When the Business Roundtable expanded its scope to serving all stakeholders rather than making shareholders their priority, I wrote to the effect that corporations shouldn’t tackle prominent, controversial social causes unless it is in their DNA. Yes, there’s a need for social responsibility, and addressing it can reap dividends for all—if it’s genuine and comes without strings.
After Hurricane Sally struck Pensacola, causing significant damage, first responders came to the city to help get it working again. Work crews arrived from other parts of the state, and even from out of state. For example, the band that restored our electric power hailed from Dallas. These crews volunteered to serve those in need. (the better part of our angels and a united American way). Moreover, it was an act of reciprocating with Pensacola for their past service when their communities were in need.
Local businesses also pitched in to help the community despite having suffered losses during the pandemic lockdown and then the hurricane. The Ruby Slipper restaurant offered the public free breakfast sandwiches, tacos, and coffee to help as they went about their cleanup efforts.
The Bear Levin Studer Family YMCA Downtown Pensacola provided free lodging to those first responders coming to our aide from out of town. The YMCA closed to the public, who were likely too distracted and busy with their property cleanup, to support those here to support us. This community YMCA also provides free daycare services to families of first responders.
Lowe’s Home Improvement is also noteworthy for their community service following the hurricane. They provided free goods to the public. The first was an offering of gloves and garbage bags to help with the cleanup. Then Lowe’s provide ice, which was flying off the grocer’s shelves. Here’s a North American retail giant catering to a needy local community.
State Farm Insurance Company serviced the Pensacola community following close behind Hurricane Sally’s path. The day after the hurricane, the company erected a large tent to help their policyholders process claims. True to their jingle (key copy words), “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.”
My insurance company, USAA (United Services Automobile Association), sent me a text that recognized I might have incurred damage from the hurricane and the wherewithal to process it.
What I believe distinguishes these businesses is they are demonstrating social responsibility at the local, community, versus national level. It is and feels personal—mano y mano. They are not pandering. Moreover, it doesn’t feel contrived nor like an exercise in self-aggrandizement. They are doing what they are doing to serve their constituents, not promote their organizations.
However, as a newly established citizen of Pensacola, I can’t help but like these businesses and feel the pull of reciprocity. Yes, I will frequent Ruby Slipper for their delectable breakfasts and to help them recoup from the pandemic and hurricane. My wife and I kept our YMCA membership throughout the period when the coronavirus pandemic shuttered them. Moreover, we donated to the “Y” in appreciation of their support for first responders and their families. As per Lowes Home Improvement, well, we had already purchased many things from them for our home renovation. I not only feel good about the products we bought but about them too.
Finally, USAA has been my insurance company (home, auto, life) for 51-years and still counting. I will continue to choose them to serve my family and me. If I did not have access to them through my military service, then I’d choose State Farm. There’s no cognitive dissonance!
Supporting local communities where we all live will help businesses bond with (current and prospective) customers based upon a highly favorable experience. This, in turn, will lead to generating healthy business relationships and, where appropriates, contribute to long-term value for shareholders.
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Stay SAFE and be well.
Peace and best wishes,