In a Nutshell: Discover’s 2019 Corporate Responsibility Report describes the company’s ongoing efforts to improve the lives of employees, consumers, and communities — primarily through volunteerism and financial education. Partnerships with nonprofits, including Junior Achievement and other youth organizations, provide direct money management education and preparation for financial careers. Discover also offers consumer education resources, free access to credit scores, and tools for planning college funding. And the company aims to continue its educational efforts while emphasizing diversity and inclusion, ensuring everyone can access the knowledge necessary for positive financial progress.
The term “corporate citizenship” describes businesses that participate in socially and economically ethical behavior. That can include encouraging diversity and inclusion, contributing to philanthropic works, and advancing social justice initiatives. Another significant part of corporate citizenship is transparency with stakeholders and the public about its efforts.
Discover understands that, and it recently released the 2019 Corporate Responsibility Report (CRR), which describes how the global financial company works to ensure it positively impacts society. The report has been in production since November 2019, and it is Discover’s first fully digital CRR that contains expanded information about its corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies and practices.
“CSR has evolved over the years, and Discover is evolving with it,” said Matthew Towson, Director of Community Affairs at Discover. “It’s gone from something that was nice to have to something that is a necessity — and even part of a company’s business model.”
Discover’s CRR assessed its progress in four key areas:
- Promoting workforce diversity and inclusion
- Fostering consumer financial progress through beneficial products and services
- Providing benefits packages that meet employee needs
- Engaging in volunteerism and community reinvestment
“Having that impact on community groups through giving, volunteerism, and community reinvestment has become a complete process and part of how we operate as a company,” Towson said.
And that commitment begins with a partnership between employees and the company to ensure a tradition of giving back is ingrained in the corporate culture.
Partnerships with Schools and Youth Organizations Provide Crucial Financial Resources
In 2019, Discover employees donated more than 70,000 hours — both the company’s and their own — to worthy causes in their communities. Those volunteer efforts focused on three core areas: improving financial education, helping children succeed in schools, and community improvement.
“Community impact is something we take pride in,” Towson said. “The V in Discover stands for volunteerism, so it’s something we take very seriously. We try to give employees the opportunity to give back on a daily or monthly basis.”
Discover’s primary emphasis is on financial education, and it works to ensure children learn money management skills and positive habits early in life. The company’s employees volunteer in schools to provide students with a deeper understanding of finance.
To advance that mission, Discover partnered with Junior Achievement, a nonprofit youth organization dedicated to improving financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurial skills. That partnership allows Discover employees to provide firsthand financial education and insights into careers in the industry through work with the Boys and Girls Club and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
Discover also teamed up with Discovery Education, the global leader for standards-based digital content for K-12, to expand its learning programs to include online financial literacy materials and courses for middle and high school students, their teachers, and their families. In its first year, the program brought educational resources to more than 1 million students.
Each Discover center adopts a school or district and provides mentoring, tutoring, and school renovation and beautification.
“I think our volunteer program differentiates us from a lot of other companies,” Towson said. “You do see some companies taking it more seriously now, and they’ll give an employee a day off to go volunteer. But we are one of the few companies that allows employees to do it on company time, not just one day a year, but multiple days of the year and throughout the year.”
Remote Volunteerism Offers Ways to Give Back While Safeguarding Public Health
Direct financial education and volunteerism have become a more difficult task during the Covid-19 pandemic. But Discover’s leadership, employees, and institutional ethos all remain committed to finding ways to give back — even under adverse circumstances.
“What’s been great has been some of the creativity that’s happened,” Towson said. “We’re now finding all sorts of virtual volunteer opportunities and remote opportunities working with nonprofits.”
One is through online presentations, including Junior Achievement’s virtual career day. Discover employees speak to groups of about 25 to 30 students over live video chat, and engage them on topics including business technology, marketing, corporate responsibility, diversity, and inclusion, among many others.
But volunteer efforts aren’t restricted to the virtual sphere. In-home volunteering allows Discover’s employees to provide direct material support to organizations in need. It supports Together We Rise, a nonprofit devoted to improving foster care in the United States.
“They ship materials to our employees directly at their homes,” Towson said. “And the employees put them together and ship them back.”
Whether virtual or physical, employee volunteer efforts are still conducted as a business unit. Although the remote nature reduces the in-person aspects, it still provides an opportunity to leverage time and skills to help others.
“We have a ton of employees who have big hearts, and they don’t want a virus to stop them from serving and giving back to the community,” Towson said. “But you do miss that sense of togetherness and belonging.”
Products and Services Help Consumers Build Money Management Skills
Discover’s primary responsibility is to its customers, who also receive a host of products and services designed to improve their money management skills and help them plan stable financial futures.
The company offers a pair of services targeted at improving day-to-day financial well-being. Credit Scorecard is free to new and existing customers, and even non-customers, and it provides easy access to FICO credit scores to help consumers understand how they work. Spend Analyzer, available to customer accounts, automatically tracks and categorizes spending to help them manage their money.
Beyond credit and money management, student loans are pervasive components of many people’s financial lives. Discover’s online resources include information and tools for college planning and budgeting. CollegeCovered.com helps students and parents understand the real cost of college, ensuring they only take out loans they can pay back.
Discover Student Loans offers a student loan calculator so users can compare loan offers and estimate the total cost of college, including how much they’ll need to borrow, their monthly student loan payments, and potential savings by making larger payments and paying the debt off early.
Finally, in partnership with the behavioral-change tech company Thrive Global, Discover offers Thriving Wallet. The initiative leverages storytelling to highlight information and insight into personal finance, helping people achieve financial independence and well-being. A notable feature of Thriving Wallet is Microsteps — articles on small, research-based actions that can help people improve their relationship with money. As with Discover’s other efforts, Thriving Wallet seeks to have a large-scale positive impact by improving financial situations.
“We’re doing this to make a real and long-term impact on communities,” Towson said. “It all supports our mission of helping people achieve brighter financial futures.”
Discover: Devoted to Community Wealth and Well-Being
The first half of 2020 was a time of drastic social change, due first to the circumstances imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, and then again during social justice protests around the U.S. Just as Discover has sought to cope with the contingencies of social distancing, the company is equally dedicated to addressing issues of social justice — as evidenced by its CRR.
“We know we need to do more to make a real difference in underserved communities,” Towson said. “If the protests have taught us anything, it’s that businesses need to play a role in addressing racial inequality.”
Discover’s CRR is compiled and published every two years, so consumers won’t see the next one until 2022. Towson said that moving to an all-digital format means that future reports will be easier to produce, but it will still take plenty of work.
“There’s a lot of moving pieces,” Towson said. “You have to interview a lot of people from different business units and get all the information. But we’re happy with the final product.”
While Towson and his team are hard at work, the rest of Discover’s employees continue to pursue the company’s mission and advance its core values. That will certainly include an emphasis on direct education through volunteerism — even under challenging circumstances.
“Our leadership has encouraged it so much,” Towson said. “Everyone has their normal work they have to do, but the need of the community hasn’t stopped. It’s even more apparent now. And the desire of employees to find a way to give back hasn’t let up, either.”
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