Bess Cohn Humanitarian Award Nominee - Social & Business Loyalty

Distributor Sponsors Social Change Through Nonprofit Organizations

John BraggAbuse of women and refugees, violent wars over natural resources, military use of children and systematic genocide are just a few of the many injustices and cruelties that plague countries all over the world. Enter Montreal, Quebec-based Aimia (asi/157786), a loyalty management company that has grown from a single program, Air Canada's Aeroplan frequent flier miles, to one that also heads coalition and proprietary loyalty programs, as well as data insight, analysis and communications.

In the spirit of striving for global social change, the company recently decided to sponsor the work of two major organizations in commemoration of International Human Rights Day. "We know that trust and reciprocity are the foundations of loyalty," says John Bragg, vice president of government relations and corporate social responsibility. "After an extensive search, we decided to establish sponsorships with Equitas and the Pay It Forward Foundation, which reflect the value of loyalty and have global appeal."

Equitas, a Montreal-based nonprofit, hosts an annual three-week training program for human rights advocates from all over the world. "They bring the visitors to a college campus in Montreal," says Bragg, "and they teach them how to achieve better success with human rights efforts after they head home." Human rights leaders in approximately 60 different countries recommend attendees, and then Equitas reviews the recommendations and narrows down the list to about 120 people.

"It's a 'train the trainer' program," Bragg explains. "People come from India, Kenya, the Congo, Haiti, all over. Sometimes Equitas brings back alums to share their experiences. They try to host attendees who operate at a grassroots level in their countries, not necessarily at the government level." Aimia's sponsorship of Equitas, which includes donations of cash and Aeroplan Miles, directly helps the organization with the intrinsic costs of the yearly training program. "We'll give them miles to fly the people in," Bragg says, "and then they can use the cash for rent at the facility, food for the attendees and other operating expenses."

Aimia is also sponsoring the distribution of bracelets from the Pay It Forward Foundation, another nonprofit based in San Luis Obispo, CA. "The idea is that I show you an act of kindness with no reciprocity expected, in the hopes that you will show someone else kindness eventually," explains Bragg. "This will result in greater openness and kindness across the globe, and these bracelets are a reminder of the movement." About 1.5 million Pay It Forward bracelets have been distributed in over 122 countries over the past several years.

Pay It Forward relies on corporate donations to manufacture and distribute the bracelets, and they also require no payment from those who want to distribute them. "For instance," says Bragg, "a young Indian boy in a low-income area of his country asked for a few and then talked about the movement at school where he distributed them. In Montreal, some students distributed them for a school project." Aimia has about 12,000 pieces for distribution at their offices; in all, they'll be helping the organization manufacture and circulate about 100,000 bracelets.

"We believe that when a company's CSR is integrated with its DNA and vision, the business is more sustainable over time," says Bragg. "The principles of loyalty that we're emphasizing with these sponsorships make sense to our stakeholders, and they have to make sense on a global level since we're now a global company."