Utility Companies Move Towards Larger Community Role

Compared to a traditional company, gas and electric utilities have always been a bit more regulated, many times because they do not have the same amount of competition as other companies. The rigid rules under which they operate have often defined how they operate with regard to innovation and customer care.

Although most utilities have always had a number of community support programs, recently, some utility companies have expanded their role within the community, breaking the mold when it comes to the level of support that they are providing to solve real world problems.

Here are some examples of utilities that are playing a larger role in their community:

Columbia Utilities: Columbia and its sister company Palmco are very well-known for their philanthropy in the markets that they operate in. In the past year, they have renewed their commitment to providing help for children that have cancer. By donating a specified amount for each new customer that meets their criteria, they are funding a leading advocacy organization that makes children’s lives better while helping them to fight the disease. Targeting the leading cause of death in children is popular with their customers and the way they are accomplishing it is to allow new customers to sign up for a specific Columbia Cares program, which then triggers an automatic contribution by Columbia or Palmco each month a customer has a utility bill.

Sempra Energy: In contrast to Columbia, which is sending gifts on behalf of their customers, Sempra and other utility companies have chosen to focus on matching donations by their employees to different charities as a method of sending money back to the community. Non-profits can create a website promoting their cause and then host it on Sempra’s website where Sempra employees can see it in the Donation Double program. If they decide to donate money, Sempra automatically matches the donation, effectively doubling the value of that employee’s contribution.

PGE: Oregon-based PGE takes a slightly different approach to contributing to the community. They have a separate foundation that coordinates and sends out over $1 million a year in donations and grants that are chosen by their relevance to corporate goals. Part of that equation is working towards healthy families and supporting non-profits that have programs that do so.

Although there is always a much larger need than companies can realistically fund, the recent actions of several utilities signals a broader community role and level of stewardship for those requiring their support.

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