Remarks – Eva S. Hardy
Executive Vice President, Dominion
Women in Nuclear Conference
July 17, 2007
“Dominion and the Power of Giving”
This is the third time I have had the pleasure of speaking at a “Women in Nuclear” conference. The first was at a regional gathering in Connecticut in 2004… and the second was in Pennsylvania last year. Since we are in Anaheim, I can honestly say I have followed WIN coast to coast.
If we can put aside the magic spells, beautiful weather and fantasy of Never-Never Land, I’d like to share a few thoughts with you about the very real world of communications and community relations – fundamental supports for strong nuclear operations. Specifically, the way in which corporate philanthropy and volunteering inform Dominion’s community outreach program.
If I only had one word with which to explain our philanthropic activities and community involvement, that word would be “credibility.”
Fortunately, I work for a CEO who understands that credibility, good operations and community outreach lie at the heart of any successful business enterprise. He knows that credibility is a priceless commodity. He appreciates the goodwill we earn by being active participants in community life.
It boils down to trust. If my company – or your company – fails to earn and keep the public trust, think how much more difficult it would be to achieve favorable business and regulatory outcomes. Both are key to a healthy bottom line.
Credibility is fundamental – and very fragile. As we have learned from TMI and Chernobyl in the nuclear industry… and also from the Exxon Valdez and Enron… it can take years, even decades, to recover from one misstep, one accident or one ethical lapse.
That is why it is so important to build and maintain good relations with your stakeholders. You can never know when your company’s credibility is going to be threatened.
In that context, corporate philanthropy and volunteerism make perfectly good business sense -- the company and its individual employees reaching out to support community life.
Experience has taught us that investing dollars and time in the community helps counter stereotypical charges of “greedy and heartless corporations.”
It’s all about building strategic partnerships and relationships – and doing the right thing, too.
Not everyone agrees with that point of view. There’s a school of thought that believes the only legitimate business of business is maximizing profit and increasing shareholder value.
That bottom-line perspective was first articulated in the 1970s by the late economist, Milton Friedman. His views on the subject are not as prevalent today as they were then, but they are still popular in some circles.
At Dominion, we think that perspective is a little too narrow for today’s complex world. We believe, as more and more companies do, that:
Dominion is a major provider of electricity and natural gas. As such, we have a fundamental, 24/7 connection to the communities we serve. We are literally linked to them through our distribution wires and pipes. The products we sell are the lifeblood of everyday life.
So our presence in the community is felt on a daily basis. We try to strengthen that presence by being a good neighbor.
Charitable giving and volunteering are two of the main ways we do that.
Our corporate giving program is carried out primarily through the Dominion Foundation. Last year, we channeled 10 million dollars through the Foundation to about 1,000 qualified environmental organizations, educational institutions, cultural and community development groups, and health and human services providers in 21 states and the District of Columbia – areas where Dominion has business interests.
We do this through local employees who serve on Community Investment Boards. They provide recommendations to the Foundation for funding community-based projects.
Let me give you some examples from the nuclear side of our business.
Dominion Nuclear receives Foundation support for its award-winning educational outreach programs, which are conducted at our facilities and also in the schools. This philanthropic activity is closely tied to Dominion’s workforce initiatives.
At our North Anna and Surry visitor centers in Virginia, for example, we have provided tours and energy-related educational programs for more than 150,000 adults and students.
Last year, more than 100 Girl Scouts attended a day-long program called “It’s Electric II” at our Technical Center near Richmond. The girls partnered with professional women in nuclear, chemical and mechanical engineering to learn about electricity, energy conservation and meteorology – and also about career opportunities in the energy business.
Our Millstone nuclear station in Connecticut also has some excellent educational programs and a very strong partnership with area schools.
And the Kewaunee station near Green Bay, Wisconsin recently partnered with NEED – the National Energy Education Development group – to hold workshops for teachers in Kewaunee County on various energy-related subjects.
These and many other programs that support education and workforce development have been funded by grants from the Dominion Foundation.
In fact, every year we provide more than $200,000 in educational partnership grants for K-12 programs in states where we do business. These grants target math, science and technology instruction – subject areas that link closely with critical skills we need in today’s and tomorrow’s workforce.
Occasionally, we will make a major grant to an individual school system. In 2006, for example, we awarded a multi-year $300,000 grant to a public school system in rural Virginia seeking funds to start a robotics program and renovate a laboratory. Dominion has a major power station in the area.
Although education is a strategic focus area of our corporate giving, Dominion Foundation grants also go to many other worthwhile causes, including:
Dominion also has a very popular employee matching gifts program. We encourage our 17,000 employees to support eligible non-profit organizations where they live and work.
In 2006, for example, the company provided about 1.4 million dollars in matching funds to almost 1,500 non-profit and educational institutions in 49 different states.
Strategic philanthropy is an important aspect of the partnerships that Dominion has long nourished with the communities where we operate. So is volunteering.
Employees who volunteer in the community do more to put a human face on our company than anything else I can think of.
With the full backing of senior management, Dominion volunteers donate thousands of hours of time each year to a broad range of community initiatives – home repair for the elderly… mentoring at elementary schools… and March of Dimes Walk-A-Thons, to mention only a few.
Programs that target children, families and education are a top priority for our volunteers.
Last fall, for instance, a team of Dominion volunteers from the North Anna Power Station worked with officials at Livingston Elementary in Spotsylvania, Virginia, to build a greenhouse and butterfly garden on the school grounds.
Dominion donated five thousand dollars toward the cost of the project, and our volunteers spent one entire day building the greenhouse and landscaping around it. Now the school has an outdoor learning center where the kids can picnic – and learn something while they’re at it.
These kinds of projects benefit the community in obvious ways. Not so obvious may be the ways they benefit our employees and the company by fostering teamwork and relationship building along the way.
Volunteering supports personal and professional growth. We have found it to be a great tool for stimulating creativity and teamwork in the workforce. And our volunteers consistently and repeatedly tell us they get back more than they give when they’re helping out in the community.
This employee’s experience illustrates my point. His name is John Swenarton, and he was profiled in the most recent issue of Dominion’s employee news magazine.
John is a marine biologist at our Millstone nuclear station in Connecticut. He volunteers as a Little League baseball coach and also conducts educational programs at area schools. In addition, John serves on the local Conservation Commission, which advises city council about protecting the community’s varied natural resources.
In his magazine profile, John said: “I really enjoy working with kids. I visit local schools and host occasional tours of our [environmental] lab. I use our work here at Millstone to teach students about ecology and how it can be applied.”
John’s story captures a fundamental truth: community service makes people feel good about themselves.
If you’re company sponsors a volunteer program and you’ve thought about participating but haven’t, I urge you to think a little harder. The rewards could be great – for everyone involved.
And that’s really the essence of my message. Volunteering benefits everything it touches:
Ultimately, I think the volunteer experience demonstrates that each and every individual can make a valuable contribution to the quality of community life.
And companies that understand the importance of staying connected to their communities – whether through financial support, volunteer projects or other means – they are the ones adding real value and protecting the long-term interests of their owners.
Bottom line: it’s good business to give to the community and to be part of the community.
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