Enhancing Corporate Reputation Through Community Partnerships [Recap]


Amber Kahla, Contributing Writer

Think global, act local – that’s what mega-corporations Walmart and Huntsman are doing in the form of community engagement. At a Pierpont-sponsored Public Relations Society of America luncheon earlier this month, Senior Vice President Nancy Sims moderated a discussion on enhancing your company’s reputation through community partnerships.

Panel members Daniel Morales of Walmart, Anne Knisely of Huntsman and Karim Kafray of Houston’s Neighborhood Centers, Inc., shared lessons and strategies gleaned from years of good corporate citizenship.

Focused efforts create results

The Walmart Foundation centers itself around a core set of principles that guide the corporation. The Foundation is committed to fighting hunger, promoting nutrition education and women’s economic empowerment, providing career opportunities and hiring veterans.

Daniel Morales, Director of Communications and Community Relations for Walmart Public Affairs, explained that Walmart founder Sam Walton created a culture of implementing good practices for the less fortunate and not promoting those good deeds. This culture still exists at Walmart today.

Walmart is one of the largest corporate cash contributors in the country and gives grants on the local, state, regional and national levels. The American Heart Association received one of these grants and used the funds to put on healthy cooking demonstrations and teach healthy shopping and eating habits in communities across America.

Great minds think alike 

Neighborhood Centers is a nonprofit organization founded in Houston that brings resources, education and connection to emerging neighborhoods. In order to provide services such as neighborhood health clinics and IRS tax return help, Neighborhood Centers partners with corporations.

Karim Kafray, Vice President of Fund Development, said that when forming strategic partnerships, the nonprofit looks for companies whose values align with their organization’s own. In fact, Neighborhood Centers has successfully partnered with Walmart to help provide 585 volunteers to process $40,000 in tax returns every year.

The tax return services, which generate and return about $40 million back into the Houston economy, are available to households with an income under $70,000 a year. Kafray notes that many Walmart employees qualify for this service, so the relationship then becomes symbiotic. 

Sustainable corporations create sustainable communities

Environmental and social sustainability seems to be at the top of the list for CEOs and corporate executives worldwide. Resource stewardship also factors into a corporation’s reputation, as stakeholders want to know what their favorite company is doing to reduce its carbon footprint.

Anne Knisely, Senior Manager, Business Communications-Americas at Huntsman, said the company recognizes employees’ efforts through the CEO’s Award for Innovation and Sustainability.

Inaugurated in 2011, the award recognizes outstanding employee efforts in the areas of People, Planet and Profits. The award encourages employees to develop and continue sustainable practices that make a positive impact on their local communities.

Did you attend this month’s PRSA luncheon? If so, share your lessons learned below.