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Corporate giving: CEOs do much for their employees, shareholders, communities

The reputation of America's top business leaders has been severely damaged by the bad deeds of a limited few. Names like Ken Lay, Martha Stewart and Bernard Ebbers have become synonymous with corporate high jinks.

However, most chief executive officers and others management officials are doing a good job for their employees, shareholders and communities. Nowhere is that more evident than the way businesses support charities and other local organizations.

As The Daily Transcript celebrates its 120th year in print, we felt it was a good time to reflect on the contributions by local business and community leaders – a list of people who were nominated by the public for a variety of reasons. Philanthropy is one attribute noted in many of the finalists featured in this special report.

"With industry leadership comes many opportunities - and responsibilities - to have a positive impact on our communities," said Paul Jacobs, CEO at Qualcomm, in a message on the company Web site. Jacobs’ father Irwin, who founded Qualcomm in 1985, is one of The Daily Transcript’s San Diego Influentials this year.

"Corporate citizenship expands beyond philanthropy. The work we do around the globe not only advances our business goals, but also contributes to social and economic development," Jacobs added.

According to Giving USA, corporate donations have a tendency to follow the fates of business trends. The group's survey of charitable giving in 2005 found that corporate donations grew by 22.5 percent to reach an estimated $13.77 billion. That represents 5.3 percent of the total charitable contributions last year.

"The high level of corporate giving is explained by two years of very strong growth in gross domestic product and by growth in corporate profits before taxes," said George Ruotolo, chair of the Giving Institute.

While CEOs do not make all the decisions about how their corporate philanthropy is directed, they certainly can use the opportunity to raise the status of the company in the local community.

The Committee to Encourage Corporate Philanthropy surveyed more than 90 companies about their giving goals and how the public perceives their generosity. More than 53 percent of people surveyed said they believe it extremely or very important that companies make donations to charities that are relevant to their businesses and communities.

And, 87 percent of the companies surveyed said they support volunteer programs for their employees. That certainly is the case around San Diego County. More than 2,000 employees of Carlsbad-based Invitrogen participated in the company's Annual Global Volunteer Day. Workers in the 25 global office of the biomed company joined in this year's event, themed "Invitrogen Goes Green."

"Over the years our employees have experienced firsthand what can be accomplished in their communities and many have developed a year-round dedication to service," said CEO Gregory Lucier – another Daily Transcript San Diego Influential named this year.

Local Invitrogen volunteers pitched in cleaning and improving Batiquitos Lagoon area in Carlsbad.

Another company that let their workers roll up their sleeves and go to work to improve the community is Sempra Energy, parent company for San Diego Gas & Electric.

Last month, employees, friends and family participated in the 22nd Annual Coastal Cleanup Day sponsored by the California Coastal Commission.

"We estimate that Team Sempra Energy helped remove approximately 1 million pounds of trash from our beautiful coastline and waterways, working in cooperation with our friends and neighbors to improve our environment and make California a cleaner, safer and better place to live and work," said Javade Chaudhri, executive vice president and general counsel.

Most of the time these local efforts get little recognition. However, they are just part of the entire campaign launched by business to improve their image and raise their position in the community.

And, at least one company has received national recognition for its business ethics - a word that hasn't been used a lot in recent years. Callaway Golf of Carlsbad was recently named the winner of the Better Business Bureau International Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics. Callaway was selected out of a field of more than 1,000 international businesses that had been nominated from local BBB recognition competitions.

"We are extremely proud to receive this award for a number of reasons," said CEO George Fellows. "It is a tribute to the way Callaway Golf employees conduct themselves in relationship with our customers and consumers and it is evidence that the ethical principles Ely Callaway insisted upon when he started Callaway Golf nearly 25 years ago have endured to this day throughout the culture of the company he created."

Bottom line, the generosity of local and national corporations goes a long way toward improving the image of the company on all levels. And, if that happens to boost the reputation of the company CEO at the same time, all the better.

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