Some popular political amusements never seem quite out of date. One is the continuing accumulation of contempt for big business, usually by those who feel strangely under no obligation to scorn other kinds of “big” — big government, big unions and big aggressive nations, for example.
This anger never really seems to make much sense from the point of view of what this or that big company does for a living. — by definition, these entities get big by successfully producing something that many people want. Take everyone’s favorite bogeyman, Big Pharma. Aside from a few who obviously think the polio vaccine is a slippery slope to brainwashing, most people, I bet, appreciate that their products are keeping us alive after 30 years.
The vitriol seems to be mostly generated simply by the fact that these companies are, well, big; translation: exceptionally good at what they do. Being mad about it doesn’t make much sense either, especially because with great success comes great charity.
Consider JBS, the meatpacking giant in Greeley. They process God knows how many thousands of pounds of beef to feed people every day. They employ thousands of people and allow them to live well. In any practical economic sense, this substantial contribution to society should suffice.
Well, not according to them. JBS has chosen to donate millions of dollars to community projects in the places where they are. For example, they launched a project they call “Hometown Strong” in March 2020, an initial $50 million investment, which has since grown to a $100 million commitment, in local community improvements. In Greeley, the company has already invested some $3.29 million of a $7 million commitment in local projects ranging from: building a stage at Island Grove Regional Park, home of the Greeley Stampede; money for the agricultural program at Greeley West High School; one year of free internet access for local school district students to help with homeschooling during the pandemic; a new delivery truck and weekly meat donations to the Weld County Food Bank; and supplies and a van for a local shelter for victims of domestic violence.
Not only that, but JBS offers what might be the biggest free tuition programs in rural America with its “Better Futures” initiative. Through this, the company offers free courses for associate degree and business certificate programs to all of its employees and their children.
This must be disappointing to those who look down on “late stage capitalism” as an exploitative system of economic oppression. Moreover, Cameron Bruett, head of corporate affairs at JBS, didn’t even offer Machiavellian deception as the reason the company is chasing all this extracurricular generosity. “It’s the right thing to do,” he said. “It’s just the right thing to be a good neighbor and committed to the future of the communities where we live and work.
Or take Kroeger, the parent company of King Soopers, which was the target of an unnecessary strike earlier this year, orchestrated solely to inflate the union boss’ national profile (and which ultimately did nothing for the union). In addition to a generous salary and benefits package for its employees, Kroeger operates a private foundation that has distributed $16.4 million in grants to more than 370 nonprofit organizations in the states in which it operates. his activities. In 2020, Kroeger also donated some 640 million free meals to nonprofits helping feed the hungry during the pandemic.
Or how about Suncor? You’d be hard-pressed to find a company in Colorado that has absorbed more slingshots and arrowheads than Suncor. And yet, even before the events of the past few weeks, the value of producing what drives society and our economy (not to mention the myriad other consumer products made from refined petroleum) should have been obvious. , and Russia’s aggression has highlighted the need for domestic energy in an ominous and stark way.
Again, if this were Suncor’s only contribution, it would be enough to elicit gratitude from citizens, but it is not. Since 2012, Suncor has invested more than $8.5 million in the communities where it is located, with the bulk going to Commerce City and elsewhere in the Denver metro area. For example, the company has donated more than $3 million over the years to Boys and Girls Clubs, including establishing the Suncor Boys and Girls Club in Commerce City. They also coordinate an employee volunteer day at Gates Camp each year, which ends up saving Metro Denver Boys and Girls Clubs thousands of dollars in maintenance and repairs; and from August 2021 through March 31 of this year, Suncor has designated a fuel pump at each of the Shell stations it owns or leases in the state, from which 5 cents of every gallon of fuel sold is donated to clubs.
Undoubtedly, there is some market value associated with corporate charity, but so what? As Burke reminds us, it is these sorts of private efforts within society that make society work. If great corporations generate great generosity, on top of their contribution to profit, that should be applauded, not demonized.
Kelly Sloan is a political and public affairs consultant and recovering journalist based in Denver.