Published: Nov. 5, 2018


On Friday November 3rd, CESR participated in a Leeds Explores trip to Denver to learn from socially responsible businesses with sustainable practices. Twenty students participated in the company visits, organized in collaboration with the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship and the Leeds Career Development Office. Sustainability-focused visits included GroundFloor Media, Ardent Mills, and DaVita, and students focused on marketing and entrepreneurship visited Gusto and Havenly.

Strategic CSR with GroundFloor Media
GroundFloor Media, a public relations firm and certified B Corp, shared several client projects and partnerships with businesses to construct and implement CSR programs and offer assistance in public relations. They discussed several philanthropic endeavors of their clients, such as Noble Energy’s project to provide Colorado schools with new school buses that run on compressed natural gas (CNG) instead of diesel fuel in an effort to reduce carbon emissions. Not only has this project helped to reduce emissions, it has also provided struggling school districts with a cheaper form of transportation that permits funds to be allocated elsewhere -- each CNG bus saves $3,500 per year in fuel costs compared with a diesel bus. GroundFloor Media assists in launching such projects and ensures that clients select CSR projects that add strategic value to their brands, as well as creating valuable community impacts.

In order to put values into practice, GroundFloor Media utilizes a flat organizational structure rather than hierarchical to promote team culture. When deciding how to construct teams for client projects, they consider an employee’s personality fit as well as personal interest in a case to increase engagement and overall performance.

“It’s nice to just be a worker sometimes and not a project lead,” said Amy Moynihan, GroundFloor Media’s Senior Director of Communications regarding the flat organization of the workplace. This abandonment of standard authoritarian management practices allows for flexibility in their work and increases overall engagement of employees.

Sustainable Operations with Ardent Mills
Our second stop was Ardent Mills, the largest flour milling company in North America, where CEO Dan Dye shared the company's mission and core values, explaining the ways in which corporate social responsibility is integrated into their daily work. Through the values of trust, simplicity, service, and safety, Dye discussed Ardent Mills’ unique way of conducting business.

“CSR is a natural extension of our very culture,” Dye said. “At Ardent Mills, we strive to be trusted partners. When we work with suppliers and customers, it’s much more than a transaction, it’s a relationship.”

Sr. Director of Continuous Improvement Bill Boyden provided further insight to sustainable and efficient processes that have a goal of zero waste within the company. When a student asked about the cost of implementing such processes and achieving rigorous standards, Boyden replied “it’s not about the cost, it’s about the long-term benefit. We have to ask, how can we make sustainability pay?” Their vision focuses on long-term outcomes, not short-term profits, which is at the core of their success.

Sustainability in a Fortune 200 Company with DaVita
Our final stop was at DaVita, an international kidney dialysis treatment provider that’s known for its strong corporate culture and high employee engagement. DaVita’s work revolves around the trilogy of care: caring for their people, caring for their patients, and caring for the planet. Casey Stock, Sustainability Manager at DaVita, spoke to the challenges she faces as a sustainability manager in a large organization.

“Sustainability comes with resistance,” Stock said. “It takes a certain kind of person to keep getting back up after you’re told ‘no’ and to keep working toward goals.” She said that collaboration from coworkers across the company and the intentional corporate culture that supports employee engagement makes DaVita’s CSR and sustainability efforts effective, from their Denver headquarters to their clinics around the world. Students saw this culture in action throughout the office tour, including the fun of a refurbished ski gondola as the smallest conference room in the building and the fact that the best views are available to all team members from the 14th floor cafeteria and patio.

Overall, the Leeds Explores Denver trek was a success and students were able to network while gaining insight into CSR and sustainability within various industries and professions. If you are interested in participating in upcoming treks or want to learn about past treks, view the CESR website. If you want to learn more about social responsibility in business, consider the SRE certificate.