Commentary: The Value of Working for Socially Responsible Companies

Taking corporate diversity and equality to the next level.

Posted: 05/14/2013 03:53 PM EDT

Virginia-based E-waste Tech Systems is a socially responsible business in every sense of the word.

Not only does the Black-owned tech firm help dispose electronic waste — which are discarded electrical or electronic devices — in a secure, environmentally friendly way, it also hires its staff from impoverished communities with high levels of chronic unemployment.

“What I saw was a perfect opportunity to address an environmental problem all over the world,” says Felipe Wright, CEO of E-Waste Tech Systems. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that only 25 percent of e-waste is recycled, while rapid upgrades in technology are accelerating the problem. E-waste is projected to grow by as much as 500 percent in countries such as India over the next decade.

E-waste Tech Systems helps companies dispose of electronic waste in a way that minimizes their footprint in compliance with Environmental Protective Agency standards. But with the start of this company, Wright didn’t just aim to tackle a growing environmental concern — he also saw a way to do so while focusing on another worsening problem: growing economic disfranchisement.

The company focuses on hiring those living in high unemployment neighborhoods particularly racial minorities, veterans, and ex-offenders — all who have disproportionately high unemployment rates. E-waste Tech Systems sees their employees not just as those who produce for their company but also as people who should be invested in.

Along with job training, the company teaches basic personal finance and connects employees with counseling services. They recognize that those with disproportionately high unemployment most often come from underserved communities and can use assistance in strengthening a variety of social economic skills and being connected to greater socio-economic responsibility. 

“The economic model is not working for these communities,” says Moorosi Mokuena, VP strategy of E-Waste Tech Systems.

By tackling systemic social inequalities that affect communities on both a global and local scale, the company makes the case that racial, economic and environmental inequalities often overlap — and that it is possible to develop answers to these multifaceted social challenges.

And along with making a social impact, corporate social responsibility is also becoming an important way to attract new business and talent.

PriceWaterhouseCoopers found that 88 percent of millennial generation workers choose employers based on strong social responsibility values, and 86 percent would consider leaving if the companies’ values no longer met their expectations.

“Our value is enhanced because other companies resonate with our desire to change lives and empower communities. We all win when companies are not only providing a valuable service, but when vulnerable populations are being educated, engaged and employed,” says Wright.

Economic success is identifying what you are good at, what you are passionate about and connecting it to promising economic opportunity. If addressing societal inequality and disenfranchisement motivates you, social entrepreneurship or working for a business with a corporate responsibility focus are worth exploring!

Dedrick Muhammad is the senior director of the NAACP Economic Department. To learn more about the work of the NAACP Economic Department, check out the NAACP Financial Freedom Center Facebook Page or follow us on Twitter @naacpecon.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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