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Tesla’s CSR: A Light Bulb for Puerto Rico

Weeks following hurricanes Maria and Irma, much of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico remain without electricity, creating a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. In the aftermath, government agencies, charities, and private enterprises have banded together to respond to immediate needs and help rebuild.

It has been impressive to witness the outpouring of support to assist those affected by the disaster. From extra collections at churches to late-night comedy shows, the message is resonating loud and clear. Even online retailers are offering to match shoppers’ contributions to hurricane relief.

Humanitarian initiatives pay big dividends to the entities that sponsor them too. As many executives are learning, the traditional nature of philanthropy has changed. Corporate social responsibility programs (CSR) are no longer optional. Every organization is measured in the public eye by how they give back and what issues they support.

Organizations must have a corporate purpose in addition to profit to be successful. A strategic communications initiative assists in the implementation of these programs to maximize impact and value both for the cause and the company.

Communicated properly, CSR initiatives have many benefits, including insulation against future crises and positive publicity. They can even open more doors to achieve public affairs goals.

A public Twitter conversation between innovator Elon Musk and Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello about bringing solar technology to Puerto Rico is yet another source of optimism amid the devastation.

On October 6 Musk tweeted: “The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico too. Such a decision would be in the hands of the PR govt … any commercial stakeholders and, most importantly, the people of PR.”

Within minutes the governor responded and just like that plans for a meeting with Elon Musk about Tesla’s assistance with a flagship project were underway.

The value of this dialogue provides immediate benefits for both Tesla and Puerto Rico. Optimism, innovation, and solutions are always winning messages.

While the response to the crisis in Puerto Rico has been imperfect and challenges are still looming, there is great hope on the horizon. Despite the difficult path ahead, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel—literally—in large part based on the CSR idea offered by Tesla.

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