July 27th, 2016
Live: How Eagle Creek Makes an Impact Locally
Eagle Creek works hard to create a company culture that fosters giving back to the community. The company’s biannual volunteering trips bring employees closer together, boost morale, and remind staffers that they aren't just working for Eagle Creek—they are also working to create positive changes in the world.
Imagine a bright morning sun over a San Diego sky. It's early April, and the afternoon heat has yet to set in. Eagle Creek employees are trickling into the office's cafeteria area for breakfast on the company.
By 8:30am, just under 50 employees—who are clad in volunteer shirts—are happily chatting and eating as they gear up for the day ahead. Music plays under excited conversations and a summer camp vibe floats buoyantly through the air.
"Okay, can I have everyone's attention for a minute?" Eagle Creek Brand Marketing Manager Jessica Dodson says, standing up. "Let's go through the plan for the day."
The whole Eagle Creek team is headed to The San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy. In the morning, one group will remove invasive plant species that are growing around the inlet while the rest of the staff will remove graffiti from sandstone cliffs.
At noon, all the employees will break for lunch and then convene at the conservancy's nursery, where they will plant and re-pot indigenous species that are under threat from the invasive plants.
With the day's agenda laid out, employees grab work gloves, fill their favorite Eagle Creek daypacks and totes with company-provided snacks, protect themselves with bug spray and sunscreen, and carpool to the site.
This is all well and good—quite wonderful, really—but what does it have to do with a company that specializes in creating top-of-the-line travel and outdoor gear? It's all part of Eagle Creek's employee-led, executive-supported Live.Work.Travel. Program.
Twice a year, Eagle Creek closes its offices to clear trails, paint playground equipment, volunteer with kids, help maintain community gardens, and do other sorts of scout-like activities.
Eagle Creek has a small, busy staff, so organizing and executing these biannual initiatives can be challenging. But there's a consensus: not only are these events that staff look forward to, it's totally worth it.
In fact, Dodson, who heads up these efforts, says, "With all of business demands, it's hard to make the time to go volunteer—but we know that it gives back so much to us. We don't have less work to do because of this program; we have more work. But it's a commitment and a value that people in our company have decided they want to invest themselves in."
It creates a workplace environment in a company that employees want to be a part of. "It gives people more passion behind their work," says Dodson.
Eagle Creek also takes part in charitable giving. Last year the company donated over $30,000 in cash and products to charities within the San Diego area and just as much to charities in their larger global community.
In addition to these biannual Service Day events, Eagle Creek fosters a "Voluntour Program" which allows employees to choose for themselves how they want to help the world. Eagle Creek offers an additional 40 annual hours of paid time off to all employees for volunteer work. And to support their philosophy of travel, for those employees who want to travel more than 200 miles outside of their community to serve, Eagle Creek offers a stipend to support their work.
This has created a positive working environment in which everyone helps each other and can’t help but talk about what they are doing. To foster these conversations, there's a board at the office where employees can let everyone know about their upcoming charitable initiatives so that people can join if they feel inspired.
"It is so great to get out of the office, make a difference, and then see people come to work recharged," Dodson says. "It's cultural. It's team-building. It's facilitating and encouraging a different way of thinking."
Eagle Creek's philosophy poses an interesting question: Why not blur the line between working for a paycheck and working for a better world? For me, personally, it's nice to know that the same people making the gear that I love are also making the world that I love a better place.
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