Michelle Crozier Yates
Director of Corporate Responsibility at Adobe and Executive Director of the Adobe Foundation
"Our social purpose is to inspire creativity in people—enabling them to come up with new ways to address social issues and make a meaningful impact through the use of design technology."

When most of us think of organizations that need to focus on conservation and helping the environment, we tend to think of manufacturers . . . organizations that produce large amounts of waste as they churn out goods. Explain how Adobe is helping the environment even though, as a computer software organization, it is not producing the amount of waste that other organizations produce.

From Adobe’s inception more than 30 years ago, the company has been driven not only by product excellence, but also by the notion of running a sustainably managed business.

Since 2000, we’ve completed 180 sustainability projects focused on increasing efficiencies, and they have delivered an average of 80 percent ROI within two years of deployment. More than 70 percent of all workspaces at Adobe are LEED certified. Since 2000, we’ve implemented measures to reduce water consumption in our workspaces by 62 percent. In 2013 alone, 27 percent of energy at the San Jose headquarters was produced by on-site renewable electricity and 100 percent of waste was diverted from landfills. The company has cut electricity usage by 50 percent since 2002, which has helped it achieve carbon neutrality at its North American facilities this year.

Our goals are to not only operate with greater efficiency in order to minimize our impact on the environment, but also to create healthy workspaces for the wellness and satisfaction of our employees—and help customers conserve natural resources through the use of our products.

By moving toward cloud-based products and electronic document services, we have greatly reduced the waste that comes with the manufacture and distribution of packaged software. In turn, our customers are able to reduce costs and conserve resources by using the new electronic file sharing and collaboration tools in Creative Cloud; conducting Web conferences instead of flying using Adobe Connect; and reducing waste of natural resources using Adobe EchoSign to securely sign documents digitally.

We created our own Green Meter so that our customers understand how EchoSign, in particular, is instrumental in saving time, costs, and resources.

How does Adobe select the organizations/foundations it sponsors or supports? Is there a selection strategy that ties back to Adobe's own brand values?

Throughout Adobe you'll find a culture of creativity, collaboration, and community that extends into the programs we lead and the organizations we support. Our social purpose is to inspire creativity in people—enabling them to come up with new ways to address social issues and make a meaningful impact through the use of design technology.

While we realize Adobe highly values all of its nonprofit/charitable partners, can you speak about just one and tell us what makes the partnership so strong? What has this nonprofit/charitable partner done right? What can other nonprofits/charitable organizations learn from what this partner has done well?

Adobe focuses its social responsibility efforts on finding creative ways to address education and sustainability issues, as well as giving employees the opportunities to make an impact in their local communities. As you can imagine, we work with a long list of partners in order to make impacts that are not only measurable, but also culturally relevant and meaningful. We look for partners who share a common mission and can clearly connect how Adobe’s partnership will help them achieve specific outcomes.

On the education front, Adobe’s goal is to provide youth access to digital media making and coding programs around the world. We are entering our second-year partnership with Girls Who Code, a nonprofit that focuses on providing a diverse group of young women with exposure to, and hands-on experiences with, computer science. It’s a strong partnership owing to the direct alignment of our mutual mission and goals, as well as what each of us brings to the solution. Girls Who Code provides the network of girls and the educational component; Adobe provides the funding, computer science expertise and employee mentorships.

What have they done right? Girls Who Code has been willing to holistically explore what Adobe can bring to the solution beyond just money. What other nonprofits might learn from their success is to start small—with one partner—to learn best practices before expanding reach.

How do you measure the success of Adobe's programs/efforts overall? In other words, how are you able to determine that the various programs/efforts are bolstering the Adobe brand in the right ways? What metrics do you find to be the most telling?

On the sustainability front, Adobe tracks its carbon emissions globally and annually reports to groups such as the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). Adobe obtained a score of 97 out of 100 points and was recognized by the CDP in 2013 in its Climate Disclosure Leadership Index (CDLI) and the Climate Performance Leadership Index (CPLI). In 2014, we were recognized in Trucost’s inaugural index as the tech sector leader in Natural Capital Efficiency, growing revenue while minimizing environmental impact. In June 2014, Adobe was ranked the greenest IT company in the world on Newsweek’s 2014 Green Rankings list. Overall, we are ranked as the second greenest company in the United States, and third greenest in the world.

The Adobe Foundation’s creativity in education program, Adobe Youth Voices (AYV), enables teenagers between 13 and 19 to use digital media to express their vision for driving positive change in their communities. Since its inception in 2006, AYV has impacted the lives of more than 190,000 students and 5,000 educators around the world. The AYV global network currently includes more than 800 sites and an expanding number of grantees and organizations in more than 60 countries. The results clearly demonstrate the importance of creativity in education.

Such results and accolades have a far-reaching and positive impact—not only on Adobe’s brand reputation, but also on its employee and customer acquisition and retention rates.

Which brands, in your opinion, are noteworthy Corporate Citizens? In other words, which brands inspire you and your Adobe colleagues?

Today, there are many companies that are excellent Corporate Citizens, which is a welcome development. In particular, I admire Unilever and its Sustainable Living Plan, in part because it is very specific in its goals around the areas of health, environment, and livelihoods, and also because Unilever is so clear, focused, and ambitious about achieving greater social impact and reduced environmental impact while doubling the size of the business. Not many companies are that bold, and the nature of the products Unilever produces gives it an opportunity to reach billions of people and deliver on the plan.

Closer to home, IBM has always been a stalwart Corporate Citizen that many look to for best practices. In particular, its Corporate Service Corps is a program I admire because IBM has combined leadership development, pro bono consulting, product use, and social impact into one program that has engaged more than 150,000 of its employees—a scale that only a company with such a large workforce and global services reach could achieve.

Just recently, Adobe was recognized by Newsweek for being a pioneer in building green concepts into its overall company strategy. This year’s Best Global Green Brands report is focused on “the power of participation.” Keeping that theme in mind, how has Adobe allowed its key stakeholders to participate in the efforts highlighted by Newsweek? Specifically, how does Adobe activate its own workforce? How is participation measured?

Adobe’s mission is to give employees the opportunities to exemplify Adobe’s core value of Involved. We help them to have a meaningful impact in their local communities by supporting the causes they care about through grants and by giving them the time to volunteer their skills, backgrounds and perspectives.

Employees can join Corporate Responsibility Action Teams in 23 Adobe sites around the world. These teams determine how to distribute Adobe’s Employee Community Fund to local nonprofit organizations. Between 2008 and 2012, Adobe donated USD $334M in total community investment (cash and in-kind) and has given USD $1.1M in volunteer grants and USD $20M in community grants.

We also encourage employees to volunteer their time and talent through pro bono projects and nonprofit board service. In return, their efforts are tied into their Adobe professional development objectives and, after six months of serving on their nonprofit’s board, that nonprofit is awarded with a grant from the Adobe Foundation.

The Adobe Matching Grants program matches individual donations to eligible nonprofit organizations and provides up to USD $10,000 per employee per calendar year. In 2013, nearly 40 percent of Adobe employees participated in the Matching Grants program worldwide. Between 2008-2012, Adobe provided more than USD $14.5M in matching grants in the United States alone.

Clearly, corporate responsibility is deeply integrated into Adobe’s culture and its operations, resulting in tangible social impacts, business efficiencies and employee satisfaction. In fact, our latest employee survey revealed one of the top two reasons why employees choose to work for, and stay at, Adobe is because of its people and culture.

Michelle Crozier Yates