Companies must give back to communities Guest Column BY J. DAVID MAHONEY FOR THE DAILY GAZETTE

Next Wednesday, productivity at my company will grind to a halt. We will not make a single sales call, let alone a sale. We won’t crunch any numbers nor file any paperwork. With a skeleton crew manning phone calls, most will go to voice mail and emails to the out-of-office assistant.

And I couldn’t be happier.

That day, the entire 30-member workforce at Noble Gas Solutions will be doing something that we consider just as important as a day in the office: Our employees will spend the day in our North Albany neighborhood picking up trash, sweeping, raking, and planting new trees in an effort to beautify the area where we spend the majority of our week. In other words, an old-fashioned neighborhood cleanup.

Like many companies in the Capital Region, we are firmly committed to the idea that businesses can “do well by doing good.”

All of us who own and operate businesses depend, first and foremost, on the support of local people and local communities for their very survival. This is certainly true in terms of building a customer base, and there’s no question that our potential clients are watching.

According to a study by Cone Communications and Echo Research, 82 percent of consumers consider a company’s approach to social good when making a purchase.

At the same time, “doing good” is vital to supporting the efficient and effective operation of a business. Skilled and motivated employees want to work for companies that care about their communities. Similarly, key suppliers and vendors are more willing to work with businesses that demonstrate strong integrity and character by treating their hometowns with respect.

And, as companies pursue opportunities to grow, they can’t do it alone. The support of government leaders and agencies, financial institutions and other key stakeholders can be critical to the long-term success of a business. Those entities are likely to be more motivated to lend their support to companies that have shown they care about the place they operate, and the people that live and work there, together with a willingness to reinvest in the community to make it better for all.

I am convinced that the time and money that corporate entities and their employees contribute to their communities is truly an investment, and in most cases, an important one that promises to pay significant dividends down the road.

When we as businesses, through our employees, volunteer time to projects that improve the well-being of our region, or provide funding support for worthy organizations that work to level the playing field for the less fortunate, we are clearly doing the right thing. More than that, we are helping to create and foster an environment that supports economic opportunity and growth that will ultimately benefit everyone.

This mentality takes on added meaning in the Capital Region at a time when our economic growth is outpacing many of our neighbors across the state.

The truth is, not everyone is realizing the same opportunities, and the community organizations that provide vital assistance to those individuals need our help. Private-sector employers bear an important role in promoting social responsibility, and thankfully, we are lucky to have many community-minded companies in our region. That said, more work and attention is needed.

As we celebrate our 75th anniversary, we are taking this opportunity to reaffirm the importance of corporate philanthropy and social responsibility. We plan to invest $75,000 in funding this year, building on more than $3 million that we have helped raise over the past 15 years alone, to support local causes and charitable organizations, as well as the time and talents of our employees to volunteer, participate on boards, and yes, conduct old-fashioned neighborhood cleanups.

As a diehard golfer who’s been known to engage in a Nassau or two, and in the spirit of camaraderie, I would like to extend a friendly challenge to my colleagues in business. I ask you to consider these questions: Are we doing enough to support those in need in our community? And if not, what more could we do to help?

“We make a living by what we get,” former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill famously said, “but we make a life by what we give.”

Those words present both a challenge and an opportunity – certainly for all of us as individuals, but also for those of us who own and operate businesses.

The time is now to build a stronger and more vibrant community that offers prosperity to everyone.