Employee Q&A: Sustaining Local Communities Through Volunteerism

Gisela Martinez, Senior Administrative Associate
May 30, 2024 11:45 AM ET
Gisela Martinez

Our people making a difference is a series featured throughout Owens Corning’s 2023 Sustainability Report.

Since high school, Gisela Martinez has been actively volunteering in her community. She joined Owens Corning as an intern in 2017, and she brought her passion for service to her role almost immediately when Mexico City, Mexico, was struck by an earthquake. Gisela helped lead her co-workers into action, providing food, clothing, and more. Upon moving into her current role, she has continued to lead the way in volunteerism, bringing people together to help in meaningful ways in Mexico City and beyond.

On our human approach to corporate citizenship 

Owens Corning is always trying to reach as many people as possible, and that is achievable with all the fantastic people that volunteer. I personally always try to help more people every year as an objective. We care about the people we’re giving back to and how we are impacting their lives. When the Community Engagement team came to Mexico City in 2023 to present the Volunteer of the Year award, they were able to see how our contributions have helped many girls in vulnerable situations, or children suffering terminal cancer, or a 13-year-old who arrived at the Hummingbird House in an unresponsive state who now is able to walk, talk in English, and enjoy being a kid again. That’s why I always suggest taking some extra time to visit the associations you’re benefiting with your work and donations, so you’ll see firsthand how you are making the world — and their world — a better place.

On the ways community engagement fits with sustainability 

I believe that there’s no way a company can claim to be sustainable without benefiting the people around them and showing them our value as a neighbor and a socially responsible citizen. That’s why it’s important to include community engagement and giving back to our community in our approach to sustainability, as this is bringing us closer to our aspirations as a company.

On engaging employees at the plant level 

In Mexico and Latin America, we all do informal volunteering — helping people around us in our community, like relatives, neighbors, or victims of a natural disaster. But when we ask people in operations to come and volunteer in a formal system, it can be hard for them. We offer more diverse programs so people will have something to engage with. If they don’t feel close to a certain cause, they always have different options, and they’re welcome to bring new projects to the table. I always tell them to try it once and if they don’t like it, hopefully there is going to be something else they are interested in. Now, after six years of running this, I have people asking me when they’re going to be able to volunteer again. This year, we’ve been seeing more participation from people in the plant because we’ve been offering more activities on weekends. Also, we donate our own insulation materials, and our co-workers love to see where the material they make is going. When they see the faces of the people who benefit from their hard work, they get even more engaged.