Planning for the future is a component to any success in business, but it’s just as important for any corporate social responsibility initiative. One-off philanthropic efforts can make a difference, but just like with business, plans and goals create accountability, guiding principles, and most importantly, results.
In 2020, Koozie Group established the framework for Keep It. Give It., the Tampa, Florida-based supplier’s multifaceted initiative to create positive, lasting change for the people within the company and the world outside of it. There’s plenty to admire about Keep It. Give It., but perhaps its most valuable asset is its lack of ambiguity. There are goals and there is a timeline to accomplish those goals; Koozie Group is currently in the second year of a three-year plan for Keep It. Give It, and over the course of the spring has released information on the progress from its inaugural year in 2021.
“I have a 10-year-old, Trey,” says CEO David Klatt. “And I feel strongly about building a better future for the next generation. Our CSR lets me rest easier at night knowing I’m doing my part to make a positive impact on our employees, communities, and industry.”Keep It. Give It. is broken into four subsections with specific goals and motivations. Those categories include fostering diversity and inclusion, giving back to employees and the community, safety and social responsibility, and environmental stewardship. The aims of each were put together by a cross-function steering committee throughout the organization. “We first surveyed our employees about what was important to them; then, we established our four key pillars from there,” says Chief Revenue Officer Melissa Ralston. The foundation of Keep It. Give It had to come from within, but it couldn’t come from just one part of the company.
“The original task force involved members from legal, supply chain, safety, operations, marketing, human resources, finance—really all departments were represented,” Ralston says.
What came out of those surveys was a combination of goals and ideas. Some of those pillars are more goal-oriented than others. Fostering diversity and inclusion is something that can be quantified in some ways and is more about awareness and education in others. But that doesn’t mean actions can’t be taken. In 2021, for example, Koozie Group launched its first ever speaker series.
“A lot of our inspiration comes from what is going on around the country and the world at the time,” says Francine Dupuis, Chief Legal Officer and Chief Human Resource Officer. “Unfortunately, there have been many events that have sparked diversity and inclusion conversations. Since this is close to our backyard in Clearwater [Florida], and we have many employees who are members of the LGBTQ+ community, it was important for me to have Neema Bahrami speak to our workforce as a survivor of the Pulse Nightclub Shooting and an international speaker in support of the LGBTQ+ community.”
Giving back to employees and communities is probably the most straightforward of Keep It. Give It.’s four tenets, but it still requires commitment, and Koozie Group met the challenge in 2021. According to its annual report, the supplier donated more than $250,000 to over 100 non-profits. It donated 100 laptops to A New Direction for Women and Men, Inc, a residential facility for drug and alcohol recovery, supported college scholarships through the Promotional Products Education Foundation, and provided 300 backpacks dilled with school supplies to the United Way and 200 backpacks to employees’ families.
“Giving is really part of our culture of doing what we say we’re going to do and doing it the right way,” Ralston says. According to her, giving regularly can be its own kind of investment. “While nearly every consumer today expects a company to practice CSR, it’s not why we do it. We do, however, expect the investment to pay off not only with happier employees but also with increased sales.”
Environmental stewardship is arguably the most urgent of Keep It. Give It.’s four cornerstones. Various climate reports have stressed the need for immediate climate action in order to protect the planet and slow the increase of natural disasters. The vast majority of this falls on corporations, and the promotional products industry knows that sustainability is no longer an optional part of doing business.
Keep It. Give It. has put Koozie Group on the right track. “Our focus in 2021 was to gain [Forest Stewardship Council] and [Sustainable Forestry initiative] certification in our Sleepy Eye, Red Wing, and Clearwater facilities, and we achieved that,” Klatt says.
Klatt also says that in 2022 Koozie Group will measure the company’s greenhouse gas emissions in order to set targets for reducing those emissions over the following years. “This goal will touch almost every area of our business, including manufacturing and overall supply chain, transportation, and packaging.”
Koozie Group also took an important step forward in safety and social responsibility by becoming affiliated with the Fair Labor Association.
“The Fair Labor Association aligns with our commitment to improving working conditions and protecting workers’ rights,” says Sandeep Jain, Vice President of Vendor Relations, Sourcing, and Compliance. “It also takes into account social and environmental considerations when managing relationships with vendors. It is difficult for suppliers to be good employers if their buyers are not committed to responsible purchasing practices.”
Above and beyond OSHA requirements, the company conducts weekly audits to drive safety observations and find indicators for injury prevention.
Employees across the organization helped create the foundation for Keep It. Give It, and Koozie Group’s three-year plan is well underway. But three years comes and goes, so what will the future look like for Koozie Group’s CSR program?
The company doesn’t want to get away from the employee engagement that helped set the program’s standard, so it has created the Employee Experience & Communications Specialist position and have tapped Trisha Joyce, who has employee engagement experience at Under Armour and Carr Properties, for the role.
“At Koozie Group our tagline is ‘Keep the good going,’ and I hope to do just that with our Keep it. Give it. initiatives,” says Joyce. “The KIGI program has a great foundation, and I hope to help highlight our accomplishments across our various departments as we continue to work toward our 2024 goals.”