Yesterday, I attended Monsanto’s Sustainable Yield Pledge Awards, an annual program recognizing employee efforts in the broad area of sustainable agriculture. Awards are given in six categories – Produce More, Conserve More, Improve Lives, Customer Relationships, Community Engagement and Operational Excellence. Two other awards are given – the Judges Choice Award (determined by outside judges) and the People’s Choice Award (voted by employees).
All of the winning teams will be featured here and on other sites in coming weeks. Monsanto employees accomplished some amazing things. Some 130 projects were nominated; 18 projects were chosen as finalists (three in each category); and six named winners.
I had the good fortune of being on one of the winning teams. Our project was called “Responding to Drought in East Africa,” and it was about what a small group of Monsanto employees did that made a difference for thousands of people.
Except it really wasn’t about that. From the beginning, the focus wasn’t Monsanto but instead East Africa – the three countries that comprise the “Horn” – Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia. The worst drought in 60 years had displaced some 13 million people, and hundreds of thousands faced immediate starvation. And many of those were children.
Monsanto gave money for immediate relief and also longer-term solutions. The money was channeled to three organizations, including the Kenya Red Cross – the main refugee camps were all in Kenya. Our Monsanto guy in Kenya, Kinyua M’Mbijjewe, worked tirelessly with the agencies and officials in the country to identify the needs, finds the projects and channel the funds.
Here in St. Louis, we asked ourselves what else we could do. The answer was obvious. Instead of a major corporate announcement about our donation, we decided to focus on the 13 million people in need, the agencies trying to help, the companies and other organizations trying to help, and what could individuals do.
So we harnessed everything – this blog, the corporate web site, the Facebook page, Twitter, our employee channels – and we became a promotion machine for East Africa. In addition to the money Monsanto gave as its commitment, we helped raise another $250,000 for relief efforts. Some of that came from employees, and their donations were matched by Monsanto Fund. And some of that came from outside the company.
As I watched the videos and listened to the people speaking at the awards ceremony, and as I heard about all the remarkable projects that were being recognized, I was struck by one major impression.
It was a Monsanto event, but this wasn’t about us.
No, this was about the people who were helped and who benefitted.
This was about helping farmers recover from a catastrophic frost in Mexico, and helping women farmers in Kenya produce the best crop they had ever harvested.
It was about the water that was saved in the central United States, and helping farmers in India grow more cotton than they believed possible.
It was about redesigning our logistics and seed delivery systems in a way that helped farmers make more time in their day.
And this was about children in refugee camps getting fresh water and food, and a place to go to the bathroom – and about the children who died on the long march to the camps in Kenya.
It was not about us.
I felt like a winner.