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Corporate Philanthropy Roundtable Explores Strategic Models with Local Businesses

1% for the Planet serves as an example of how companies can further their impact

More than 40 local business representatives gathered last week to hear the latest trends in strategic corporate philanthropy.

Family owned concerns and publicly traded companies alike were schooled on “The 1% Solution” at Corporate Philanthropy Roundtable’s largest event to date on Aug. 16 at the Canary Hotel.

Describing the concept pioneered by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and Craig Matthews of Blue Ribbon Flies, Rebecca Calahan Klein, vice president of the international organization 1% for the Planet, educated the group on “business to nonprofit” strategic connections.

Calahan Klein explained the value of aligning a company’s mission with its philanthropy in terms of both issues and nonprofit partners, using the 1% for the Planet model as an example. This model has resonated successfully with more than 1,400 global businesses within 1%’s alliance, who are dedicated to protecting the Earth by donating monetarily, in-kind products and volunteer hours to environmental nonprofits.

Businesses within the 1% network will often collaborate to complete a project of local importance, such as saving a forest in Vermont or a river in Colorado, Klein explained. Last year, businesses donated $23 million to approved nonprofits — with most coming from small businesses with less than $1 million a year in sales.

Corporate Philanthropy Roundtable facilitator Judy Hawkins localized the concepts and framed last week’s discussion by asking attendees to consider possible risks and opportunities to their businesses in the coming decade. Affordable housing, climate change and market differentiation emerged as threats.

Klein also added water and transportation as environmental concerns that specifically impact the Santa Barbara area. She encouraged attendees to consider where the environment fits in to their business plans. Many of the identified issues have a direct effect on local businesses and their employees, and taking steps to involve employees and management in identifying and solving problems (such as sustainability) is not only good for the community, it is good for business.

Janet Garufis, president of Montecito Bank & Trust, said she couldn’t agree more. She shared how the organization follows the vision of owner Michael Towbes by holding philanthropy as a central value. This choice has shaped and grown the business, particularly in the area of employee retention, which is at 97 percent.

“We followed the philosophy of our owner with regard to philanthropy, and our business has grown because of it,” Garufis said.

Hawkins added: “As anticipated, this introduction to 1% for the Planet stimulated sharing of best practices about strategic philanthropy — how local businesses generate the most value in their corporate giving for employees, customers and stakeholders.

Corporate Philanthropy Roundtable members hope this discussion will incite local organizations to adopt creative philanthropy solutions and to align giving with their individual business risks, opportunities and environmental footprint.

— Jessica Tade is the communications and marketing manager for the Santa Barbara Foundation.

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