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What comes to mind when you think of corporate social responsibility or corporate citizenship? For many, the answer is a charitable giving program—whether that’s through donations or volunteering as a team for a local organization. Throughout the David Johnston Research + Technology Park, our tenants make being corporate citizens and community members a priority.
When you’re the largest software company in Canada with 14,000 employees in 35 countries, corporate citizenship means connecting with more than the community. It means connecting with all stakeholders to share insights, develop connections, and create an industry-leading approach for responsible corporate citizenship. Leading the charge at OpenText is Vice President, Corporate Citizenship, Julie Millard.
OpenText’s commitment to being a good citizen goes back to their founding nearly 30 years ago. “I think a lot of people have that assumption that corporate citizenship is just about community outreach,” said Millard. “It certainly is one of the impacts that we focus on, but it’s not the only one. We also have a responsibility to the natural environment we operate in—we have to make sure that it’s healthy.”
Millard started her career at OpenText on the Global Employee Communications team in 2012. Since then, she’s held different roles on their marketing and corporate communications teams and quickly started taking on corporate citizenship responsibilities in those roles. “Over the years, the scope of corporate citizenship activities grew and the need for a dedicated program and leader became evident,” said Millard. These activities include corporate-wide fundraising, community engagement initiatives, and advancing their Women in Technology program. “I feel like my role evolved organically,” added Millard. “I never imagined this career path when I started at OpenText. But when I think back, it seemed to be a very natural progression.”
Millard said that the OpenText corporate citizenship program does more than connect with their communities. “We talk about our commitments to our local communities, but also our commitments to the environment, and to our customers around things that matter to them like innovation, data privacy, and cyber security.”
Bringing those conversations and commitments to life is a global effort. “It might sound pretty daunting,” Millard said. “What we’ve done is create a network of corporate citizenship champions.” In each office, someone is nominated to be the location’s champion. “They’re the people who are very community minded, environmentally minded, and they’re our network on the ground,” added Millard. As programs move from idea to action, the corporate citizenship champions work to deliver in their communities and within their offices. “We have a continuous feedback loop as well, so we know what’s happening at the regional and local level and that’s been very effective for us.”
Millard also talked about finding new ways to support and engage charities virtually, as the current crisis has prevented in person participation and events. “The pandemic impacted local charities and organizations, so we’re really encouraging teams to reach out to their favourite charities and talk about different ways they can help.” OpenText provides three paid volunteer days per year to their employees, which Millard said everyone wants to use. “It’s really challenging with the pandemic, but I’m seeing a shift. Charities are being proactive, creating different virtual opportunities to engage with the communities that want to help them.”
Taking the adage “think globally, act locally”, OpenText launched their 100 Acts of Kindness campaign in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “It really inspired us to design a campaign, a global campaign, where we empowered our employees at the local level to do what was most meaningful to them,” said Millard.
“We talk about our commitments to our local communities, but also our commitments to the environment, and to our customers around things that matter to them like innovation, data privacy, and cyber security.”Julie Millard, VP, Corporate Citizenship, OpenText,
OpenText teams were able to select causes that focused on helping with COVID-19 emergency response efforts, including food banks and family and children services. “The response was just incredible. People went all in and were so generous and compassionate,” added Millard. Over 2,300 employees participated, raising half a million dollars for 180 charities worldwide in the largest campaign in OpenText’s history.
While the enormous success of the campaign was important, it wasn’t the only thing that made it special. “The campaign started in April and May, when our teams really needed a sense of purpose and connection,” said Millard. “We were all hunkered down at home and saw the suffering that was happening in the world, everyone wanted to help. It gave our team globally a sense of connection with each other and a sense of connection to their community.”
OpenText’s headquarters is in the R+T Park and its also their largest office globally. As a local leader in the Waterloo Region community, the company looked for ways to adapt their corporate citizenship and community programs to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Here in Waterloo, we wanted to be sure we were continuing to support the charities that are important to us,” said Millard. The team in Waterloo chose to support Region Ready, which provides help to the three local hospitals in Cambridge and Kitchener, and the Waterloo Region Foodbank.
As a leader in the Canadian tech ecosystem for 30 years, OpenText knows that good corporate citizenship does more than build trust with the communities they call home—it builds trust with all of their stakeholders. This year, OpenText released their first Corporate Citizenship Report to share their priorities and ambitions for OpenText’s corporate citizenship programs. “It has shown me that regardless of the size of the organization, communicating with your stakeholders your priorities, practices, and ambitions, benefits companies in so many ways,” said Millard. “It builds trust with your customers, transparency with investors, pride with your employees, and also engages potential future employees.”
Leading the corporate citizenship program at OpenText is something Millard does not take for granted. “I always think what a gift it is to work here in Waterloo for a global company and to grow into a position where I get to make an impact every single day,” added Millard. “Whether it’s measuring and making progress on our environmental goals, showcasing a great story of a customer using our technology for good in the world, or helping organize a community outreach effort, it’s just incredible that I get to do this job every day.”
OpenText’s commitment to creating a better world and supporting strong communities is one example of the many ways the tenants of R+T Park give back and support their employees and communities.
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