HEAL­ING COM­MU­NI­TIES ONE ACT AT A TIME

With the Subaru Love Prom­ise, the car com­pany is tak­ing a stand in an age of di­vi­sive­ness.

Fast Company - - Master Class - Learn more at subaru.com/love-prom­ise.

Subaru of Amer­ica Pres­i­dent and CEO Tom Doll was on his way to a speak­ing en­gage­ment in 2013, think­ing about the state of the com­pany. It was hold­ing its own against its 30 clos­est com­peti­tors. The brand had amassed a loyal cus­tomer base and de­vel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion for sup­port­ing causes im­por­tant to Subaru driv­ers. Through pro­grams like Share the Love, an an­nual event dur­ing which Subaru do­nates $250 per car pur­chased be­tween mid-novem­ber and De­cem­ber 31 to var­i­ous char­i­ties, the com­pany has gen­er­ated more than $118 mil­lion in dona­tions be­tween 2007 and 2017.

START WITH A GOAL

Doll be­gan think­ing about how Subaru could make a big­ger dif­fer­ence in the world. He had of­ten talked about the “hu­man foot­print”—the im­pact that peo­ple have on oth­ers’ lives through daily in­ter­ac­tions. From their gro­cery store cashier to their boss, peo­ple can have a pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive ef­fect on oth­ers; it's a choice. It was then he re­al­ized the tidal wave of love and pos­i­tive im­pact the enor­mous net­work of Subaru re­tail­ers could put into mo­tion na­tion­wide. “The goal was to make every in­ter­ac­tion with Subaru a pos­i­tive one—not just in dona­tions, but in ac­tions rooted in love and re­spect that help the peo­ple in their com­mu­ni­ties,” Doll says. “We wanted to be­come a pos­i­tive force in the com­mu­ni­ties where we live and work, sim­ply be­cause it is the right thing to do.” Af­ter a few meet­ings with team mem­bers, the Subaru Love Prom­ise was born. The idea was sim­ple: Em­power the re­tailer net­work to get in­volved and do good works in their com­mu­ni­ties, help­ing peo­ple or causes in need. “We work in an in­dus­try where mil­lions of dol­lars are spent like it’s noth­ing,” Doll says. “But you give th­ese lo­cal, home­town char­i­ties $15,000 or $25,000, and to them that’s life-chang­ing money. They're so ef­fi­cient, and it re­ally makes a dif­fer­ence."

LOVE IN AC­TION

The re­sults are re­mark­able. In June 2018, the team at Subaru of Bend, in Bend, Ore­gon, raised nearly $42,000 to sup­port Grandma’s HOuse of Cen­tral Ore­gon. This shel­ter gives home­less and tran­si­tional preg­nant women and mothers with young chil­dren a safe place to live. In ad­di­tion to the funds, own­ers, man­agers, sales staff, and cus­tomers show­ered the mothers, ba­bies, and chil­dren with gifts. In Fe­bru­ary 2018, when the team at North End Subaru of Lunen­burg, Mas­sachusetts, found out that nearby Ster­ling An­i­mal Shel­ter was go­ing to re­ceive more than 200 pets in one week, they took ac­tion im­me­di­ately. Af­ter getting a list of needs from the shel­ter’s man­ager, em­ploy­ees and cus­tomers filled two Subaru Foresters with sup­plies for the pets in need. The deal­er­ship re­mains a drop-off cen­ter for sup­plies that are do­nated to the shel­ter and new pet own­ers. In ad­di­tion to sup­port­ing char­i­ties that ad­dress en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues, ed­u­ca­tion, pets, health­care, and their com­mu­ni­ties, Subaru re­tail­ers are mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in in­di­vid­ual lives. One of Doll’s fa­vorite sto­ries is about a young man in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, who was part of a group that van­dal­ized some of the cars at Schulte Subaru. Video sur­veil­lance helped the po­lice to find the group. The re­tail lo­ca­tion owner's com­pas­sion led him to offer one of them a job. To­day, the young man re­mains a val­ued em­ployee. “That’s the Subaru Love Prom­ise in ac­tion,” Doll says. “The most sur­pris­ing thing to me is that we’ve taken a busi­ness that is about sell­ing and turned it into a busi­ness where we pride our­selves on giv­ing. Our re­tail­ers are ac­tively look­ing for ways to make their com­mu­ni­ties bet­ter. And once you start do­ing that, it’s hard to stop.”

“We be­lieve in in­vest­ing in our com­mu­ni­ties,” says Tom Doll (left), Pres­i­dent and CEO of Subaru of Amer­ica.

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