February 20, 2017
2017 Business Leaders: Corporate Citizen of the Year

Saint-Gobain invests in its employees' communities

PHOTO/NATHAN FISKE
Saint Gobain, led locally by Bradley H. Johnson, donated $500,000 last year to organizations like EcoTarium, Joe Schwartz Little League and Worcester East Side Community Development Corp.

Corporate Citizen of the Year

Saint-Gobain

Location: Worcester

Local executive: Bradley H. Johnson, vice president of Saint-Gobain Abrasives North America

Employees: 170,000 worldwide; 14,000 North America; 1,200 Worcester

Local organizations supported: American Red Cross of Central Massachusetts, YWCA, Girls Inc., Habitat for Humanity, Working for Worcester

When a multinational French-based conglomerate acquired iconic Worcester manufacturer Norton Abrasives in 1990, it might have seemed like a blow to the ties between the company and the community, but more than a quarter-century later, Saint-Gobain has established itself as a key supporter of nonprofits and community groups in Central Massachusetts.

"Saint-Gobain believes in doing well and doing good, and investing in the Worcester community where the employees operate and live," said Brenda Heller, communications and communications manager at the company's Worcester campus.

Heller said the company supports local organizations in multiple ways: through its foundation, with donations collected from employees, by encouraging employees to join the boards of local groups and through an active volunteer program.

Critical support

The company donates more than $500,000 each year to local groups in health, welfare and other fields.

"For almost 10 years now they've been a great community partner for the Red Cross," said Kimberly Goulette, executive director of the American Red Cross of Central Massachusetts. "Not only have their employees given through United Way campaigns, they've just been a partner not only to the Red Cross but to many nonprofits."

Goulette said involvement includes having a Saint-Gobain representative on the organization's board of directors, encouraging employees to help out as volunteers, and providing in-kind help like offering storage space. For a highly streamlined group like the Red Cross, those kinds of support are crucial.

"Our budget is extremely small," Goulette said. "If we didn't have the support of corporations like Saint-Gobain to financially help us ... we wouldn't be able to do our job."

Using superabrasives expertise

The company's focus on abrasives and high-tech materials means it has some specific ways that it can help out in the community. Last year it donated materials and labor to renovate gym and auditorium floors for Girls Inc. and the YWCA, both in Worcester. After finishing, company employees challenged the Girls Inc. high school basketball team to a competition – which the girls won handily, Heller said.

Another unique relationship is the company's longstanding ties to the US luge team, Heller said.

Saint-Gobain has used its technological expertise to give the team a leg up in aerodynamics. In turn, the team has worked with the company and the Worcester community, offering demonstrations at local schools and supporting the area United Way campaign. "It's an honor to be able to give back to the community," Heller said.

Meet the other 2017 Business Leaders of the Year

WBJ Hall of Fame

Innovator of the Year

Business Leaders of the Year

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