Archive for the ‘Sustainable Communities’ Category

NRF Guest Blog: The Home Depot Standard of Giving

Monday, July 15th, 2013

In May of this year, retailers from across the country participated in the 2013 National Retail Federation’s (NRF) 2013 Global Supply Chain Summit.  Home Depot’s Charles Johnston, director of the repair and liquidation center, joined Good360 Vice President of donor Relations Doyle Delph to highlight the Framing Hope Program and make the case for donating unused goods to nonprofits in local communities.

Jennifer Overstreet recently featured the discussion on the NRF blog. Check it out here.

For more information on the Framing Hope Program,  visit our website.

CSR at The Home Depot Foundation: Get Dirty. Do Good

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Kelly Caffarelli, our Foundation President, has been working in the world of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for more than a decade now.  Over the years, she’s become a true expert on the steps that contribute to a successful CSR program.

Below is The Home Depot Foundation’s six-step approach to CSR.  You’ll see that for us it’s pretty simple: Get Dirty and Do Good.


Our business is all about doing. Our associates are some of the most sought after volunteers around, because when they show up at a project, people know that they know how to build, repair, and improve things. It’s in their DNA. So, one of the basic requirements of our associate volunteer program is that our projects leave behind a physical improvement. When we leave, people have to be able to see that we were there.


The Home Depot is a values-based business.  Our founders Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blake established our eight values nearly 35 years ago, and we still live by them today. Three of our values relate directly to the work our Foundation does: Giving Back, Doing the Right Thing and Building Strong Relationships.

Bust as we all know, it’s not a list of values that makes you stand out; it’s how you live out those values every day. And these values truly mean something to us. Our associates completed more than 1,000 volunteer projects across the country last year.


The Home Depot’s organization is based on an inverted pyramid. Instead of everything flowing down from top management, everything we do is guided by the needs of our primary constituents: our 300,000 front line associates and our customers. That’s why our associates and customers are at the top of the pyramid and our CEO is at the bottom. We are here to serve them.

We take this to heart at the Foundation, as well. While we provide guiding principles to our stores and our Team Depot captain, they know their towns, so it’s their choice about which community projects to take on locally. Our job is to help them with the resources they need to accomplish what is important to their community.


At The Home Depot, we pride ourselves in truly listening to our associates.  Our product donation program, Framing Hope, is one of the best examples of that. It is the result of submissions our associates sent to a program we have to solicit their comments, ideas and complaints – and that requires that they be answered.  In this case, our associates told us that we should stop throwing away unsold products and instead, donate them to people in the community who need them.

And the solution of creating a program to provide this merchandise to local nonprofits was a win all the way around: for the Company, the Community, our Suppliers and our Associates – from a financial standpoint and a reputational one.  To facilitate this program, we’ve been partnering with Good360 since 2008. Since its implementation, we have donated $150 million in products to 1,600 nonprofits, decreasing their costs to maintain and renovate housing units and keeping tons out of our landfills.


By considering our resources, culture and constituents together, we were able to create a philanthropic focus that is successful primarily because it’s credible and authentic.  Our newest initiative and primary focus is to ensure that every veteran has a safe place to call home.  It’s a cause we believe in and that we are committed to.  We’ve pledged $80 million over five years and have partnered with great nonprofits like Operation Homefront, Volunteers of America and Fisher House Foundation among others.

Similarly, we support our communities before and after natural disasters. It’s something we’ve always done because we have the products needed to prepare and protect homes when a storm is brewing, and to clean up and repair after a storm strikes.  We talk a lot about the major hurricanes, tornadoes and floods, but we are working in communities almost every week when a disaster strikes in an area that may not get national attention – it’s what our associates do without being asked.


Communicating internally and externally about CSR efforts is critical to reputation, to employee morale, to government relations and just about anything you can think of.  It is important to remember that all of these communications initiatives are also about education. It’s about getting people to care about issues that truly affect our daily lives and can sometimes mean the difference between life and death for some.

If people don’t care about the problems you are working to address, then they aren’t going to care about what you are doing to be part of the solution. Telling a story through traditional media, social media and internal channels that educate, enlighten and lift up individuals and communities as a whole makes a difference for your company at the same time.  Healthy communities = healthy business.

The Home Depot Foundation Selects Two Cities to Participate in $1 Million Sustainability Initiative

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Sustainability initiatives… sustainability plans…are your eyes glazing over yet?  If so, that’s not an unexpected reaction.  The term ‘sustainability plan’ often leads to skepticism or indifference because people don’t know what it means for them.  We’re hoping to change that through our Sustainable Cities Institute (SCI) City Program.


We’ve selected two cities – Charleston, SC and Fayetteville, AR – to participate in a three-year, $1 million initiative to demonstrate the challenges and successes of implementing lasting sustainability programs at the local level.  And these are not pie-in-the-sky programs…the initiatives that each city will be implementing are “sticks and bricks” projects and related policies that will produce tangible, long-lasting results.  Each project is designed to provide immediate cost savings for these cities and their residents and also to be easily replicable in other communities. 


We’re also making this a fully transparent effort.  During this three-year initiative, the results of both cities – both the successes and the challenges – will be shared on a weekly basis at 


While the SCI City Program is focused on two cities right now, the SCI website is a treasure trove of information and resources for other cities who are trying to implement cost saving programs that will make their cities healthier and more livable.  We know that cities are budget-strapped and continue to see their resources shrinking, so we are providing a forum where city staff can access vetted best practices, downloadable guides, communication tools and interactive forums to get everything they need to quickly move forward with sustainability planning and implementation in a budget-friendly way. 


We can’t wait to see the great things that Charleston and Fayetteville are going to do through this program…and we hope that all cities will visit the SCI website to join in the discussion about building healthy communities for the long term.  For more details about today’s announcement, read the press release.  And to learn more about the Sustainable Cities Institute and access the free resources, visit the SCI website.



The Framing Hope Product Donation Program: Partnering Home Depot stores with Local Non Profit Organizations

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

One of the most asked questions we get as a company refers to returned, unsold or discontinued products…do we just throw all those perfectly good products away? Do they go back to the vendor?  Before 2008, unfortunately the answer to both of those questions was “yes.”  We either threw away unsold or discontinued products or shipped them back to the vendor.  From a business perspective, and certainly not from an employee morale or environmental perspective, neither of those were really good options.  Associates were consistently sending emails to the company’s management asking why we weren’t donating these products to local community organizations that could really use them.  They were right, of course.

As a result, in 2008 we launched the Framing Hope Product Donation Program, which is a collaborative effort between The Home Depot®, The Hope Depot Foundation and the nonprofit, Gifts In Kind International. Since the program began, $75 million in products from more than 1,000 Home Depot stores have been donated to more than 1,200 nonprofit partners, resulting in the diversion of 35,000 tons of usable product from landfills.

Here’s how it works:

–  Local Home Depot stores are matched with nonprofits in their communities.  The nonprofits have to be a 501(c)(3) organization and they must go through an intense vetting process to determine their eligibility. 

–  The nonprofits must have the capacity to pick up a wide variety of donated products and building supplies on a weekly basis.  The deal is that the store will give them everything they have to give and the nonprofit has to take whatever that may be.  This week, the store may give them bathroom fixtures, hammers and an assortment of rugs.  Next week it could be doors, windows and lumber.

–  The nonprofits set up a time to come to the store on a weekly basis to pick up the products.  They have to have their own transportation to haul the product away.

Each week more than 1,200 nonprofit organizations across the country drive away from more than 1,000 Home Depot stores with products they can use to support their services.  We find that the best recipients for the products are organizations with housing units to maintain.  For instance, Atlanta Union Mission has more than 1,000 beds in various shelters for the homeless and substance-addicted.  Home Depot donations have helped the mission renovate the dormitories at The Potter’s House, a working farm outside Athens, Georgia that houses about 180 men in long-term, intensive care for chemical addiction.  Read more about Framing Hope and the Atlanta Union Mission.

The program has been so successful that we wanted a way to extend the opportunity to smaller nonprofits that might not be able to do the pickup from the stores themselves and might not have the capacity to absorb all of the donated products every week.  Last year, we launched the Framing Hope Warehouse Strategy which partners Home Depot stores with large nonprofit organizations that have the logistical capability to redistribute the products to a wide range of smaller nonprofit organizations. Gifts in Kind International continues to be an amazing partner with us in this effort.

We currently have two Framing Hope warehouses in operation.  The warehouse in Buffalo, N.Y. was the first to open last year, and just last week we opened our second warehouse in Los Angeles County.  In Buffalo, we operate the warehouse in conjunction with WNY Americorps.  Read more about this warehouse in Buffalo Business First. In Los Angeles County, the warehouse is operated with Save the Children

I am so proud of the work that everyone involved in the Framing Hope program does to make it successful, from the store associates who first suggested the idea and who now help the nonprofits each week to the staff at Gifts in Kind International who manage the program on a daily basis.  It’s a significant effort that’s improving the lives of our fellow citizens, keeping landfills clear of unnecessary waste and helping us from a business perspective. The Framing Hope Product Donation Program is the definition of the triple bottom line! 

If you know of a nonprofit organization that might be interested in participating in the Framing Hope Program, please share this link with them:

Healthy Homes, Healthy Lives: Making the American Dream Smarter

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

For those of you who regularly follow my Tweets and this blog, you know that The Home Depot Foundation is focused on bringing the benefits of healthy, affordable housing to working families.  And you know that we’ve actually increased our funding initiatives over the last couple of years while many foundations have had to cut back.  Why?  Because housing has been at the crux of much of the country’s economic woes, and so we feel there is no better time to be focused on how to build and maintain healthy, affordable homes for families. The studies are clear:  healthy homes generate higher resale values, and the communities they form see lower crime rates and greater neighborhood involvement.  In addition, studies show that children growing up in healthy homes are less likely to suffer from respiratory problems, and are more likely to succeed in school.

That’s why I’m so excited today to announce the new affiliates that are part of our Partners in Sustainable Building Program (PSB) with Habitat for Humanity International.  PSB is a five-year $30 million green building initiative that will help build 5,000 green homes nationwide.  More than 135 Habitat affiliates across 42 states will be granted $3,000 for each home built to Energy Star standards and up to $5,000 for each home built to a higher green standard. The selected Habitat affiliates are expected to build 2,400 homes in 2010-2011.  You can read more about the specifics of our initiative in today’s press release.

I’m so proud of this initiative, because it’s having a real impact on families’ health and their ability to save money each month.  For instance, in St. Louis, Missouri a homeowner saved so much in utility bills that she was able to purchase everything her children needed for the new school year, an annual expense she could not previously afford.  And in Grayson County Texas after months of 100+ degree temperatures, a homeowner reported that her highest electric bill was only $100.  These kinds of savings are real and can often mean the difference between making the ends meet each month or not.

When we started down this housing path, many were skeptical that we could help non-profits build homes that were “green” and affordable.  I think that’s because when people hear the term “green building,” most think of really expensive homes covered with solar panels, bamboo floors, or metal exteriors that make them look like spaceships. In other words, homes that most people wouldn’t want to live in or can’t afford to build.

But our definition of a “green building” is different.  For us, a “green building” is simply one built with environmentally friendly materials such as nontoxic insulation, caulk and paint, and that uses water-saving faucets and energy-efficient appliances.  And since our primary goal is to provide homes for working families, we want these “green” homes to be affordable to own and maintain over the long term.

The basic math is pretty clear.  According to a survey by Habitat for Humanity, building to Energy Star standards adds less than $2,000 to the cost of a home.  And building to these standards will save homeowners an average of $6,000 on heating, air conditioning, and water in the first six years alone, according to the U.S. EPA’s Energy Star statistics.

And that’s just the math of the building costs.  That doesn’t count how smart maintenance of the home continues to save homeowners money each month.  From CFL and LED lighting to programmable thermostats, homeowners will continue to make money off operating their home in a healthy, energy-efficient way.

Every time I talk about how much money homeowners are saving through our green-building partnerships with Habitat and other housing organizations, I wonder why we all aren’t focused on green homes.  If homebuyers with the least to spend are realizing these kinds of benefits, why aren’t we all doing the same?  Why are we all leaving money on the table by not paying attention to how efficiently our homes are running?

To learn more about how you can reap these same benefits in your own home, check out this list of tips.  You’ll find that green building isn’t just about making your home healthier…it’s about putting green back into your pocket!

An Ounce of Prevention…

Monday, August 30th, 2010

It’s that time of year when we start watching the Weather Channel more frequently, and I start getting emergency weather updates on my Blackberry.  It’s hurricane season. We are thinking about this all the more as we observe the fifth anniversary of the horrible time called Hurricane Katrina.

Working with Home Depot for over a decade, I understand how a big storm impacts people, families and communities.  We are exceptionally proud of the things we do as a company and as a foundation in the wake of a storm when a community needs help.  This is also what gets the most media attention.  I hope, though, that we can start paying more attention to things that can happen before a hurricane, tornado, flood or fire damages a community or an entire region.  I know, it’s not nearly as exciting; the pictures aren’t nearly as good.  But what if we could actually avoid those “after” pictures.

I was exceptionally pleased last week to see that HUD has awarded $312 million to 13 states to reduce the damages from future disasters.  These funds will be used:

  • to buyout homeowners in high-risk areas and relocate them to safer places;
  • to complete improvements to homes to reduce damage by doing things like reinforcing windows and doors and raising the elevation;
  • to improve and enforce building codes; and
  • to develop thoughtful land use plans that reduce development in high-risk areas.

You may say that that’s a lot of money right now and ask it we can really afford it.  That’s a salient concern, but the answer is clearly that we can’t afford not to make these investments.  Every dollar spent on damage mitigation will result in a $4 reduction in the amount we would spend for disaster recovery.

You may also be asking why I’m writing – or even thinking – about this.  I know I typically focus on topics related to affordable housing and  “green” building.  But what could be more sustainable than to invest in building homes so they don’t get blown away by a strong wind or to build them in places where a flood won’t carry them away?  What could help a family with few housing choices more?  We know these storms are going to occur – whether every 10 years, every 30 years or every 100 years.  Isn’t it just common sense that we would think about how to reduce the damage caused by something that will inevitably happen?

I hope I’ve convinced you to think about what you can do before we start tracking the next satellite images of a storm (I know, there’s a storm tracking right now!).  While it’s on the top of your mind,  I’m  encourage you to do a couple of things.  First, think about donating to the American Red Cross before a specific emergency arises.  Every year we give to the Red Cross’s Annual Disaster Giving Program so they can do the things they need to do to be on the ground helping people immediately after a disaster.  They also have great resources to educate you and your family on how to be prepared.  Other fantastic resources are available at the site of our long-standing partner, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, where they have everything from DIY home inspections, to a contractors’ certification program, to videos with step by step instructions on how to improve your home with disaster safety in mind.  Remember “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Making Cities Healthier – for People and the Economy

Friday, July 30th, 2010

I’ve just come from a two-day discussion among a group of a dozen experts from a cross section of fields related to sustainability – energy, transportation, water and economic development, to name a few.  We brought them together to select the recipients of The Home Depot Foundation Awards of Excellence for Sustainable Community Development.  That’s a lot of words strung together, but we were looking for cities – large and small – that are 1) thinking about sustainability in the broadest sense and what it means for their community,  2) creating a plan that sets out the ways they are committing to make their cities healthier over the long term from an economic development, public health, social equity and environmental stewardship standpoint and that defines the objective standards they will use to measure progress and 3) completing projects that help move them toward their goals.  After reviewing the applications, I can confidently say that cities across the country are undertaking some truly amazing sustainability efforts right now, despite the dire budget forecasts they are facing.  (I can’t tell you who we thought was doing the best work yet, but you can check out the videos of last year’s award recipients.)

I think what the conversation underscored for me is what Kermit said so many years ago, “It’s not easy being green.” It takes an enormous dedication of resources, time and expertise to bring the benefits of sustainability to our cities.  In fact, it requires that leaders, staff and citizens re-think everything they are doing from paving roads and building police stations to buying paper and installing streetlights.  Hard questions need to be asked about the true health of a community and the actual opportunities that are available to its residents.  This requires looking at, among other things,  the rates of energy and water use, accessibility of transportation options, affordability of quality housing, levels of pollution in the air and water, success of local businesses and prevalence of obesity and related diseases.  And not only do they need to investigate all of this, they also have to figure out what needs improvement and set goals, prioritize the list and come up with money to pay for it.  They then must measure what they’ve done and report back.  Whew!

After reading that last paragraph, you may be thinking that this is too much to ask of any local government.  It’s too hard; the economy is too bad; for now, they should just focus on getting through the next week, month, year.

But that’s my point, right?  It’s not just “for now.”  The choices that are being made today are determining what our tomorrows are going to look like across this broad spectrum of issues.  We are creating roads, light rail lines, buildings and parks that are going to be with us for decades.  To a large extent, through the decisions made today, we are determining what taxes our children will pay, what kinds of homes they will live in, what kind of jobs they will have and whether they will enjoy healthy lives.  After all, much of what we live with today is because of what our fathers (and mothers) did: encouraging sprawl, eliminating green space, buying energy gobbling cars and homes and dumping pollution into our rivers.

So hopefully, you can see that although it’s hard, this is important work that must be done.  I hope, though, that you can also be convinced to take it one step further to realize that this is a once-in-a-lifetime, exciting opportunity.  We have the chance to really make a difference and to improve the way cities operate and govern.  We can make cities run more efficiently, more productively and more sustainably.  We can transform them!

Cities, after all, have a lot of infrastructure and history and policies, but they are made up of, and created for, people.  By making cities run better, we are getting to the core of what we do as a foundation: we help people to achieve their dreams of success for their families and to live better lives.  sci_logo

To learn more about how you can take action to make your city more sustainable, visit

Catalyzing Sustainable Actions

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Those of us who think about how to make our cities better places to live had a great week in Atlanta as we hosted the Congress for the New Urbanism’s Congress 18, which focused on the interconnectedness of our health and the places where we live.  We don’t think or talk about it much, but how we live depends in large measure on where we live.  CNU focuses on planning and developing communities for people, not just cars, and for all kinds of people doing different things.

mayberry_post_office_rfdEssentially, it’s a throwback to Mayberry R.F.D., a small town where the doctor lived next to the barber (or sheriff) and you could walk downtown to shop or get an ice cream cone.  There was a park to throw a ball or have a picnic (baseball and apple pie).  Now we talk about sustainability and new urbanism, mixed-use developments and TODs (transit oriented development).  We don’t say you can walk to town, we say that it’s pedestrian-friendly or walkable  – you get the gist.

We call it “new” because we are coming full circle after we sped and sprawled to the suburbs only to learn that the grass wasn’t necessarily greener five – or 25  – miles outside of town.  It began to take a lot of time and resources (both emotional and financial) to drive into work everyday, which left less time and money for relaxing, enjoying friends and families and exercise.  And instead of walking to the places we wanted to go, we had to drive to the strip mall, so we were always sitting behind a steering wheel or a desk rather than getting some exercise and fresh air.  Our waistbands seemed to hdf_atl_0596spread along with the roads.  Unless your own yard was big enough to play a game of football or baseball, you and your kids probably weren’t going to play because there’s not a park in your neighborhood, so you stay inside and play a video game version.  Come to think about it, with all those cars on the new road, the air wasn’t so fresh anyway.  As the farms and forests started to be developed and paved, the rain water had fewer places to run and floods started drowning places that weren’t in the flood plain.

It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that we want to create communities like we used to have.  With larger cities, we are thinking in terms of neighborhoods.  As energy costs continue to increase and clean water becomes more precious, conserving resources and cutting utility bills also become more important.  We understand that where we put the places we need to go, such as offices, homes, schools and hospitals, and whether we have choices about how we get there, whether by cars, trains, subways, bikes or walking, have an enormous impact on our lives.  These questions of land use, transportation, resource allocation and economic development are enormous issues, and they are issues that our cities control.  More and more cities are bringing sustainability, which in many situations means getting more while using less, into their planning processes, their operations and their ordinances and zoning.

sci_logoBut it’s not easy to think comprehensively about all of the aspects of a community that make it a place that you want to live and that is affordable.  We’ve talked to many city officials, professional planners and developers and neighborhood residents who say that it’s hard to find credible, practical, action-oriented materials to help them accomplish their goals for today without sacrificing the resources and budgets of the future.  That’s why The Home Depot Foundation is excited and proud to announce the creation of the Sustainable Cities Institute, which we have developed in partnership with Southface.  At the Institute’s website, we are providing vetted tools and information to jump start efforts to make cities’ operations and policies more sustainable.  People in so many places across the U.S. and Canada are making enormous strides in bringing the economic, health and environmental benefits of sustainability to their residents.  By sharing their efforts and successes, we intend to catalyze similar activity in other places across the country.  In the fall, we will announce two cities that will have been selected as pilot cities.  Over two years, we will invest $1 million in these locations to bring their sustainability plans to life through specific developments.  The progress, challenges and learnings from those cities will be chronicled on the SCI website.

Just as we know that anything worth doing takes time, we understand that creating places and lives that are sustainable takes years and the effort of many people.  While we have been able to launch SCI because of the dedicated work of dozens of people, we know that it will evolve over time.  We hope that you’ll contribute your thoughts and experience as a member of SCI and join us in this journey to make SCI a tool that can help shape our communities of the future.

Thanks MNN for Spreading the Word!

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

MNNlogoIf you haven’t found Mother Nature Network yet, you really need to check it out.  The site’s stated mission is to “Improve Your World,” using the term world in the broadest sense  – not just the planet, but your family, lifestyle business and community as well.  Under that umbrella the site covers a range of daily breaking news as well as a lot of great in-depth reporting on everything from sustainable business practices to healthy cooking.  I also love the photo essays.

While I enjoy the site every day, I’m thrilled today that MNN has posted a guest blog from me about the importance of green building for families living in modest homes.  I truly appreciate their help in getting out the message that responsible building protects pocketbooks, people and the planet.  I hope you’ll give it a read and let me know what you think.  If you agree, please help us spread the word too!

Paying Volunteers say “Thank You New Orleans!”

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Be glad that you aren’t sitting next to me – I’m tired, sweaty and smelly… and I feel great. I just got back from a Habitat for Humanity site where we worked on 5 different houses. All told, dozens of people who work with The Home Depot’s marketing, advertising and online teams essentially built a house – albeit not all in one piece. We did different work at different houses: at the first, laying the cement block foundation; second, building the floor system; third, framing a three-bedroom, one-bath home; fourth, siding an entire home and starting to paint it; and finally, nailing shingles on the roof and completing some framing inside. WHEW!


While these days of working in a community – beside colleagues, neighbors and in this case, the future owner of the homes we were building – are always meaningful, I think all of us were particularly inspired because we are in New Orleans as the fifth anniversary of Katrina approaches. Even as we sweated to bring these new homes out of the sandy ground, across the street decrepit and abandoned homes seemed to be staring at us through glassless windows. No one having stepped foot in them since the storm blew through over four and a half years ago.

The point I want to underscore though is not where we are, or what we did, but who was there. The Habitat staff was organized, professional and easy to work with, and the future homeowners were quietly excited, but perhaps a little overwhelmed. There were quite a few people who work for The Home Depot, but the vast majority of the volunteers are employed by the companies The Home Depot has hired to help its marketing and advertising efforts. These are men and women to whom “building a deck” doesn’t involve hammering nails, but instead means creating a powerpoint presentation. And not only did they travel and give their day to help someone they didn’t know, they even made a financial donation to do it.


Now, I’ve worked for large corporations for my entire adult life (How long is that? Long enough!), and I understand that sometimes it’s hard to see that real, breathing human beings with emotions and compassion make the decisions for these organizations. But I wish you could have seen the companies working through these people today. From early this morning, my goal for the day was to make sure these paying volunteers had a good experience and knew that we appreciated the time and money they were giving. Instead, I spent the day being thanked by others for giving them an opportunity to help this community where they don’t live and to help families they will probably never see again. The statements were gratifying: they told me that they would remember this day for a very long time, that it was the best corporate event they had ever attended and that when they get home they were going to take their families to do something in their community. In fact the only “complaint” I heard was that they didn’t get the chance to work hard enough.


As the media stories start to gear up this summer about the five years that have passed since Katrina struck and the progress, or lack of progress, that has been made, I know I’ll remember what I experienced today: a neighborhood with amazingly strong people trying to reclaim their homes and a gracious community allowing scores of strangers the opportunity to help others and to give of themselves.