Cummins’ belief in being a good community partner has roots at least 60 years deep.
The company has had a corporate responsibility department since the 1950s, long before many companies recognized the importance of being a true community partner, said Mark Levett, vice president of corporate responsibility and CEO of the Cummins Foundation.
At that time, much of the focus was on civil rights, said Levett, who has been with Cummins since 1973.
“Cummins was trying to figure out what our role was in society. What we should be doing in our communities, in our hiring practices and what kind of values we should emphasize to our people was a huge focus,” Levett said.
As Cummins became a more global company, that role continued to evolve.
The emphasis Cummins placed on company values and corporate responsibility was brought home to Levett during the period of apartheid in South Africa.
Cummins was establishing a strong market position in South Africa at a time when the Western world was beginning to isolate the country because of its position on racial segregation.
Levett said Cummins was essentially told it could have a monopoly on engine manufacturing in the country. The condition was that Cummins would have to operate under apartheid rules, which basically meant a management team of white South Africans or expatriates.
“It was the shortest review we ever had, and Cummins decided we didn’t want to do business in South Africa, and that had a huge impact on me,” Levett said. “You can talk a lot, but to actually give up that much business told me that this company really has strong values built around corporate responsibility in our communities.”
Levett said the company’s community partnership focus and volunteer efforts have shifted from civil rights to education, the environment and social justice.
“We picked those after surveying our employees around the world and asking what we are good at, what do we have passion for and where can we have an impact,” Levett said. “We all have some expertise in education, and we have these tremendous in-house capabilities on environmental issues and all of those skills are transferable to our communities.”
Sometimes that can be one or two employees volunteering independently to help an organization, or a larger group engaged in an organized project.
The company’s community involvement efforts are as varied as the worldwide communities where it has a presence.
The Cummins 2013 Environmental Challenge, which awards 15 projects $10,000 grants from The Cummins Foundation, included teams from China, India, Mexico, Korea and the United Kingdom.
The Environmental Challenge was created in 2009 as a competition among the company’s Community Involvement Teams to determine the community service projects that had the greatest environmental impact.
One of the more ambitious projects involves the rural villages surrounding the Cummins megasite in Pune, India. The region has a monsoon season which includes periods of heavy rain followed by drought because there had never been a way to collect and store the rainwater.
Cummins engineers designed and built a small dam and a reservoir deep enough to hold two years’ worth of rainwater. A huge lake and a thriving agricultural industry now exist near Nandal Village, where Levett said farmers have increased their income threefold.
“We are embracing those villages like every other Cummins community,” Levett said.
Cummins also has developed its own curriculum for vocational schools around the world through its Technical Education for Communities program and plans to recruit 10 percent of the students as company employees.
The goal is to encourage partners to invest in the program and develop the skilled global workforce necessary to sustain the industry and provide high-paying jobs in all of its communities. The company already has four schools on the books and several others in the planning stages.
Cummins’ program to engage employees in volunteer projects was developed to support local communities, and now is one of the things that draw people to work for Cummins, Levett said.
“This is a huge recruiting tool for Cummins worldwide,” Levett said. “Young people today are attracted to Cummins because we are good at this stuff and it’s part of our values.”