community Service, International Community Service, Partnership and Corporate Stewardship), it struck me as odd that there were no grocery store chains and only two food manufacturers.

Having worked in the grocery industry, I know of the good work conducted by grocery stores. From corporate philanthropy to engaging customers and employees in cause-related marketing efforts to sustainability initiatives, supermarkets make a difference in the lives of the customers and communities they serve. Organizations do this, not because of huge operating margins but because these companies recognize the importance of supporting the markets in which their employees live and their customers shop.

In today’s world where savvy shoppers want good prices, convenience and other amenities, they also want to feel good about where they spend money. And in today’s economy where employees are asked to work harder and do more with less, associates want to be proud of their employer. So, why not pursue the opportunity to positively position your company by seeking recognition such as this?

You may argue it’s not important because your employees and customers already know about your good work and are familiar with the types of community support you provide. While that may be true, outside acknowledgment adds validity to programs and initiatives with which employees and customers are familiar. Formal recognition resonates well with investors, special interest groups and government officials. And having an established reputation as a “good corporate citizen” is helpful when facing lawsuits or negative press because your company is framed positively, adding credibility and possibly tempering a disapproving response.

I will admit the competition was tough as nominations were extremely impressive. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn't try.

By the way, congratulations to Cargill, which was named a finalist in the International Community Service Award competition. Winners will be named Nov. 30 at the BCLC’s annual corporate citizenship dinner. For more information, check out this link.