Expanded Focus on CSR in Response to Pandemic


Between making a major acquisition, taking over a Philadelphia-area wastewater utility and a name change, Essential Utilities has had a lot on its plate in 2020. But its Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives as a Member of the Satell Institute continue to altruistically support the community in substantial ways.

In the wake of the company formerly known as Aqua America’s $4.275 billion acquisition of Pittsburgh-based Peoples and its natural gas holdings serving 5 million customers, President and CEO Christopher Franklin has prioritized giving.

Through the COVID-19 pandemic, Essential Utilities has made a point of donating to nonprofits that address a basic need, with $321,000 going to organizations that fight hunger and poverty across 10 states, including $100,000 specifically to food banks in the impoverished City of Chester in Delaware County, PA. As a Member of the Satell Institute, Essential Utilities saw some of its donations doubled as part of Founder Ed Satell’s Million Dollar Match, which raised nearly $3 million in funds for Nonprofit Affiliates of the Think and Do Tank for Corporate Social Responsibility.

Essential Utilities’ concentration on Chester comes as its state division, Aqua Pennsylvania, has received approval to take over the operations of DELCORA, the wastewater treatment utility serving Delaware County, which includes the City of Chester and abuts the City of Philadelphia.

“We want to make a difference in a positive way in the community we will be servicing,” Franklin said. Presidents of nine other state divisions of the company also made donations to hunger-fighting organizations.

For Franklin, Corporate Social Responsibility fits well with being a public utility that is focused on the public good through long-term infrastructure replacement that has included 3,000 miles of gas pipeline. Pipeline transmission reduces the need to transport gas on roadways, reducing pollution.

Meeting the highest standards of water quality has been a key part of the mission of the company, which recently hired its first Director of Sustainability.

Education is a major area of interest for Franklin and members of his senior leadership team. The desire to help students succeed is clear through a partnership with the private Philadelphia high school Cristo Rey. Since 2016, four Cristo Rey students have spent five days a month onsite with the company throughout each school year.

Essential Utilities also has had a five-year partnership with Villanova University engineering students who work with company employees to plan and execute water system improvements in third-world countries.

“This is what keeps young people working at our company and, at the end of the day, it’s the right thing to do,” Franklin said.

Employees also give back by regularly participating in stream cleanups and volunteering in programs that include Junior Achievement and the Boy Scouts. Each employee receives a paid day per year to volunteer.

Employees have come to expect and appreciate being part of a company that is active as a community supporter, said Franklin, who values his role as a Member and Advisory Board Member of The Satell Institute.

“It’s a great model to make sure we’re all thinking about Corporate Social Responsibility,” Franklin said of the Satell Institute. “It’s what the country needs more of. Why wouldn’t I be doing this so CEOs can learn from each other what we could do better?”

The Satell Institute is a Think and Do Tank Dedicated to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)™.  There are no dues or fees to become a Member of this CEO organization.  To be a Member, the Corporation or Foundation must contribute a minimum of $25,000 a year for four years ($100,000 or more total) to a nonprofit of their choice.  That sponsored nonprofit then becomes a Nonprofit Affiliate of the Satell Institute enjoying certain benefits at no charge.

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