Last year, Uplight started the TeamUP! volunteer program, where Uplighters volunteer their time and skills to advance organizations that are working on environmental and social issues.
I talked with Steph Perez-Prokop (she/her), Senior Manager of People Experience, about how the initiative got started, what Uplighters have been up to, and the impact the program has had on the community and within Uplight.
How is the TeamUP! volunteer program aligned with Uplight’s mission and values?
Uplight is a Certified B Corporation. B Corp is an initiative from B Lab, a non-profit that serves a global movement of people using business as a force for good, which means that we are measured by our impact in the community to maintain our overall standing. TeamUP! catalyzes community engagement, helps us define what being a force for good can look like by living our values, and serves as a business model for earlier-stage companies in the climate tech space.
Tell me about how the program got started at Uplight.
While Uplight has encouraged volunteerism for many years, up until recently we have not had a formal strategy to measure our community impact and promote opportunities for teams and individuals. Through our Q1 2022 employee engagement survey, we learned that 80% of employees believed that the company is committed to social responsibility, and they wanted to take personal actions in their local communities. So the right ingredients existed, and we needed to build a program where people can take their commitment to social responsibility and pair them with causes that align with our mission. With the help of many Uplighters, and an executive sponsor, we identified our objectives, organizations to contact, and branding – that’s when TeamUP! was born in August of 2022.
What have been some of the most interesting or notable projects?
Last fall we launched Give Back Days over the holiday season and saw great participation across various communities. The Vancouver team partnered with Care BC and helped make roughly 3600 cookies and 350 dessert cups that were distributed to children and seniors across Greater Vancouver. In Colorado, a team volunteered at the Food Bank of the Rockies to help sort and move 14,100 lbs of goods to be distributed to local shelters. Another team partnered with Community Food Share and sorted over 2,000 pounds of food items and 195 pounds of eggs to help feed families in local counties.
Our Boston team cooked and served meals for over 50 community members at a local shelter, supporting individuals experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of becoming homeless. Our Pune team planted banyan trees at the Anandvan Urban Farms, which is a tree that bears figs to attract birds and animals in an area that was once a wasteland. In our remote community, we connected Uplighters with Climb Hire so they can apply their skills in mock interviewing or resume building for women and minorities who are interested in working in the tech industry. Throughout these experiences, we aim to connect Uplighters with organizations that are dedicated to furthering environmental and social causes – and we’re just getting started.
How do you measure the impact of the program? What are the benefits to employees?
We encourage every Uplighter to volunteer about 8 hours a year during their regular work week. People can track their hours in our HRIS system, which reports the number of hours Uplighters have dedicated at any given time. In 2022, our team members completed 303 hours, which is truly remarkable. We also measure impact through our engagement survey, taking note of how Uplighters are rating opportunities in living our values and making an impact in the community.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused tremendous psychological effects on mental health, forced isolation, and shared trauma. Additionally, adapting to remote work environments has gradually increased loneliness, which is a crucial risk factor for mental disturbances, such as anxiety, depression, and addiction disorders. We have learned through research that volunteering gives people purpose, a more positive outlook on coming together with their managers and teammates, and boosts team effectiveness and productivity.
What are you looking forward to next year with the program?
This program is in its early grassroots stages with the desire to become something pretty incredible over the next several phases. I’d like to see us further our impact through grants and other giving initiatives, donating to nonprofit organizations that help solve the world’s most pressing social and environmental challenges. One example of a business doing this is 1% for the Planet, which certifies that at least 1% of business sales or specific product sales go directly to nonprofits working to protect our shared resources. For now, I am proud of what we’ve created with TeamUP! and look forward to seeing this program grow throughout the years.