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Our Redefined Social Responsibility Program: An Interview with Arthur Cortez

At 686 we want to be more than just a brand. We want to help make a difference in our community and inspire our employees to do the same.

This year, we created a new service-based program to inspire our crew to give back to their local communities. We are starting with our local home in South Central Los Angeles. We've set a company goal to complete a minimum of 120 cumulative volunteer hours together, with hopes to surpass and grow that number in the future. 686 will be donating work hours, meaning that the company will be paying employees during the hours required to reach our goals.

 We caught up with our Credit Manager, Arthur Cortez - who spearheaded the development of the Social Responsibility Program (SRP), to touch on what inspired this service project for the company along with some of the local service events planned for the 686 staff in the coming months.

What is the Social Responsibility Program (SRP)?

For the SRP, I really wanted to further our company’s commitment to the local community events 686 has been doing in the past with the Compton Surf/Snow Club. Over the years, I've dreamed of creating a program that provides employees the time during business hours to serve an organization or cause that aligns with their passions and builds upon what we're trying to accomplish as a company. This new program provides each employee with a total of 24 hours a year to do just that. We've challenged ourselves to raise at least 120 cumulative volunteer hours from May 2019 to May 2020 this year to quantify a target that we can strive for and keep track of together. Hopefully, we surpass this number, which would be really rad!

In order to inspire our employees and provide them opportunities to volunteer locally around our headquarters, we are conducting three larger volunteer-based activities hosted by the company for the entire staff to participate in. We just conducted our first event this May, where we all headed down to one of our local state beaches and did a beach clean-up. For me personally, along with making steps in helping keep our beaches clean, it was awesome to see everyone have a great time and grow stronger together as a family. This got me excited for what’s to come with this program. We have two more company events to look forward to and will continue to foster relationships with local organizations to provide our staff places other areas to serve throughout the year.

Honestly, I’m excited to see where our employees take this freedom during business hours to serve. I’m curious where people are going to go, and the experiences that we're going to share with each other. For example, over the next six weeks, we are partnering with a camp as part of the Harold Robinson Foundation. Once a week, 3-4 of our employees will be going to a Los Angles School to host workshops for a couple groups of 25-30 kids. The goal is to use a team building activity to show the kids what we do at 686 and how all of our different job functions and our departments are needed for the company to run smoothly and operate efficiently. I’m definitely excited about this partnership and looking for other places like this where we can give back as a company.

 What is another event planned for the 686 staff this year?

Another company-hosted event will be an initiative for our Compton Surf Club where we take kids from our Compton area to the beach and teach them how to surf as well as participate in a beach clean up with them. Most of these kids only live 20 minutes from the ocean, yet have never experienced standing sideways in the glory of the wave. Our goal is to open their eyes to a new activity and the beauty of what the ocean provides as well share the importance of keeping our community as well as our oceans clean!

There are many possibilities for areas where we can help out as a company. My goal is to discover those areas and take steps to help make a difference and live out our company’s values into our local community. That’s what we plan to do with these larger scale events. We’re here in our community every day, so we want to do what can we do to improve the community we reside.

What inspired you to create this program for the 686 employees?

I'm passionate about community service and volunteer work. It's always been a part of my day-to-day and was an impactful aspect of how I was raised. I think a lot of the time, we get so caught up in our own world and busy lives that we often forget to take a step back to help others or help a cause. One thing that has given me a lot of perspective on life is attending community events and witnessing the different problems all around us like homelessness, kids in the foster care system, trash all over the streets, etc. Until you see it first hand and actually get your hands dirty, these problems are out of our day-to-day. When I actually got to volunteer with people and went out to events, I was able to connect with these problems on a different level. My inspiration for this program came from wanting to bring that perspective, that feeling, to 686 in the same way.

686 has done a few different community-based events over the years. Are there any company events that made an impact on you personally?

There are a few, but one that stands out to me was when we went to downtown LA to serve food to the homeless for the LA Mission. This event stands out because it took many people in our staff out of their comfort zones. They were able to see first hand what's going on in Skid Row and the scale of the homeless problem on just the one block we served at. I think it helped wake some people up in a way. Even if it didn’t change their lives per se, they were able to gain a broader understanding of the homeless problem and the value in helping to make a difference.

Another reason the LA Mission event sticks out was seeing our family work hard together as a team in the kitchen and serving the homeless community in our backyard. Witnessing our staff take a leap outside of their comfort zones and work as a team to help a community in need was pretty awesome. That stood out a lot for me.

What are you most excited about for the SRP?

I think for me it’s seeing the vision come to fruition. I've always wanted to establish a company initiative like this and provide volunteer hours for employees. What excites me the most is seeing where people take that, and then seeing where it grows to and the good that we're able to do. It's all about planting little seeds everywhere and seeing how and where they grow. I don't want this program to come off as a competition. I hope it's seen it as something that inspires people and potentially as something that other brands can find value in pursuing. For example, a large basis that helped me in developing this program was reaching out to other companies that are already doing this.

Now that we have a plan set in place, were committed serving our community where we can. I’m excited to see where it will grow. What excites me is the potential: the organizations that we're going to help, the causes we're going be apart of, and the potential of where it'll go.