Establishing a culture of social responsibility

Kelly Borth, CEO and chief strategy officer, Greencrest

Kelly Borth, CEO and chief strategy officer, Greencrest

As CEOs, we enrich our community by running companies that provide jobs and pay taxes. As income earners, we pay our fair share of personal taxes that fund many community services, such as schools, libraries, parks and emergency services. But there is more that we can do. Every community has needs, and in every community, the needs are great.

It begins with you.

Many of us have sat on nonprofit boards and have lent our expertise to organizations with needs. We were involved in community service as adolescents through organizations like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts or religious affiliations. As we were building our careers, we volunteered on committees or boards of trade organizations. That’s what leaders do, right?

Inspire others to follow

Said best by Tom Peters, “Leaders don’t create followers; they create more leaders.” So how do we inspire others in our organization to do their part?

I am personally inspired by what Charles and Debra Penzone have done. They infused their team at Charles Penzone Family of Salons to realize their gift of talented hands that make people feel beautiful and special. And with those hands, team members provide services to individuals who are going through cancer treatment. This is just one of many examples of how Charles Penzone uses its gifts to give back and help enrich the lives of those in need in our community.

The company’s employees not only volunteer their time, but they also provide a percentage of their sales from services to a variety of community causes.

Another inspiring organization for me is DesignGroup Inc. Second-generation leader Bob Vennemeyer shared his firm’s corporate giving philosophy during a casual chat. In the company’s 10th year, founding partners established a donor-advised fund with The Columbus Foundation. The company’s goal is to contribute every year to its local community foundation. As requests and community needs arise, DesignGroup requests grants from its foundation to 501(c)(3) public charitable organizations. Again, this is just one example of the many ways DesignGroup and its employees give back.

As CEO of Greencrest, I have followed in the footsteps of both these great companies. As you can imagine, nonprofits have no shortage of need for marketing, design and public relations services. With our gifted minds and artistic talents, we generously provide in-kind services to a number of special causes in our community. We try to be selective and provide a depth of services that will catapult a nonprofit to the next level. In 2007, we opened a donor-advised fund at The Columbus Foundation. The Greencrest Living Hope Foundation provides for individuals who may not have the opportunity to live life to their full potential without some assistance. In addition to these gifts, we also come together as a team to dip into our own pockets to provide a holiday hope box for the homeless, children or seniors.


Use your voice

You need to actively promote the difference that your organization makes in your community to your team. Let’s face it. We all want to be recognized for doing good. It is important to internally promote the difference your organization has made in the causes you have invested time and resources.

At Greencrest, it is important for employees to know that their efforts have made a difference, whether it is in the life of one person or the lives of many. The closer our employees can get to meeting or being around the people they have helped, the more inspired they become. It just solidifies the effort. It gives them joy, satisfaction and purpose.

For me, it is a philosophical belief that our role in life is to make a difference and leave the world a better place. I know that in stating this, I am in good company. The more we, as leaders, can promote the importance of corporate social responsibility, the more community needs can be met. And there is work to be done.

Kelly Borth is CEO and chief strategy officer for Greencrest, a 20-year old brand development and strategic marketing firm that turns market players into market leaders. Borth serves on several local advisory boards and is one of 30 certified brand strategists in the U.S. Reach her at 614-885-7921 or [email protected], or for more information, go to