CECP Company Spotlight: Making New Strides in Societal & Community Investment with Applied Materials, Ecolab, & Travelers

Jul 28, 2022 11:00 AM ET
young scientists at work wearing full masks and protection

Originally published by CECP - Company Spotlight July 2022

Societal and community investments provide individuals and organizations with tools and skills to improve the quality of life for themselves, their families, and their communities. For many people in underserved communities, certain initiatives are also pathways to homeownership, job creation, and small business development. This may include organizations working with low-income communities to create school to career pathways by helping students develop certain in-demand industry or technology skills. Companies can also positively make an impact through product donations, cash grants, and employee volunteerism.

This company spotlight identifies three companies making new strides in societal and community investment. Applied Materials, Ecolab, and Travelers all remain committed to finding unique ways to help those who traditionally have not had access to opportunity.

Applied Materials

All children—regardless of gender, race, or income level—should be able to pursue their dreams. Generation Girl®, an initiative of the Applied Materials Foundation, is working to make sure that all girls[1] can reach their potential.

By leveraging three important pillars–philanthropic funding, employee volunteers, and a commitment to organizational capacity–Generation Girl is expanding the opportunity for girls to lead. With a commitment to access in mind, the initiative intentionally prioritizes programs serving Black, Latina, and Native American girls, as well as girls from low-income backgrounds – groups that are currently underrepresented in tech.

In the first three years of the initiative, more than 25,000 girls across the country have participated in programs funded by Generation Girl, according to the company’s external evaluation[2]. Although the COVID-19 pandemic caused a variety of barriers to participation last year, girls participating in funded programs reported strong results in key areas, including growth in self-confidence (83%), competence in STEM skills (73%), and interest in pursuing post-secondary education (84%). And while the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impacted communities of color, close to 70% of girls in funded programs identified as Black, Latinx, or Native American, and 64% of girls came from low-income backgrounds.

The second not-so-secret ingredient in the Generation Girl initiative is employee engagement. In 2021, Applied Materials volunteers from across the country invested their time and talent by participating in mock interview workshops, career talks, and hands-on activities to introduce girls to the semiconductor industry and encourage them to dream big.

These activities are mutually beneficial, as girls gain access to female role models in tech and employees gain inspiration from this new generation. As one grantee recently shared, “Thank you for such a wonderful, non-threatening introduction to engineering and STEM, and a FUN way to broaden the exposure of these budding leaders!” The response from the Applied employee volunteer? “Working with the girls was so fun, and I loved the energy of the team – it was inspiring!”

The third and final component of this work focuses on building the capacity of the girl-serving nonprofit sector. Organizations focused on programs for girls and women are chronically underfunded, with less than 0.1% of 2017 philanthropic giving focused on reaching underrepresented women and girls of color specifically. Through a bimonthly Community of Practice, the Applied Materials Foundation facilitates conversations amongst its over 30 nonprofit grantees. To date, sessions have focused on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on girls, tactics to create trauma-informed programming, and how to engage youth through brave spaces.

Through philanthropic funding, employee volunteerism, and nonprofit capacity building, the Applied Materials Foundation is committed to developing the next generation of diverse female leaders.

Learn more about Generation Girl® here.

[1] “Girls” refers to gender-expansive youth (cis girls, trans girls, non-binary youth, gender non-conforming youth, gender queer youth and any girl-identified youth). This definition was developed by, and is used with, the permission of Alliance for Girls.

[2] Evaluation results are for the program period of September 2020—August 2021. Metrics and outcomes are provided by grantee organizations with analysis led by an external evaluator, Learning for Action.


As we all continue to experience global crises—including the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the escalating effects of climate change, and more recently, the war in Ukraine—companies must remain steadfastly committed to supporting communities around the globe.

For nearly 100 years, Ecolab has been supporting communities both close to home and around the world. In 2021, Ecolab responded with its largest giving year to date, valued at more than $40 million dollars, working hand-in-hand with non-profit partners to positively make an impact through product donations, cash grants, and employee volunteerism. Highlights include:

  • Product Donations: The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically increased the need for cleaning and sanitizing products. In partnership with relief organizations World Emergency Relief, Good360, and Global Citizen USA, Ecolab donated $32 million of its cleaning, sanitizing, and public health products across 22 countries to help combat COVID-19.
  • Cash Grants: Through more than $7 million in cash grants, the Ecolab Foundation supported local organizations in the communities where its associates live and work. These organizations are making a difference across youth and education, civic and community development, arts and culture, and the environment and conservation, as well as organizations that provide resources for underserved communities.
  • Employee Engagement: Ecolab associates also were individually driven to do their part. Their dedication of both time and resources embodies Ecolab’s purpose to help make the world a cleaner, safer, and healthier place, including supporting charities in their local communities through more than 3,600 volunteer events across 30 countries. In addition, associates gave more than $3 million in contributions to more than 2,600 nonprofit organizations around the world through Ecolab’s Community Giving Program augmented with a match from the Ecolab Foundation. For example, in partnership with Kids in Need, Ecolab associates in the Washington, D.C., area assembled more than 1,000 backpacks with supplies for local children to start the school year.

As the war in Ukraine continues, Ecolab is committed to finding ways to help those in need. As of June 2022, the company has committed more than $8.5 million worth of Ecolab products to support the humanitarian response to the Ukraine conflict. Additionally, employees have contributed their own funds, with the Ecolab Foundation offering a 50% match for all associates wishing to donate to Ukraine relief efforts through Ecolab community giving opportunities.

For more information about Ecolab’s community giving initiatives and the Ecolab Foundation, visit the Community Involvement page.


A successful future starts in the classroom, but many students from economically under-resourced communities struggle to obtain equitable access to academic and professional development opportunities. This gap can in turn hinder a business’s ability to effectively attract and retain diverse talent.

That’s why Travelers, a leading property and casualty insurer, focuses so much of its annual giving on organizations and programs that assist students in grades 5 through 12, as well as college students and young adults seeking careers in insurance. In fact, the company’s signature education program, Travelers EDGE® (Empowering Dreams for Graduation and Employment), is designed to increase degree attainment for diverse students while also providing a talent pipeline into the insurance and financial services industry.

It was initially Travelers’ board of directors who envisioned a program that would benefit the community and Travelers. After extensive research and conversations with multiple stakeholders, the company found that there was a significant gap in graduation rates between students from economically under-resourced communities and those from more affluent communities. They also discovered that diverse students from under-resourced communities have historically been underrepresented in the insurance and financial services industry. The company resolved to address that disparity, and Travelers EDGE was born.

Fast-forward 15 years, and Travelers EDGE is a sustainable school-to-career model that supports underrepresented students from high school through college and into the workplace in Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, and Minnesota. Through partnerships with higher education institutions, community groups and high schools, Travelers EDGE provides students with a holistic support system that includes financial assistance and access to mentors, internships, job-shadow opportunities, and professional development workshops.

Since its inception, Travelers EDGE has helped more than 300 students complete bachelor’s degrees, and more than 100 of those graduates have gone on to work at Travelers.

Travelers understands the importance of providing educational and economic opportunities to its communities. With the help of programs like Travelers EDGE, the company continues to work toward bridging the gap, helping students thrive.

About Company Spotlights
Company spotlights are created through a thoughtful information sharing and communications support process led by CECP, determining companies through a review of our pillars of excellence: CEO leadership, partnership, innovation, measurement, and integration into the business. Once featured in a Spotlight, companies are part of an ongoing awareness effort, which includes recognition on our website and at the CECP Summit. Contact us if you would like to be considered for this Spotlight.