Double the Social + Environmental Impact with Megan Trotter and Todd Lienart of Zendesk

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This is a fun one! Our first double episode is here where we were joined by two incredible social impact folks. Both Megan Trotter and Todd Lienart are Directors of Social Impact at Zendesk, a customer service and experience platform. Megan focuses on employee engagement and grants from the Zendesk Neighbor Foundation. Todd works on sustainability initiatives as well as Zendesk’s tech-for-good program, helping nonprofits utilizing its technology. 

Finding Opportunities to Go Big with Tech-for-Good

 

The International Rescue Committee needed to help support refugees landing in new countries and this was a perfect use case for Zendesk to make a broad and deep impact with their tech, supporting refugees across the globe. It was important for Zendesk to not just give the technology away, but use their time to unburden the nonprofit in using its technology. Read more about their incredible program here.

4 Volunteer Events PER WEEK

 

Volume of opportunities is a big part of the volunteer program – giving people options but keeping the group small at about 3-8 employee volunteers. This small size allows for them to create and build community with their volunteer initiative. Zendesk offers volunteer opportunities to its employees at 15 global offices. Who powers this program? There are 6 employees globally with champions and social impact committees in each office that help power this impactful volunteer program.

Exploring Specific Impact Focus Areas

 
The Zendesk team is in the middle of embarking on a journey to figure out their focus areas. They are excited to go deep on 4 key areas that are TBD. To do this they did 3 things. How should you figure out the social impact focus areas of your company? 
  1. Executive interviews
  2. Focus groups with employee resource groups and social impact committees
  3. A few questions on an employee engagement survey

Sustainability Initiatives Start with a Slack Message

 

The most engaged slack message started with an employee asking about sustainability. This slack message created the necessary excitement and push to give Todd the go-ahead to work on the sustainability program at Zendesk. How amazing?! The goal is to reach carbon neutrality ahead of schedule: 100% renewable energy powering their offices and data centers. 

How has COVID impacted the volunteer efforts and social impact work?

 

Megan shared that “switching to virtual has been challenging but also really exciting.” They’ve focused on awareness campaigns, reaching employees through education and advocacy opportunities. Zendesk has created awareness campaigns with: 

  1. speaker series
  2. book clubs
  3. learning pathways

They started with two pilot program topics: refugee experience worldwide and the election. There was an “appetite for ‘realness’” – going deeper and learn more versus other more light volunteer activities. Instead of being prescriptive, they gave people the tools to learn and dive deeper. It also allowed for them to be more inclusive with more options as far as types of activities versus straight volunteering.

Check Out This Ratio 

 

Zendesk has 4,000+ employees and with that, they have 10 employees focused on impact initiatives. Wow! I haven’t seen a ratio like that. Kudos to the Zendesk team for prioritizing impact work. Right now, the breakdown of their team is: 

  • 1 VP of Social Impact and public policy
  • 6 people on employee engagement
  • 3 tech for good and sustainability

What’s the 10-year vision?

 

Megan would love to see them double down on a social justice perspective, and really focusing on cause areas. She’d love to see month-long awareness campaigns take hold. Todd’s vision is to see sustainability and social impact core to businesses, seeing it as a part of everything the business is doing. 

Cheers to that. Can’t wait for the day where it is the norm to have social and environmental impact threaded through all parts of business! 🙌

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