CEO Weekly INsights
March 21. 2018
UGI CEO Shares How CSR is Helping His Company Build Solid Relationships with the Community and Employees
The UGI Corporation has established a reputation as a leading energy distribution company and a generous corporate citizen. Contributing to the corporation’s successful position is its commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) demonstrated by the many years of giving back to the communities it serves. This industry leader has a long and proud history of championing causes that strengthen the long-term well-being of communities as well helping the UGI team recruit, develop and retain talent. John Walsh, CEO of UGI Corporation, explains.
"By being in the energy distribution business, UGI is heavily engaged in the communities where it operates. As an energy provider, UGI serves a vital need for almost three million customers in the US and Europe who rely on us as their primary source for energy supply," says John.
"UGI is committed to supporting the communities we serve through charitable giving and active support from our team members. Our employees are at the core of our giving efforts, as they volunteer their time and energy to a wide range of initiatives."
“Corporate Social Responsibility is built into our business strategy,” adds John. “CSR in terms of being a responsible citizen is a fundamental part of our corporate values, and we specifically call it out when we talk about our business and what we are trying to achieve.”
UGI focuses their corporate contributions in the areas of education and disaster response.
“We focus on these areas as we believe these are where the most need exists and where we can have the greatest impact,” says John.
UGI focus on education.
“Our community efforts aim to improve educational opportunities and encourage the development of the many children throughout the communities we serve. We particularly focus on early childhood literacy and increasing technical education for middle and high school students.”
For more than three decades, UGI has been working with Reading Is Fundamental, the nation’s largest nonprofit children's literacy organization.
“Through Reading is Fundamental, we distribute books to first-grade students across the state. Over the years, our people have volunteered hundreds of thousands of hours reading to these young learners, and helping them acquire the basic reading skills needed to succeed. Our people love that activity as it’s a way for us to support a critical early childhood education activity,” says John.
To address its focus on technical education, UGI supports the Franklin Institute’s STEM Scholars Program.
STEM Scholars is a 4-year program that immerses academically talented high school students from disadvantaged social and educational backgrounds into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The program was created to identify high potential young people who have the skill sets and native ability, and give them the STEM education edge through high school.
“We dedicate a substantial amount of time with the STEM Scholars to assist, support and give them the opportunity to grow at a critical point in their lives. You can get them thinking about college, and can potentially permanently change the trajectory of their lives.”
It’s a huge point of pride that almost all the high-potential STEM Scholars have been accepted to well-regarded universities such as the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel, Princeton, Carnegie Mellon, Swarthmore, NYU, University of Pittsburgh and others.
“Our people love the interaction with the students. It is highly rewarding for our engineers and technicians to describe our business and their role to highly engaged students who ask a lot of questions. Their involvement contributes to developing the students, and themselves.”
Follow up is vital.
After activities with the STEM Scholars, UGI asks the employees involved what can be improved and what more can the corporation do. They also discuss the activity with the Franklin Institute.
“It is vital that our involvement and objectives are aligned with the STEM Scholar Program,” says John. “We want to strengthen and reinforce what the Franklin Institute’s team of educators are aiming to achieve with the students.”
“In the long run Reading is Fundamental, STEM Scholars and the other educational initiatives we support make perfect sense for our business, as some of our future employees will be participating in these programs.”
Disaster response is another focus area for UGI.
“We work closely with community support organizations and emergency support organizations like the Red Cross and Salvation Army who are always there to assist and help us when we and the communities we serve need them. We look for opportunities with groups that provide a full scope of services to communities and are responsive when communities need our assistance.”
UGI volunteers recently teamed up with the American Red Cross in its Home Fire Prevention Program to install smoke detectors and share life-saving information with residents to help keep them safe and warm this winter. With cold temperatures, there is often a rise in the number of home fires.
UGI employees want to be part of a company that is working to make a difference.
“Having opportunities to participate in CSR activities is becoming increasingly important to our employees and to our corporation,” says John. “Being engaged gives them the ability to develop their leadership and teamwork skills, and puts a personal face on our CSR activities.”
“When conducting annual employee surveys, we get high marks from our team for the positive impact they perceive our CSR efforts are having on the communities we serve. Our CSR activities help our team identify with the company’s efforts and see the positive impact of those activities. This has a strong impact on deciding to spend their career with us.”
“Younger people who join the company are more prone to seek employment with a company attuned to the needs of the community. When I started my career I probably would not have been as vocal as the average young person is today about wanting to be part of a company that is socially active and has an impact. And that is a good thing.”
Why UGI chooses to be a member of the Satell Institute.
“What makes the Satell Institute unique is that it is cause agnostic. It is not trying in any way to direct your outreach activities. It gives businesses the freedom to look at their mission, look at their activities and make decisions that align with its goals and objectives. At the same time, it provides a connection to nonprofits that have demonstrated the ability to be effective and impactful.”
“Another exciting aspect is that you are part of a network of great companies that are active in the community. These are highly focused and effective companies for which I have profound respect. With the Satell Institute, you can meet fellow CEOs from these companies and get ideas, which I think is a huge benefit. For instance, during a Satell Institute board meeting I was talking with the CEO of Progressive Business Publications (PbP) about STEM programs, and he introduced me to the Franklin Institute’s STEM Scholars Program. Eventually, we had the opportunity to continue the work PbP started with the Franklin Institute, which was in everyone’s best interest. Helping companies make connections, and enabling partnerships with nonprofits, is why the Satell Institute is very attractive to us, and why it should be attractive to any company that is interested in carrying out a very impactful CSR program,” concludes John.
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