Beneficiaries of Convergint’s Social Responsibility Day include Spirit Horse, a therapeutic equine center that helps children with physical and mental disabilities as well as those at risk due to poverty. The firm’s Dallas office built metal carts, used to support the children’s wheelchairs behind the horses.

Greg Lernihan is co-founder and president of Convergint Technologies, Inc., the systems integration firm. Convergint has made it a foundational mission to improve the quality of life for its colleagues and their families, as well as for the communities they serve.

Security Magazine: Why should social responsibility be of significance to companies in the security industry?

Lernihan: Here, social responsibility and our mission are one and the same. Being a socially responsible company has had an enormous impact on almost every aspect of our business and our stakeholders — from current and prospective colleagues, to our manufacturing partners and customers, and ultimately to the communities in which we live and work. The security industry is all about service and protection. How better to be of service and enable a better quality of life than to give back?

Our commitment to social responsibility sends a clear message about company values and beliefs and gives colleagues the opportunity to live those values every day. Another internal benefit is that by working side-by-side, we get to know each other better, resulting in a culture of teamwork and camaraderie.

Social responsibility also has proved beneficial as a recruiting tool. My company attracts colleagues who share our beliefs and are interested in working at a socially responsive organization. Working together to benefit charitable causes has greatly enhanced our relationships with business partners as well. Many of manufacturing partners and subcontractors have supported efforts to give back to the communities by donating expertise, money, products or labor.

Such an industry commitment to social responsibility also has brought us closer to our customers. Many customers, especially the larger global companies, share a similar passion and seek to work with other socially responsible organizations. We frequently compare the values and mission statements of these customers with our own. As we share our similar stories about giving back to the community, the response and the outcome of our partnership proves
extremely positive.

More than 20 technicians, sales, engineers and electricians from the Atlanta office participated in a Habitat for Humanity project. The work involved clearing and grading the lot around the foundation, sealing foundation walls, setting drain pipe around the footings and installing a manifold piping for the radon gas venting system.

Security Magazine: How should organizations in the security industry demonstrate a commitment to social responsibility?

Lernihan: For us, being a socially responsible organization is a way of life and begins with setting expectations throughout the entire business. The company was founded on a set of core values and beliefs that express our commitments to our customers, our colleagues and their families, and our communities. One of these values, 'We believe in balanced lives – family, business and community,' means that we are committed to creating a positive work and family environment and we’re dedicated to giving back to our local communities.

In support of this value, each year in June we provide colleagues across more than 20 North American markets with a paid day off to help local organizations and charities. The cost to the company for Social Responsibility Day has been calculated to be in excess of $350,000 annually, but the return is immeasurable. In a recent company survey, 99.3 percent of our colleagues said they believe this is a very worthwhile effort.

In recognition of such efforts the Center for Companies That Care has named Convergint to its Honor Roll for the past four years. Honor Roll recipients are selected for their unwavering commitment to elevating the quality of life for their employees and communities.

Security Magazine: I understand you’d like to challenge other companies to make a similar commitment?

Lernihan: We certainly do encourage companies to become more socially responsible, but we’re not here to lay down a challenge. The reality is that each company’s leadership needs to make its own decision about this. You can’t just “flip a switch” and suddenly become socially responsible. It has to be an integral part of a company’s culture and overall mission to be effective on employee morale and the bottom line.

However, one of the best ways to get started is to select one small project or organization to help, and then build on that success in the long-term. The greatest lesson we’ve learned about social responsibility is that we receive much more in return for our efforts than we give.

Finally, we recognize that our company benefits tremendously from each of our communities through large project installations, annual service agreements, etc. Many of our communities are financially challenged and must find ways to do more with less. Through social responsibility, we have a unique opportunity to give something back to the communities that have given so much to us.