What Happens in Vegas: New Approaches to CSR
By Andrea Doyle
January 15, 2013
The motto, "What happens in Vegas, stays in
Vegas," has an even deeper meaning for local charities that
benefit from corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs
that are included in an increasing number of the city's
incentives and meetings.
"CSR is all about companies being good corporate citizens, and
supporting those less fortunate," says Alan Ranzer, co-founder
and managing partner of Impact 4 Good, a leading voice in the
CSR movement. "Regrettably, there are always many in need, no
matter the destination. Fortunately, however, there are always
great organizations supporting those needs that can give back.
Las Vegas is no different."
CSR programs are indeed a win-win proposition. Companies that
conduct CSR are perceived as being caring, and their employees
feel good about working for organizations that are interested
in more than just the bottom line.
Ranzer once planned a CSR program that got the group out and
into the community. "During 'Takin' It to the Streets,' the
400-person group was separated into 10 teams, each of which
visited a different local nonprofit in Las Vegas," he explains.
"Doing so allowed the participants to learn about Las Vegas by
meeting the people who are working to make it the great city
that it is, and are helping each organization achieve its
mission through an on-site project. The program culminated with
each team reporting back to the entire group via an interactive
presentation with pictures and videos from their experiences."
CSR Helps With Bonding
Caesars Entertainment uses CSR events to not only give back but
to strategically bond with its best clients and prospects. The
company has been conducting educational familiarization trips
for meeting planners in Las Vegas for the last seven years, and
is expanding them to its Atlantic City, Lake Tahoe, and Tunica,
MS, markets this year. Over the years, the event format has
been fairly consistent, with one notable exception: Three years ago, they added a community service component.
At each event, a group of approximately 200 planners and 100
Caesars meetings staffers gets up early on Saturday morning and
heads out to help those in need. Three previous service days
consisted of assisting St. Jude's Ranch for Children, a
nonprofit, nonsectarian home for abused, abandoned, and
neglected children in Boulder City, NV. Attendees at various
events painted the interiors of the residents' cottages, did
landscaping, and hung holiday decorations purchased by Caesars
for the ranch's critical "Night of Lights" event, which raises
money that helps to fund the organization for the rest of the
At its most recent event in November, Caesars worked with
Rebuilding Together Southern Nevada to provide home
improvements to three low-income homeowners. The effort marked
the beginning of a yearlong collaboration between Caesars and
Rebuilding Together, a national organization that provides safe
housing for low-income homeowners including seniors, disabled
Americans, veterans, and families of active service members.
Caesars has partnered with Rebuilding Together on many
initiatives; however, this was the first year Caesars worked
with them for this familiarization event.
"The basic need for a safe and healthy home is something we can
all relate to," says Gwen Migita, vice president of
sustainability and community affairs at Caesars Entertainment.
"By providing much-needed repairs and sustainable upgrades, we
hope that our efforts will make a lasting impact on these
individuals' well-being and their wallets." The rebuild
projects were sponsored by a combined $150,000 in gifts from
the Caesars Foundation, a private charitable foundation funded
by a percentage of operating income from the company's resorts,
and the Caesars Entertainment meetings division.
Overwhelmingly, planners who take part in the service day feel
that it is a highlight of the experience. "Just when I thought
I could not be wowed any more than I had already been, I took a
bus out to St. Jude's Ranch and discovered that dozens of
Caesars employees had given up their Saturday to join us in
manual labor to improve the landscaping at this wonderful
children's housing complex," says participating planner Chris
Cox, executive director, Print Suppliers Group, a manufacturer
and distributor of printing inks based in Calabasas, CA.
For Caesars, the activity is an opportunity to show off a
unique team-building option and to showcase the company's
community-oriented culture. Roughly 1,000 similar events are
held around the country each year, says Migita.
Caesars is not the only Las Vegas resort company that is
serious about its commitment to CSR. MGM Resorts International)
has unified its diversity and inclusion, community engagement,
and environmental sustainability initiatives under the single
comprehensive platform of "Inspiring Our World." MGM's
community engagement is organized around four key programs: its
corporate giving program; its employee workplace giving
program; The MGM Resorts Foundation; and its employee volunteer
program. One of the missions that MGM Resorts supports is
Habitat for Humanity Las Vegas. MGM employees recently built a
house for a family in the Vegas Heights section of the historic
West Las Vegas African-American district. More than 150 MGM
employees participated in the construction of the house in
accordance with green energy and water standards.
Giving Back, Elevated
Another Las Vegas-based organization takes giving back to a whole other level. Repurpose America, a
Las Vegas-based nonprofit, helps companies repurpose materials
from trade shows that cannot be recycled. It will also help
incentive groups incorporate CSR activities into their
programs. Repurpose America works with 360 different community
organizations in southern Nevada and has directly benefited
more than 400,000 people. The organization has also created
jobs for wounded veterans and those with disabilities.
An example of the transformational work that Repurpose America
does can be seen at the Monkey Gym, a nonprofit located in
Henderson, NV. Its mission is to provide a healthy physical and
creative outlet for children and adults to "learn, grow, and
heal" through physical activity. A new wrestling mat at the
Monkey Gym was originally a 3,000-square-foot directional sign
hung in the Las Vegas Convention Center during the 2012 MINExpo
International, sponsored by the National Mining Association.
During another trade show, four huge banners hung from the
Marriott next to the Las Vegas Convention Center. Each measured
100 feet long by 80 feet wide, totaling 32,000 square feet. In
years past, those banners would be transferred to a landfill.
Not anymore. Instead, they were transformed into a
4,000-square-foot sunshade that protects the College of
Southern Nevada childcare facility's playground - as well as
for other projects. The awning now protects 65 kids from the
Nevada sun and saved the school $3,500, the amount it would
have cost to purchase a new sunshade.
As is the case with most schools, "we do not have any extra
money, so this was a great surprise," says Garry Moon, project
manager at the college. Kelly Holtam, manager of the college's
childcare services, adds, "The new sunshade is fantastic. It's
much more heavy duty than the one we had that was destroyed by
the wind. And each square of the new one has different writing
on it, which is really cool."
These transformations were made possible with the help of
Repurpose America, the brainchild of Zachary Delbex, who
started the company in 2007. "I try to push innovation and
education, and thinking outside of the box," he says. "We
educate businesses and show them doing the right thing isn't
going to negatively affect the bottom line. Not only am I an
idealist, but I am also a realist. I understand that in the
economy we're in, if it's going to cost money, they are not
going to do it. My philosophy is that sustainability does not
make sense unless it saves money or makes money for our
The materials that Repurpose America collects are often
surprising. A Las Vegas hotel recently underwent an expansion and wound up not using 16
crates of mahogany panels. There were 100 panels per crate,
each worth $30 - $48,000 worth of resources that were donated
to six schools and a Boy Scouts program.
The World Tea Expo recently turned to Repurpose America for
help. Among the items recovered from its event were 200 pounds
of tea. "We reached out to the health industries that support
our local residences. The tea made it to the Cleveland Clinic
Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, Cancer Center of Southern
Nevada, and Red Moon Dialysis, where it will benefit hundreds
of patients, volunteers, and health practitioners," says
Patti Shock, professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas,
is a big supporter of Delbex. "I want him to be successful and other cities to follow
suit. His work helps save the landfill and employs veterans and
the disadvantaged in the process. How much more perfect can that
"To watch his workers repurpose vinyl signs and foam core into
swag bags, badge holders, and wallets was amazing," Shock adds.
"There were stacks of potting soil from a home-and-garden show
in the warehouse that would have been thrown away had it not
been for Repurpose America. We hear so much about recycling,
but not much about repurposing. We need to make exhibitors
aware of this."
Other nonprofits that have worked with various meeting and
incentive groups in Las Vegas in the past include the
Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation of Nevada, a support
group for families of children with cancer; Habitat for
Humanity; Opportunity Village, serving people with intellectual
disabilities; Family Promise of Las Vegas, which helps families
achieve sustainable futures and lasting independence; and
Recycled Rides, a National Auto Body Council initative where
families in need receive refurbished vehicles.
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