I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “doing well by doing good” – a phrase describing a business that is financially successful at the same time it is working toward making the world a better place. Instead of the corporation’s generosity hurting its bottom line, the company reaps rewards.
“Well-known companies have already proven that they can differentiate their brands and reputations as well as their products and services if they take responsibility for the well-being of the societies and environments in which they operate,” write business consultants George Pohle and Jeff Hittner in a report from the IBM Institute for Business Value. “These companies are practicing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in a manner that generates significant returns to their businesses.”
Maybe it’s retention of top people who share in the values of giving back to society or maybe it’s better morale that incentivizes people to work harder for a company they respect. Maybe it’s just good karma. Whatever the explanation, a growing number of corporations contribute financially to charitable organizations, allow employees to volunteer for good causes on company time, and give back to their communities in many ways.
And then there are some companies that go beyond those generous gestures to make doing good an integral and transformative part of the way they do business. For instance, 3M has the 3P program — “Pollution Prevention Pays.” Employees get paid for ideas that reduce pollutants in 3M’s manufacturing processes and products. Since it was launched in 1975, 10,000 projects have eliminated more than 1.9 million tons of pollutants – and saved the company $1.7 billion. Now that’s transformative!
I have gotten to know a jewelry company that, like 3M, goes beyond simple financial charity to make a major difference. The company, Yvel, is committed to help struggling immigrants in Israel have better lives.
Yvel (“Levy” backwards) was founded in 1986 by Orna Levy, a member of the Mousseueff family famous for importing fine pearls and designing exquisite pearl jewelry, and her husband Isaac Levy, who emigrated with his family from Buenos Aires. Isaac’s family faced poverty and hardships before succeeding in their new country, a childhood that he never forgot.
“My way of repairing the world is to give others what I didn’t have as a child,” he says, “and to help repair the weakest links in Israeli society – our immigrants and, in particular, Ethiopian immigrants.”
About 90 percent of the 100 employees working in Yvel’s design and production facility outside Jerusalem are immigrants; they come from more than 20 very different countries and cultures, including Iraq, Syria, Russia, and the United States.
Then, to take their corporate social responsibility mission even further, the Levys set up a company within their company: a new line of jewelry designed and produced by a group of Israeli immigrants who have faced particular challenges, Ethiopian Jews.
In 2010, the Levys founded the Megemeria School of Jewelry to train and employ Ethiopian-Isrealis whose people were expelled from their native Ethiopia in the 1970s and who now number more than 120,000 and who have high rates of poverty and unemployment.
Megemeria, which means “genesis” or beginnings, teaches students jewelry design, goldsmithing, gem setting and pearl-stringing, all artisanal skills that can earn them jobs at Yvel and other jewelry manufacturers. Training is free and the students receive monthly stipends; mentors also help them learn every day skills for success.
It sounds great. In addition, the designs coming out of this new venture look very intriguing. Their Africa-inspired pieces in brass and gold-plate are simple and creative and their sales bode well for the Megemeria business inside the Yvel business. The hope is for it to become self-sustaining in the future.
I am excited to see in person some of these pieces when Yvel representatives are here on September 12 for a trunk show during the grand opening of the new Tres Mariposas jewelry department. It’s a special boutique within a store!
I also can’t wait to see Orna and Isaac Levy’s award-winning cultured pearl necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and rings. These lustrous pearls come in beautiful colors and innovative settings and are unlike anything else we’ve ever had at the store. And when I buy a piece that I’ll like to wear, I know I’m helping to support a good cause on the other side of the world!