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Explaining who they are and why they practice corporate social responsibility (CSR) are defining statements that are central to how the leadership and employees at The Expo Group and Derse choose to operate.

General contractor The Expo Group’s mission statement, “Helping people perform at a higher level,” stems from its leadership who believe in giving back to the community. Two words – “Smarter Wins” is a philosophy that guides Derse, a tradeshow exhibit and event marketing agency, to do the right thing. Its motto factors into the causes it chooses to support and is the core of its brand.

Derse's LEED Silver certified headquarters in Milwaukee

Derse’s Silver LEED-certified headquarters in Milwaukee, Wis.

Neither company’s employees practice corporate social responsibility solely because it’s all the rage; they give back to their communities because it’s who they are.

“It is our culture to give back. The founder of our company and his wife are a Christian family dedicated to charitable works and began the company with a commitment to honoring God in all we do,” said Dana Freker Doody, vice president of corporate communications, The Expo Group. “Employees at The Expo Group truly are committed to ‘Integrity, Compassion and Excellence’ – our core values. Within our company, you will find people who live the core values and take our mission seriously. We support our colleagues and our clients – Helping people perform at a higher level.”

Derse also takes pride in its core values of ethical conduct and integrity. This includes being caring to its employees and community as well as downplaying individual ego and group politics for innovative, progressive thinking that benefits its customers and creates opportunities for employee advancement, according to Adam Beckett, president and CEO of Derse.

“For Derse, ‘Smarter Wins’ informs everything we do. We’re not just committed to doing the right things with our clients’ money. We’re committed to doing the right things, period,” added Beckett. “We never needed a label to guide us because we were acting this way long before ‘CSR’ became mainstream. Our values certainly direct us and act as a foundation for how we serve our customers, how we innovate and how we lead in the industry. It’s not because of a phrase that came into fashion for large corporations that strayed from basic business responsibility.”

The Expo Group presents checks at the Show Manager of the Year awards.

The Expo Group presents checks at the Show Manager of the Year awards.

Because The Expo Group’s employees also believe in doing the right thing, they often give back to their community.

“Our employees are proud of what we do in the community. Many of them donate time to work on event details and design, walk or run a 5K, lend their skill set to improving the organization and donate food, toys or blood,” said Freker Doody.

Many Derse employees are passionate about being part of the greater good and aren’t pressured or mandated to do so, according to Beckett.

“Any company can say they care about what their people care about, but we prove it. One of our employees is director of Milwaukee Animal Alliance – an organization dedicated to shelter reform and animal welfare. We helped her organization with print collateral and a tradeshow exhibit,” Beckett explained. “Derse’s Pittsburgh division routinely supports community outreach programs. Also, our Pittsburgh initiatives are led by volunteer leaders who own the responsibility of planning and organizing a quarterly event.”

For The Expo Group, being dedicated to its community means not giving up on it in times of recession.

“We do not waver in our support of [our] causes. During the recession, it was even more important to help groups because many of their donors were struggling,” said Freker Doody.

During the 2010 recession, ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” approached Derse to design and install a high-tech playroom for a family.

“Derse was dealing with the effects of the recession just like everybody else, [but] we didn’t hesitate. Even though the timeframe was extremely limited, required ‘non-reimbursable’ time from our top talent and a donation of materials and electronics, we achieved what the show’s design producer called ‘The best room in Extreme Makeover history,’” said Beckett. “I think that says a lot about our CSR commitment. More importantly, we love the show and what they do.”

Derse also showed its commitment to corporate social responsibility when it allocated funds to Aidmatrix, a non-profit supply chain software developer helping non-profits and those involved in the supply chain of humanitarian relief. In addition, the company donated the land of its former headquarters to the City of Wauwatosa, Wis., as well as donated design time to Ronald McDonald House.

“We also feel it is a ‘Smarter Win’ to be good stewards of the environment. Derse’s Milwaukee headquarters is the exhibit industry’s only Silver-level LEED-certified office and production facility,” said Beckett.

Illustrating its commitment to corporate social responsibility, The Expo Group gives back to more than 20 charities, including women’s shelters, the United Service Organizations (USO), the Randy Smith Memorial Golf Classic and industry foundations. As part of The Expo Group Show Manager of the Year (SMOTY) Award, SMOTY winners’ choice charities receive donations, totaling more than $50,000 since 2000. In 2012, The Expo Group created a similar program with the Exhibit and Event Marketers Association (E2MA).

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