Companies with a social conscience

Bill and Melinda Gates have set the bar high for philanthropy, donating more than $26 billion since 1994, through their Foundation. But what about companies, are there many organizations which structure philanthropy into the way they operate? There are many companies doing that, and here’s how.

Ben & Jerry’s

Ben & Jerry’s, the ice-cream maker (my favourite is Cherry Garcia), operates on these three Mission statements:

  1. Social Mission: To operate the Company in a way that actively recognizes the central role that business plays in society by initiating innovative ways to improve the quality of life locally, nationally and internationally.
  2. Product Mission: To make, distribute and sell the finest quality ice cream and euphoric concoctions with a continued commitment to incorporating wholesome, natural ingredients and promoting business practices that respect the Earth and the Environment.
  3. Economic Mission: To operate the Company on a sustainable financial basis of profitable growth, increasing value for our stakeholders and expanding opportunities for development and career growth for our employees.

So how is that worked out? Ben & Jerry’s actively gets involved a number of issues and by administering grants:

  • The Ben & Jerry’s Foundation gets employees involved in philanthropy and social work, and by financially supporting social change organizations.
  • And then Ben & Jerry’s supports causes such as the Occupy Wall Street movement, standing against genetic modification of food, and many other causes. See their Activism pages for more details.


ThoughtWorks is a global IT consultancy, delivering custom software and tools it has developed, providing consultancy services for transforming companies. It has over 1,700 employees around the world.

ThoughtWorks operates the company around Three Pillars (coming from the idea of Ben & Jerry’s three Mission statements):

  1. Sustainable: ThoughtWorks are not chasing huge profits to benefit shareholders, but instead want to be sure that the business keeps going, and can support the other two Pillars.
  2. Revolutionize IT: improve how IT is developed, champion IT excellence, not just within the company, but within the IT industry.
  3. Social Justice: ThoughtWorks aims to passionately advocate for social and economic justice. In a recent meeting, Roy Singham, founder and chairman of ThoughtWorks, wants to see one third of their people working on social issues.

Here Rebecca Parsons, CTO of ThoughtWorks, explains the Three Pillar Model

If you want to read more about ThoughtWorks’ Three Pillars, see Martin Fowler’s article.

How does ThoughtWorks walk out those social values? Their Social Impact Program site has full details, but here is a summary:

  • Pro bono development for social or humanitarian organizations or needs, such as a new web engine for Getup, or during the Queensland Floods building an application in 48 hours to support fundraising.
  • Developing open source software of humanitarian value, such as OpenMRS.


Atlassian is a software development company, with offices around the world. It has a number of initiatives to benefit the community:

  • Through the Atlassian Foundation, through the 1% revenue set aside for it, for a variety of projects, such as Room to Read (building schools and libraries).
  • Every employee can take up to five paid days off to volunteer at a charity of their choice.
  • Provides free licenses for its products to open source projects, and social / community organizations.
  • All starter licenses are donated to charity.


Salesforce is a company with over 8,000 employees around the world, providing business software online. Salesforce, too, donates 1% of its time and money towards philanthropy. This is how they do that:

  • Employees are given 6 days off a year, fully paid, to volunteer for their cause.
  • Donating free licenses to non-profit organizations.
  • Donating 1% revenue to their Salesforce Foundation, which provides funds for grants and monetary assistance, especially to support youth, technology, and employee-inspired volunteer projects.

The Foundation began just one year after the company was founded.

Side-Benefit: Happy Employees

Businesses driven by values such as these benefit not just the recipients of their philanthropy, but a side-benefit is increased employee satisfaction. Many of these companies are listed on the top of lists of the best companies to work for, such as:

  • Atlassian continues to be on the Top 50 Employers in Australia list (from BRW).
  • Salesforce is on that list, too, along with being on Fortune’s Top 100 Companies to Work For (from CNN).

No doubt employee satisfaction is based on more than just the business philanthropy, but if the company values philanthropy, generally it will also have other positive values, including how the company works together.

Do you know of other companies which place philanthropy at their core?

1 thought on “Companies with a social conscience

  1. Pingback: What makes a company good to work for? | cyberetto

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