Monday, February 9, 2009

Some Optimism For Today's Economy

The endless stream of depressing news stories about the down economy is unnerving for everyone but I'm hoping to maybe spread a little inkling of hope to the nonprofit world. According to Fortune, corporate responsibility is managing to survive the financial crisis--which might not be enough to ease the anger of Americans after hearing about the excessive perks Wall Street executives have received despite the $700 billion dollar bailout--but perhaps it's a very small start.

Fortune reports:

As recession-battered companies struggle to cut costs, money spent on microfinance projects in India or using more expensive environmentally-correct packaging might seem like obvious ways to save.

But a surprising number of companies see corporate responsibility as all the more important given the financial crunch, even as they reduce spending elsewhere in their businesses. Indeed, proponents of CSR like General Electric, Intel, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500) are sustaining or expanding their commitments, at least for now.

"Corporate responsibility is a nearly recession-proof commitment because it's become so mainstream," says Bennett Freeman, senior vice president for social research and policy at the Calvert Group, a leader in socially responsible investments, with about $13 billion under management. "That said, the resources to back the commitment are not recession-proof, and even the most committed are no doubt going to look for ways to cut costs."

To be sure, some companies are revaluating their efforts. Many will likely reduce their commitments to matching-grant programs for employee charitable giving, disaster relief funds, or business units focused on sustainable investments.

The encouraging news is that companies are starting to view corporate responsibility as a key component to their business, especially as consumers are losing faith in corporate leaders.

With that said, I thought I'd highlight a local effort at raising money. Virgin America Airlines is showing its support for Boston nonprofits through its What's Your Revolution? contest, which coincides with its new Boston service. Local Boston nonprofits are fighting for votes from everyday people for the chance to win $25,000 while Virgin America is also gifting $25,000 to Virgin Unite to support the participating organizations. The organizations are focused on youth education and the environment and the winner will be recognized at Virgin America's launch party in Boston on February 11, 2009.

Some of the nonprofits included are Jumpstart, Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston and Cultural Survival. For a full listing click here. Voting ended on February 6, so I'm a little late (sorry!) but I figured it was still worth noting.

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