Earlier this year, Alcoa, the international corporation that deals in metals manufacturing and engineering, was named America's most generous company. While it only gave away $39 million last year, that amounted to an impressive 12.1 percent of its profits.
Even before that data came out, though, we were paying keen attention to the Alcoa Foundation. And one thing we've found interesting is how the foundation thinks about the concept of "sustainability, and especially in regard to education.
Yes, the Alcoa Foundation gives to "traditional" environmental causes (it's particularly keen on recycling initiatives). But the foundation prides itself as more broadly defining "sustainability" through community, and support of education and workforce development initiatives. This support primarily manifests through its giving to STEM education and programs that encourage students to enter its workforce sector, but the foundation also seeks to "sustain" community through more general education and workforce support too.
The Alcoa corporation has offices, plants, and epicenters all around the world, so its focus on community is global. A big example that crosses international borders: the Alcoa Foundation recently gave $250,000 to American Association of University Women to expand its STEM education programs for girls into two new sites where Alcoa has operations: Székesfehérvár, Hungary and Barberton, Ohio.
Staying within U.S. borders, the foundation's grantmaking flows from its regional plants and offices, encompassing more than 50 cities throughout the country. Recent U.S. grantees have received funding for elementary school smartboards, aquarium internships, STEM summer camp, graduation retention programs, and job readiness classes.
The Alcoa Foundation's progressive take on sustainabiliy as education doesn't forgo the most obvious: environmental education. The foundation's support of environmental education is covered through its Environment division, and makes up more than 40 percent of the foundation's giving in this realm. Recent support includes education programs at nature preserves, the creation of garden classrooms, and environmental community service school programs.
The foundation gives heartily; it requires that proposals be for at least $15,000 of support. The foundation also requires tangible numbers of people engaged with and impacted by the initiative. Sustainability, after all, is a numbers game.