According to the last census, 43.1 Americans are living in poverty. Chronic stress from poverty can alter brain function and lead to serious health issues: from anxiety to heart disease. In children memory and concentration problems associated with chronic stress can lead to development and learning delays.
These problems aren’t solely the responsibility of governments and charities ーbusinesses can help as well. 85% of business executives believe community involvement strengthens the reputation of their company. And many believe corporations have a responsibility to increase the standard of living and quality of life for surrounding communities.
Many business make financial contributions to nonprofits. In 2016, corporate donations in the United States amounted to $18.55 billion. Some businesses work to build a giving culture within their organization by offering to match employee contributions, or donate to organization when their employees volunteer. But corporate social investment isn’t limited to monetary donations. Here are some other ways business can help the disadvantaged:
The cost of higher education has been skyrocketing, but it’s also one of the best ways to help pull people out of poverty. Businesses can support education initiatives by offering tuition reimbursement and assistance programs to employees. Companies can make a conscious effort to hire employees from diverse circumstances, and to support their training, skill development, and advance their careers.
In the United States the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires companies to make accomodations for employees with physical disabilities. While this law requires business to provide accommodations like wheelchair accessibility, it does little for adults with intellectual disabilities – for whom specialized training is optional and pay can be as little as $0.25 per hour.
Inclusion can also mean supporting neurodiversity among employees, like allowing for nontraditional interviews. Recognizing the skills of military personal that will transfer to civilian careers and offering training for veterans is another way to support inclusion. Setting hiring goals for populations that often overlooked can help corporations keep inclusion in mind.
In the United States, 42 million people are on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). A huge number of people live in “food deserts”, more than a mile from the nearest supermarket, and many lack transportation to easily access these stores. Not knowing where your next meal will come from is a huge factor contributing to chronic stress, and malnutrition from lack of access to fresh produce is a growing concern.
Businesses in the food industry can help people in food deserts by opening new shops and restaurants in areas that need them, or offering delivery to these neighborhoods at a discount. Other industries can get giving to food banks, and creating employee volunteer programs.
Many companies are already taking actions to help the disadvantaged, but many are not. Only 28% of companies have disability hiring goals, and 39% consider hiring veterans with PTSD “less favorable”. Consumers can vote with their dollars by supporting companies that take action. Learn about companies that taking action to help the disadvantaged in this infographic: