Disaster Philanthropy: 8 businesses respond to Storm Uri
With its freezing and devastating conditions, historic Storm Uri has ripped through the deep south, leading to widespread power outages, and creating a humanitarian crisis for communities across Texas and beyond. With transportation impacted and food supplies dwindling, millions of people are living without power, nutrition or running, drinkable water.
As non-profit organisations, including food banks, American Red Cross and The Salvation Army USA work to provide food and shelter for Texas residents impacted, big business has stepped up to the plate, providing non-profits with financial efforts to help them directly support affected communities.
Here are eight American businesses with a history of providing aid in times of disasters who are assisting in Storm Uri recovery efforts.
1. Walmart – US$1 million
Walmart has announced that its charitable arm The Walmart Foundation is committing up to US$1 million in cash and in-kind product donations to help with response efforts, with funds going to support Feeding Texas’ emergency response efforts in Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, the Rio Grande Valley and other areas state-wide, while some funds will support response efforts in Tennessee, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Furthermore, the retail giant has put in place dedicated emergency support teams to help stores get much needed supplies and products in stock and on shelves as quickly as possible. With a long history of providing aid in times of disaster, having donated more than US$58 million in cash/donations since 2017, “we gladly leverage our resources to help these hard-hit communities, and we stand with Texas and all those affected”, states
Dan Bartlett, executive VP of corporate affairs for Walmart Inc.
2. PepsiCo – 200,000 meals
In partnership with The Salvation Army, PepsiCo is providing some 200,000 meals to Texas residents, along with much-needed aid. The PepsiCo Foundation’s Food for Good nutrition team have delivered 22, 000 breakfast and lunch shelf-stable meals to The Salvation Army, along with a US$200,000 grant to provide a further 190,000 meals to be supplied through its feeding units and directly to families; while PepsiCo Beverages North America (PBNA) is donating nearly 40,000 bottles of Aquafina water to local community organisations. As a member of the Texas community since the 1930s, the company is “committed to helping our Texas employees, partners and neighbours brave this horrific storm”, says Steven Williams, CEO, PepsiCo Foods North America (PFNA).
3. Coca-Cola – US$150,000 and beverages
To help those reeling from the devastating impact of Winter Storm Uri, across Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, The Coca-Cola Foundation, the firm’s charitable arm, has donated a US$500,000 grant to help the American Red Cross provide shelter, food and health services in hardest-hit areas along the storm’s path, while the company’s North America Operating Unit has contributed US100,000 and truckloads of bottled water and other beverages to organisations in Texas serving those in need.
4. Verizon Communications – US$250,000
Verizon Communications has made a US$250,000 donation to Feeding Texas, a non-profit that supports immediate relief efforts in communities across the state and which will “help them recover and rebuild after a storm has passed”, said Hans Vestberg, CEO of Verizon. The telecommunications giant is further bolstering the efforts of humanitarian crisis charities Red Cross and Salvation Army in supporting those hardest hit, with an initiative whereby Verizon customers can text the word REDCROSS or RESCUE to 90999 or 52000 and US$10 will be added to their Verizon bill and donated to the American Red Cross and Salvation Army USA, respectively.
5. American Express – US$100,000
American Express has committed funds to assist in disaster recovery efforts, with US$100,000 split between American Red Cross and Feeding Texas, the latter helping to fund hunger relief across the state.
6. Apple – to be announced
Tech giant Apple has announced it is making contributions to local community organisations in Texas and beyond. Via a tweet on February 19, CEO Tim Cook announced that Apple would donate to local relief efforts to aid the state of Texas. “Our hearts are with everyone across Texas and around the US, including many of our team members as they endure the impact of the harsh winter storms,” stated Cook, adding that Apple would indeed be making “a financial contribution to local, community-based organisations to support their relief efforts”.
7. BBVA USA – US$250,000
Through its Foundation, digital bank BBVA USA has announced it will donate US$250,000 to a select group of non-profit organisations working to address the immediate needs of communities, and is further offering customers assistance in the form of payment deferrals and fee waivers through March 31. Not only is the company “committed to working with multiple organisations to help people get the essentials they need to get back on their feet”, states BBVA USA President and CEO Javier Rodriguez Solar, but “we’re also intently listening to the specific needs of our customers as they look for ways to alleviate financial stress during this crisis”.
8. Smithfield Foods – 300,000 servings of protein
American food company Smithfield Foods is expediting two truckloads of donations carrying a combined 300,000 servings of protein to Texas foodbanks to support ongoing recovery efforts across the state. Tarrant Area Food Bank of Forth Worth and West Texas Food Bank of Odessa will each receive 37,000 pounds of protein, enough to feed nearly 150,000 people. As a company committed to supporting those impacted by natural disasters, Smithfield’s protein donations will help the Feeding America initiative “meet the impending increased need for food, and we are grateful to support to navigate the difficult road ahead” says Joe Weeden, a director at Feeding America.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.