A growing number of companies on Long Island are incorporating social responsibility into their business models to boost their reputation, engage employees and attract customers.
“This is capitalism with a cause,” said Jim McCann, founder and executive chairman of 1-800-Flowers.com Inc. “That is how we think about it.”
The Carle Place company has contributed to hurricane relief efforts this year, and is a key sponsor of Smile Farms, a nonprofit that employs people with developmental disabilities.
Long Island-based companies including health care products distributor Henry Schein Inc., organic and natural foods maker Hain Celestial Group Inc., vitamin and dietary supplement maker Nature’s Bounty Co. and skin care and hair care manufacturer Sundial Brands LLC have donated cash and products and provided employee volunteers to lend support to local communities.
“It is about being a good corporate citizen and thinking about the community you are operating in,” said Glenn Soden, a mentor for the national nonprofit small business association SCORE and an instructor of ethics and corporate social responsibility for Ohio Dominican University’s master of business administration program.
Many companies here also have donated supplies and sent volunteers to help communities in the United States and the Caribbean recover from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Some have contributed to Mexico’s recovery from the Sept. 19 earthquake. Most of them work with nonprofit partners to help with product delivery and distribution during disaster relief efforts.
Experts say corporate social responsibility is a business decision.
“If you emphasize integrity in what you do, emphasize diversity, gender equality, safety and environmental initiatives in your business model, you will make more money, and gain allies and partners,” said John C. Camillus, a professor of strategic management of the University of Pittsburgh’s graduate business school. He co-authored “The Business of Humanity: Strategic Management in the Era of Globalization, Innovation, and Shared Value.”
Companies that give cash or in-kind donations, such as materials, goods or services, to nonprofits, public charities or private operating foundations are eligible for tax deductions.
The companies say that corporate social responsibility promotes innovation, brand differentiation, customer engagement, and employee recruitment and retention.
The share of Standard & Poor’s 500 companies publishing corporate social responsibility reports has increased from 20 percent in 2011 to 81 percent in 2015, according to a survey by the Governance & Accountability Institute, a Manhattan consulting firm.
“Consumers have a lot of choices today, and they are looking to support companies that are doing good,” said Whitney Dailey, a spokeswoman for Boston-based Cone Communications, a public relations and marketing agency focused on “cause marketing” and corporate responsibility.
Ronkonkoma-based Nature’s Bounty formally established a corporate social responsibility program three years ago, said Beverly Lee-Wo, director of the initiative.
“Associates like to work for companies that give back to where they live,” Lee-Wo said. Employees that have volunteered 50 or more hours get $500 from the company toward their charity.
“For our customers, it is also important to buy from a company that is socially responsible,” Lee-Wo said.
Nature’s Bounty and its charitable arm, Nature’s Bounty Foundation, which was established 10 years ago, donate to local and national nonprofit organizations including United Way, Island Harvest, Long Island Cares, Family Service League, the LGBT Network and the Girl Scouts of Suffolk County.
Nature’s Bounty said it has donated more than $2 million in cash and products this year. It also donated protein bars and ready-to-drink nutrition beverages to help hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.
Hain Celestial, based in Lake Success, updated its mission statement in 2007 to say it would continue to pursue environmentally sound business and manufacturing practices. It donates food and personal hygiene products to nonprofit organizations and charities.
When the company sponsors or participates in a community event, usually eight to 10 times a year, employees are given the option to take paid time off to participate, said Ryan McNair, senior manager for emerging channels.
“When our employees engage in a community, it gives them a sense of pride,” said Jared Simon, vice president of the company’s Better-For-You Baby segment, which contributed diapers, wipes and baby food to the relief efforts.
The publicly traded company has donated more than $1 million to recent hurricane relief efforts. On Sept. 29 it sent truckloads of products to CitiField, in partnership with the Mets, for Puerto Rico.
Melville-based Henry Schein, along with its employees and supplier partners, has donated more than $600,000 in cash and health care products to relief organizations and associations working in hurricane-affected areas in the South and the Caribbean. Last month the company — the largest publicly traded company on Long Island by sales — joined several Texas dental, medical and veterinary organizations in a symposium to help health care professionals restore and reopen their practices.
“It is about helping rebuild the health care infrastructure and helping communities that were affected,” said Jennifer Kim Field, vice president of corporate social responsibility and executive director of the Henry Schein Cares Foundation.
Through its foundation, established in 2008, the company helps facilitate access to care for at-risk communities globally in the dental, medical and veterinary fields.
Henry Schein said it donated more than $10.5 million in cash and products to over 500 nonprofits last year.
Sundial Brands has donated in excess of $175,000 in cash this year, and more than $300,000 in hair care and skin care products from its SheaMoisture and Nubian Heritage brands, to areas affected by hurricanes, to Mexico and to Sierra Leone, which was devastated by floods and mudslides in August.
Locally, the family-owned and -controlled company supports nonprofits in Amityville, where it is headquartered, such as Hope for Youth, a foster care and housing organization, Homecoming Farm, a community-supported agriculture project, and Girls Inc.
“We want to benefit the people with whom we do business and the areas where we do business,” said Emmet Dennis, Sundial Brands’ chief community officer.
Through its “community commerce” business model, the company partners with more than 6,500 women in Ghana to harvest shea nuts from trees that are then processed into shea butter, the primary raw material used in its products. The women have invested in their own communities, and the school enrollment rate of their children has increased from 37 percent in 2014 to 98 percent in 2016, Dennis said.
Farmingdale-based Bedgear LLC, a maker of “performance” bedding, said it donated $400,000 worth of pillows, blankets and mattresses to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey. It also donated more than $12,000 from its Sept. 16 online sales to Dallas Mavericks basketball player Dirk Nowitzki’s foundation helping children.
Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, owner of Gallery Furniture in Houston and a seller of Bedgear products, became a media sensation after offering up his stores for Harvey evacuees and his trucks for rescue operations.
“We called him up and said we wanted to help as well,” Bedgear chief executive Eugene Alletto said. The company sent him Bedgear products.
The private manufacturer also sent products to Florida and Puerto Rico to distribute to shelters.
“We didn’t do it to just get marketing,” Alletto said. “We did it because we do business there. Those customers supported us.”
Bedgear also provides employees with paid time off one day a month to volunteer anywhere they choose. The company has more than 200 employees, including about 55 on Long island.
1-800-Flowers worked to help its florists in hurricane-impacted areas reopen their shops, deploying employee volunteers and supplies. It also provided nearly 75 pallets of snacks and food donations from its Harry & David and The Popcorn Factory units to charities in Texas and Florida.
Company founder Jim McCann and his family started Smile Farms in 2015. The nonprofit employs about 60 people with developmental disabilities who tend four urban farms. 1-800-Flowers supports the nonprofit with donations, volunteer support, business mentorship and marketing campaigns.
“When young people interview for a position, they want to know how we are giving back, causes, and what we do celebrate,” McCann said. “People come to our company because they learned about us because their friends volunteered at Smile Farms.”
New Hyde Park-based Kimco Realty Corp., one of the largest publicly traded owners and operators of shopping centers in the United States, launched a corporate social responsibility program in 2011 to address environmental, social and governance initiatives.
The real estate investment trust reduced the energy consumption of its shopping centers by 18 percent from 2011 to 2016.
Through Kimco’s Community Connection program, employees volunteered 476 hours last year. The company sponsors two paid workdays a year to volunteer. Some of the Long Island organizations the workers volunteer for include human service agency Mercy First, Island Harvest and Ronald McDonald House. The company also donated $50,000 toward hurricane relief efforts.
“We view CSR as a competitive advantage that we have,” said Will Teichman, senior director of strategic operations. “It makes Kimco an employer of choice.”
For TallOrder.com co-founders Dan and Mike Friedman, 27, their involvement in corporate social responsibility is personal. At age 11, the twin brothers lost their father, Andrew Friedman, in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
The brothers got help from Tuesday’s Children, a nonprofit founded after 9/11 to help those impacted deal with trauma and loss. Tuesday’s Children took them on field trips and later helped them write their résumés and gave them job-search tips. “They did everything they could to get us in a better frame of mind,” said Mike Friedman.
Now, TallOrder.com, their Jericho-based private company that sells socks for men with shoe sizes 12-20, donates 10 percent of profits to Tuesday’s Children. In June the brothers and their mother, Lisa Friedman Clark, made a $10,000 donation at the annual Tuesday’s Children benefit in Plandome.
The brothers, 6-foot-11 and 6-foot-9, run their startup with the help of their mom from their family home. Their socks have sky blue, embroidered logos on the ankles to represent the sky on 9/11. Any socks that get returned for refund or exchange will be donated to local homeless shelters in New York.
“We hope that we convey with our business that you can really triumph over tragedy,” Dan Friedman said.