23 May Donor Spotlight: How Ecolab Makes a Big Impact with In-Kind Giving
In 1923, a 44 year-old traveling salesman in St. Paul, Minnesota, came up with a brilliant business idea. After staying in countless hotels, he discovered that they would always send their carpets out to be cleaned. This prevented guests from being able to stay in those rooms, for as long as a week.
Leaning on an innovative spirit that continues to this day, Merritt Osborn created a product called Absorbit that cleaned carpets on the spot — and Economics Laboratory, later renamed Ecolab, was born. Today, the company is listed as No. 215 on the Fortune 500, and is one of the most successful, yet under-the-radar, large corporations in America.
Despite being unknown to many consumers, Ecolab is a worldwide provider of water, hygiene and energy technologies and services to the food, energy, healthcare, industrial and hospitality markets. The company is also one of Good360’s most important corporate partners, and a founding member of the Good360 Disaster Recovery Council.
Ecolab isn’t just a global leader in the way it conducts its business. For years, the company has stood out for its philanthropic leadership, environmental stewardship and community development. With a focus of making an impact on the communities where it operates, Ecolab has four main areas of giving: educating at-risk youth, assisting vulnerable citizens, helping to protect the environment, and cultivating the arts.
In 2018 alone, the company contributed nearly $17 million to communities through several initiatives, including corporate giving, grants to nonprofit organizations, in-kind product donations and employee volunteerism. In all, Ecolab and the Ecolab Foundation gave out grants to 910 organizations that align with the foundation’s four focus areas.
We have worked with Ecolab most closely on projects that dovetail with our core initiatives: in-kind product donations and disaster recovery. More than $1.5 million worth of Ecolab products were distributed last year to support disaster relief projects in the U.S. and around the globe.
“We are grateful for our partnership with Ecolab,” said Good360 CEO Howard Sherman. “Cleaning and sanitizing supplies are often among the first requested items in the wake of a disaster, and our collaboration has been critical in a number of impacted regions.”
Kris Taylor, Ecolab’s vice president of community relations, said Ecolab’s in-kind donations of cleaning, sanitizing and public health products fit perfectly with its disaster response strategy. The donated products showcase how Ecolab can leverage its unique expertise and resources to help out in a disaster. At the same time, these supplies are critically needed in the early days of a disaster. This kind of strategic giving serves a model for other corporations.
“Because of the incredible impact corporations can make fairly easily, and without disrupting their day-to-day business, we think every business should consider what assets they have that could be helpful in a natural disaster situation and try to work in-kind giving into their company’s disaster response strategy as well,” she said. “We carefully monitor and keep an eye on potential natural disasters so we can be sure that, as a company, we are prepared to support our employees who may be impacted in the critical hours leading up to and following a disaster. That said, we work closely with nonprofit partners, like Good360, year-round to donate our product when it comes available so that when a disaster does strike, our products are available when those communities get to the clean-up phase post-disaster.”
In-kind donations and relief efforts also provide excellent opportunities for Ecolab to engage its employees around volunteerism. In 2018, the company’s employees volunteered more than 66,000 hours, providing a value of nearly $2 million to their local communities.
“Getting involved with local communities is part of the Ecolab culture and we encourage everyone to think about how they can make an impact with physical volunteer hours or monetary donations,” Taylor said. “Our in-kind disaster relief donations are truly a team effort. Even before Good360 picks up and transports our products, Ecolab plant associates work hard to prepare the product for shipment. They make sure the product will be ready to use once it arrives in the affected area and they package the products clearly to ensure quick customs clearance. Our regulatory affairs teams also gets involved early on to make sure the product we are donating can be accepted and used in different parts of the world.”
Last year, Good360 launched the Resilient Response campaign to encourage corporations to be more thoughtful in their disaster response and to do more to build stronger communities that can better withstand future disasters. Taylor said Ecolab is a firm supporter of Resilient Response and takes a measured approach so that precious resources are maximized, not wasted, during and after a natural disaster.
“Ecolab knows the importance of a pre-planned and coordinated communication effort to ensure that product we donate is helping with the clean-up efforts and not contributing to the problem or being wasted,” she said. “We do this by holding ourselves accountable and delivering on our promise to be intentional with our donations and work closely with other corporations supporting this effort. We ensure that the countries we donate to have the necessary infrastructure in place to distribute and use our products. We don’t know what infrastructure will be left after a disaster hits so it is important to not create additional waste and to be coordinated with our efforts to help not only right after the disaster but in the months/years following it as well.”
Ecolab’s strategic approach to disaster recovery has made the company an integral part of the Good360 Disaster Recovery Council, which was established to promote innovative ideas for corporate philanthropy in disaster. Together with Ecolab, we aim to change the conversation around disaster giving toward more proactive, data-driven and results-based solutions.
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