Corporate Greed Versus Giving Back

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You know (actually, you don’t; that’s why I’m writing this), sometimes I get unexpected responses to things I mention. A little tradition I have with you (you didn’t know we had traditions?) is, I conclude each holiday season column with “Be nice to the bell ringers.”

Last year I got an email from someone who thought that was a pretty funny line. Unfortunately (on many levels), I was being sincere. I know, it’s a rare thing, and where was he anyways when I was trying to be funny?

My now 15-year-old daughter and I have rung those bells for the last seven or eight years together. It’s a tradition (not between you and me, but her and me) that I think she looks forward to more than I do. Her 11-year-old brother sometimes gets into it, but not so much. We’ve been out there in 60-degree weather as well as in snow and single-digit temperatures.

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I share this with you because, first, you should be nice to the bell ringers (they could be me!), and, second, it’s nice to start off a column about how much retail and LP folks give back. Working in LP, you should know and, hopefully, participate in the difference we make in people’s lives on a daily basis.

For example, Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, has made a $2-billion-dollar commitment to hunger relief efforts in the United States. That’s over and above the almost fifty non-profits that have been recipients of $1-million-dollar contributions, and scores more who’ve received at least $250,000 from them.

Elsewhere in the retail world, the Macy’s Foundation granted over $27 million dollars to non-profit organizations across the U.S. in 2010. Macy’s focuses their contributions on education, the environment, HIV/AIDS research, and women’s issues.

Gap, Inc. can boast their foundation head serves on the White House Council for Community Solutions. Their employee-driven community investments topped $16.5 million dollars last year.

My former employer, Limited Brands, donated $9 million dollars to non-profits along with over $3 million in product donations. Their international efforts include rebuilding orphanages in Sri Lanka, supporting the blind in Vietnam, summer camps in Israel, and donating boats to fishermen in Indonesia.

My current employer’s TJX Foundation supports over 1,300 local non-profits in the U.S. alone. Last year, TJX committed to a multiyear partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association, a world leader in searching for answers in research and advancing care.

On a smaller scale, our LP team took a leadership role in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks across the country in supporting or leading twenty-seven walks. A few of us even took pies to the face in a 45-minute, $2,000 fundraiser for the walks. (Don’t pretend you didn’t notice the picture of yours truly. The collective sighs of missing your chance were unnecessary.)

What’s your team or company involved in? You know, the next time you hear a comment about corporate greed, why not take a minute to educate the uninformed. Retail is about making money for our shareholders, but we as an industry do an awful lot to give back.

This year’s just about over, so from me to you, if you have a favorite charity you support, thank you. If you don’t, please think about finding one for next year. You might find out you get just as much out of it as those you help. I know I do.

Once again—Be nice to the bell ringers!

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