Sustainable Corporate Social Responsibility
By Susan Salka, President and CEO, AMN Healthcare
Most public companies dedicate some resources to good corporate
citizenship. They choose to spend these resources - time, money or both -- on
endeavors aligned with the company's mission and goals in win-win situations.
It's all part of a company's social responsibility. But I believe we need to
take it one important step further and create sustainable CSR programs.
There are times when it is absolutely appropriate and necessary to
provide support to alleviate a short-term situation. When natural disasters or
personal tragedies hit, people need immediate assistance to survive and rebuild
their lives. And who can argue the benefit of brightening the day of a child
enduring cancer treatment at a local hospital? But in addition to these
endeavors, a significant amount of time, energy and resources expended by a
company and its team members should be focused on activities that result in an
enduring, tangible benefit, one that builds upon its own past achievements.
The most meaningful and lasting CSR initiatives are built around the
active participation of company team members. I personally encourage our team
to be active at work, active in their lives and active in the community. And
they've responded. We have very committed [and] purposeful people who avidly
take part in our many CSR projects. So, to honor that high level of engagement,
it behooves company leadership -- and me personally -- to make sure that the
causes we support make meaningful and, ideally, lasting change out there.
Last year, AMN Healthcare developed a partnership with a charitable
institution on the mission of a lifetime, one that effectively aligns with our
business strengths, provides powerful opportunities for team engagement and
results in vital and sustainable improvement in the lives of people who really
The organization is HELPS International, a Dallas-based nonprofit
founded by a former investment banker, whose mission is to provide integrated,
long-range solutions for Central American communities in need. HELPS sends
several mission trips each year to the same regions of Guatemala, with
carefully designed programs that build upon successes from the prior year. As a
healthcare staffing and workforce solutions company, AMN sponsored 10
clinicians for the week-long medical mission and 10 nonclinical volunteers from
our staff to take part in a correlated community development project.
As background, the highlands of Guatemala are an impoverished area with
incredibly scarce medical resources. People often live in dirt-floor shacks and
cook over open fires with no ventilation. The HELPS medical mission included an
acute-care mobile hospital where medical professionals saw about 500 patients,
many with chronic respiratory and eye diseases and/or burns from the open
fires, and hernias due to carrying large amounts of wood. The community
development team installed safety stoves that vent toxic smoke out of homes,
use 70% less wood and reduce the incidence of burns from children
falling into open cook fires. For more information visit https://helpsintl.org/.
For AMN, sustainability must be more than a buzzword; it has to be a
palpable achievement. For example, the HELPS hospital and clinic created a
portable health records system so that families have accurate medical charts
covering many years of treatment. Continuity in treatment improves long-term
patient outcomes. The stoves program reduces diseases; prevents burns; helps
alleviate the heavy burdens people must carry and provides families more time
to create wealth. In addition, HELPS integrates an education program for
indigenous children and an economic development program to help small-hold
farmers increase corn yield so they can feed their families and sell extra
production for cash.
This sustainable CSR opportunity enhances the quality of our company
and our entire team by fostering meaningful engagement in the world around us.
Every team member who volunteered for the Guatemala mission told me it was a
life-changing opportunity. Those who went came back and told colleagues amazing
stories -- and showed them even more amazing pictures - of how they made
worthwhile, lasting improvements in people's lives. The team engagement success
of this mission is itself sustainable, its long-term value transcending the
company outlay to sponsor the volunteers. The mission spreads pride throughout
the company for the achievement of this year's volunteers and, looking forward,
is building team enthusiasm to take part in what will become an annual mission.
In addition, we were recognized by our industry association with its top award
for corporate social responsibility.
The HELPS mission has quickly become the centerpiece of our CSR
activities. We still support many other very important causes locally and
nationwide, particularly those that involve health and wellness. But by
embracing true sustainability as our principal CSR objective, we have created a
partnership that manifests the character of our company and our team and
ensures that our investment of resources results in meaningful achievement. I
challenge every company to examine their CSR efforts to ensure they have
appropriate focus on the sustainability of their activities.