As the new head of CECP, I am blessed to lead a non-profit organization founded by legendary actor (and salad dressing maker) Paul Newman and several New York business executives 15 years ago with the belief what “Corporate America can (and should) be a force for good in society.” Since then, CECP has now grown to some 200 Fortune 500-sized companies. In a nutshell, CECP works with participating companies to increase the quality and quantity of their societal investment.
Though it is popular to pick on big companies, I am finding that the world’s leading companies are increasingly sensitive to the world’s challenges and working hard to be responsible. Additionally, their consumers, employees, and communities are asking them to do so. According to a recent global study by Edelman, a CECP company headquartered on Hudson Street, 84% of the surveyed citizens believe that a company “can pursue its self-interest while doing good for society.”
One of CECP’s top services is its proprietary Giving in Numbers report, which some 300 multi-billion dollar companies complete. Out of this report, CECP has learned that companies have increased their societal investment above pre-recession levels and are focusing on fewer program areas, where they can make a difference. Topping the list are: education, health care, and urban growth.
Interestingly, as I sat down for breakfast and a local history lesson with George Capsis and Arthur Schwartz recently, I learned that these are also the top issues here in the West Village.
Health care is a real issue with the loss of the local hospital. While a new urgent care center will help, emergency services are still 60 blocks north or seven avenues east of Charles and Bleecker Streets.
Education is suffering with the lack of seats in local schools. The popularity of the West Village and its tree-lined streets has soared with the parents of younger kids and created a real shortage of space.
The latest proposed high-rise at the St. Luke’s-in-the-Fields school threatens the character of this special neighborhood. Perhaps, it will be called the “high-rise in the fields.”
To that end, I was delighted to learn from George and Arthur about the West Village Foundation, a newly forming non-profit that can help provide start-up funding to address these local issues. What a terrific idea to address local community issues.
Looking at the numbers, the West Village actually has financial resources similar to that of a Fortune 500 company. With 34,000 affluent residents living in some 20,000 household averaging $180,000 in income annually per the US Census (4X the US average), that’s $3.6 billion in local income per year. When you add in the spending from estimated 8,000 daily commuters and 13,000 average daily visitors to New York City, that adds even more resources to the area.
Given these challenges and reflecting on the resources we have in our neighborhood, how can we help protect what we residents love so much about the Village? Just a small fraction of the Village’s roughly $4+ billion in total income (1/30 of one percent or $4 per household per month or one less latte every 30 days) would generate $1 million a year, perhaps enough to keep that real estate precious.
In fact, Steven Witkoff, a local real developer, has pledged to match $1 million to support these efforts if we can raise that $1 million. Look, we would all like to receive the funds from the City or State or Federal Government. After all, the West Village overwhelmingly supported all three elected leaders, but from what I hear, it sounds like the new Mayor, the Governor and the President are (rightfully) focused elsewhere. Or course, we could lobby them, but in the meantime, we can also get going on our own.
Even though still a New Jersey resident trying to make the rent in New York, I stand ready to help for one less latte a week. I hope others will join as well.
A new arrival to the West Village, Daryl Brewster was born across the river in Newark, grew up in the New Jersey and has served as the President of Nabisco, the turnaround Chief Executive Officer of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, and on numerous for-profit and not-for-profit boards. He is currently the CEO of CECP, formerly known as the Committee to Encourage Corporate Philanthropy, a New York-based non-profit that helps the world’s largest companies address societal issues through business.