Alexander & Baldwin, a publicly traded real estate investment fund, donated $950,000 to support 230 nonprofit organizations across Hawaiʻi during its 2020 Kōkua Giving charitable program, according to the trust’s news release.
Nearly half of its donations were directed to housing and health & human service programs, many focused on addressing emergency food and housing needs created by COVID-19. In its 150th anniversary year, A&B said it was proud to navigate and respond to the changing needs of its communities, employees and long-standing non-profit partners, while working together to sustain healthy communities during this unprecedented year.
“This was a challenging year for all Hawai’i nonprofits, both those serving on the frontlines of COVID relief and those working to sustain the other safety nets in our communities,” said Meredith Ching, A&B executive vice president. “It was equally as challenging for funders as COVID restrictions made it difficult to remain connected with our communities and their needs.
“A&B’s charitable investments in 2020 reflect a year of intensified outreach and efforts to stay in lockstep and ahead of unanticipated and evolving needs. Partnerships are the cornerstone of our charitable giving and community programs, and we were happy to nurture long-standing relationships while building new ones, with first-time grants provided to nearly 50 local nonprofits, many ‘introduced’ to us through employees.”
In commemoration of A&B’s 150th anniversary in 2020, the company launched the “Kōkua150” program and invited employees to each identify a local nonprofit to receive a $150 grant funded by the company in the employee’s name. A&B employees directed a total of $25,500 to 86 Hawai’i nonprofits.
Nearly 40 percent of the “Kōkua150” designations were for COVID relief efforts such as food banks and safety net programs. The balance funded employees’ favored organizations and initiatives including public school PTAs, social justice programs, animal shelters and environmental causes across the islands.
“The Kōkua 150 program was a way to build and share A&B’s philanthropy with its employees as well as to follow their lead to the causes that mean the most to them,” Ching said.
Unprecedented challenges to the public education sector prompted an increased focus on the schools in A&B’s “neighborhoods”, where the company’s retail centers operate. A&B delivered $50,000 in unrestricted grants to 20 Hawai’i public schools across the state as the institutions incurred expenses related to new campus safety protocols and the shift to virtual learning due to COVID.
“We have long believed in supporting our neighbors, in good times and bad,” Ching said. “Our partner schools have exemplified a commitment to educating our keiki while providing critical socio-emotional learning tools during a time of financial and overall uncertainty.”
Alexander & Baldwin announced the results of its inaugural Kokua for Keiki program to raise funds for Oahu public elementary schools. Schools near A&B-owned and operated centers – Gateway at Mililani Mauka and Gateway at Mililani Mauka South, Kunia Shopping Center, Pearl Highlands Center and Waipio Shopping Center – were invited to participate as a means to replace annual fundraising activities cancelled due to the pandemic. The recently concluded program was a partnership between the A&B-owned centers, its patrons and nine neighboring public elementary schools.
Held over two months, Kokua for Keiki raised more than $11,000 to support participating schools. A true community-driven effort, patrons of the shops, restaurants and service providers at the five A&B shopping centers registered and designated the school of their choice online and then submitted shopping receipts throughout the campaign. Nearly 900 Kokua for Keiki receipts were tallied and converted into monetary grants for the schools.
“We extend our warmest mahalo to our customers for their support of our neighboring schools,” said A&B Executive Vice President and Chief Real Estate Officer Lance Parker. “This partnership is another example of how Hawaii comes together to support each other during challenging times. A&B looks forward to expanding Kokua for Keiki to other neighborhood schools and communities we serve across the state.”
Unrestricted grants were distributed to the following schools:
Gateway at Mililani Mauka and Gateway at Mililani Mauka South
Mililani Ike Elementary School – $1,800
Mililani Mauka Elementary School – $1,200
Kunia Shopping Center
Kaleiopuu Elementary School – $1,500
Honowai Elementary School – $1,000
Waipahu Elementary School – $750
Pearl Highlands Center
Pearl City Elementary School – $2,000
Manana Elementary School – $1,500
Lehua Elementary School – $1,000
Waipio Shopping Center
Kanoelani Elementary School – $500
To celebrate our 150th anniversary in 2020 we created the “Kokua 150” program that gave each employee $150 to designate to a local nonprofit of their choice. Little did we know how meaningful this program would become. Last year, 170 A&B employees participated in this program (over 90%), and together we donated $25,500 to Hawaii charities.
Employees, such as employee Charlie Loomis who designated his Kokua 150th donation to local organization HUGS as pictured above, designated their Kokua 150 grants to a wide range of organizations including food banks, schools, animal shelters, environmental groups, youth clubs, cultural organizations, and well-loved community programs.
We’re excited to share a new mural created by the Kosasa Academy at Aikahi Park Shopping Center. Mahalo to Cindy Janus, volunteer art director, and the Academy’s students for continuing to adorn the construction walls that surround the future Starbucks building at the center with their creative artwork. We’re thrilled to see their work recognized in MidWeek’s Windward Voice publication.
Since 1994, the Maui Food Bank has been on the frontlines providing hunger relief for the island of Maui. The impacts of COVID have increased demand for their services. Seeing the need in their own community, 20 Maui employees from Kahului Trucking & Storage and A&B’s Maui office designated $150 each through our Kokua 150 charitable giving program.
Through this program, each employee can designate $150 to a nonprofit of their choice as part of A&B’s 150th anniversary. A&B also continued its support of Maui Food Bank with a grant. Altogether, the support will provide about 13,000 meals on Maui.
A&B is proud to release its inaugural Corporate Responsibility Report, which reflects the Company’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives and progress. We are pleased to highlight the variety of ways in which we demonstrate our ESG commitments, as we strive to be Partners for a Sustainable Hawaii.
We are proud to have played a role in early May in the Retail Reopening Committee that put together the “Hawaii COVID-19 Retail Reopening Guide,” a plan for the phased reopening of retail operations. A&B CEO Chris Benjamin and SVP of Asset Management Kit Millan collaborated with several other business leaders, retailers, landlords and retail associations (including Zippy’s, Kamehameha Schools, Island Insurance, Hawaii Executive Collaborative, etc.) to put together these guidelines. As stated in the following Hawaii Business Magazine article, the diversity of perspectives was valuable because the existing guidance wasn’t responsive to the needs of all stakeholders.” The plan sought to incorporate safety guides from the CDC and Johns Hopkins University, as well as reopening plans from other states and countries, to do what was best for Hawaii’s safety and economy.
Pandemic and protest. Recession and rioting.The first half of 2020 pulled no punches.
Hawai‘i dodged the worst of the pandemic, and we haven’t yet had any riots, but the situation is dire. Massive unemployment, sinkholes in the state budget and crippling uncertainty.
The scale of our crisisis compounded by infighting. In a time when we need to work together, we seem more divided than ever. How can we achieve unity?
Since statehood, Hawai‘i has been dependent on corporate and government bureaucracies to manage social, economic and political relationships. In crisis, these organizations are not always responsive enough.
Yet in the midst of chaos, an alternative form of organization is serving important needs. Networks are forming around common goals, interests and principles. Members of these networks are coming together to help people in need, kick-start the economy and pave the road to a sustainable future.
These networks are flexible and decentralized. They bring together representatives from many organizations. And they provide an alternative way to get things done. Here are three.
Networked Around a Goal: Every1ne Hawaii and #Masks4All
Every1ne Hawaii came together in November 2019with the goal of increasing civic engagement. At its core were nine friends: Alx Kawakami, Kimo Kennedy, Robert Kurisu, Jeff Laupola, Ryan Matsumoto, Zak Noyle, Dr. Darragh O’Carroll, Nicole Velasco and Keoni Williams. The core group planned to work with a network of community partners and social influencers to drive voter turnout in the 2020 election.
When the pandemic arrived, workplaces and county governments required face masks, but stores were sold out. Every1ne Hawaii pivoted to a new goal: distributing free masks. During their #Masks4All campaign, the group raised funds, ordered 2 million masks from a factory in China, and worked with friends, family and community partners across the Hawaiian Islands to distribute them.
These community partners reached out to their networks, activating more people. Hundreds of people participated in what Velasco calls “the ultimate coconut wireless.” This network allowed Every1ne Hawaii to solidify a statewide distribution network within three days of receiving the masks on O‘ahu.
On Maui, the group partnered with the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center, Kai Lenny and Ian Walsh to distribute 160,000 masks. Lenny, Walsh and Deidre Tegarden of the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center used their networks to get the job done.
Darryl Oliveira of HPM Building Supply had a connection with the Hawai‘i Army National Guard, which helped fly 200,000 masks by helicopter from O‘ahu to Hawai‘i Island. Every1ne Hawaii reached out to Janice Ikeda of Vibrant Hawai‘i, which led the distribution on that island and was supported by Kūha‘o Zane.
“Everybody stepped up and found a way to help,” Velasco says. “There’s no way that we could do this with nine people. Truly, hundreds of people have helped to make this possible.”
Every1ne Hawaii is now returning to its original goal, increasing civic engagement. The core group members plan to use their existing relationships as the basis for ongoing collaboration, working with social influencers and community partners to spread awareness about voter registration.
“At the core, I think we’re people-focused,” Williams says. “Everyone in the group is focused on helping others overcome their own limitations. It’s about calling on people to do more than what they think they’re capable of as an individual. At scale, it’s about partnering organization to organization to do more than what a single organization can do.”
Networked Around Economic Interests: The Retail Reopening Committee
In early May,a committee of landlords, retailers, business leaders and retail associations created a plan for the phased reopening of retail operations.
The committee included representatives from the Hawai‘i Restaurant Association, Retail Merchants of Hawaii, Outrigger Enterprises, the real estate investment trust Washington Prime, Macy’s, Howard Hughes Corp., Hawai‘i Executive Collaborative, The MacNaughton Group, FCH Enterprises (Zippy’s), Kamehameha Schools, Atlas Insurance, Island Insurance, Brookfield Properties and Alexander & Baldwin.
Lynelle Marble, executive director of the Hawai‘i Executive Collaborative, saw a need to coordinate efforts to avoid duplication. “Restaurants and retailers were working on their individual checklists, but they were looking for an overarching agenda,” Marble says. “Everyone agreed to work on a guide that would provide overarching policies and protocols.”
Committee members met for the first time on May 6. Within 48 hours, they produced the “Hawai‘i COVID-19 Retail Reopening Guide.” They sent the guide to retailers and restaurants, the mayors, the governor and the state’s recovery navigator, Alan Oshima.
A&B CEO Chris Benjamin recognized that his company would have a big role in the reopening effort. A&B is Hawai‘i’s largest grocery-anchored retail property owner, and a safe and speedy reopening was vital for its tenants.
Kit Millan, A&B’s senior VP of asset management, was already in touch with landowners and retail tenant associations. Millan had read the CDC and Johns Hopkins University reopening guides and was researching the reopening plans of other states and countries. When the group formed, he shared the resources he’d been working on.
Members of the committee provided feedback and suggestions, each offering a different perspective. The diversity of perspectives was valuable because existing guidance wasn’t responsive to the needs of all stakeholders.
Tina Yamaki, president of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii, was dissatisfied with some reopening guidelines produced by government agencies and committees that “didn’t have experience in retail operations.”
Many of these plans were designed with grocery stores in mind, but they weren’t responsive to the needs of local businesses like clothing stores or crack seed shops. Yamaki wanted a simple, visual guide to reopening that would reflect the needs of the diverse retailers in her association.
The final product was only seven pages, with color-coded visuals explaining which businesses should be allowed to reopen in each phase. Specific guidance was provided for different business types, including gyms and restaurants.
The committee convened with the limited goal of producing the guide, though ongoing collaboration will be needed to ensure safety, monitor health outcomes and respond to any resurgence of the virus.
The members of the committee will continue “to work collaboratively” because they are “bound by common interests,” Benjamin says. “COVID-19 doesn’t end when retail opens.”
Networked Around Principles: Uplift Hawai‘i
Uplift Hawai‘i describes itselfas an economic recovery platform bringing together organizations, individuals, coalitions and other COVID-19 recovery initiatives. The group’s “informal advisory committee” consists of AJ Halagao, Billy Pieper, Brent Kakesako, Claire Sullivan, Dawn Lippert, Dee Nakamura, Gavin Thornton, Ikaika Hussey, Josh Wisch and Keoni Lee.
The committee came together through a series of informal conversations. They recognized that because of the economic crisis, policymakers would face tough decisions. With input from others, the committee says it produced five principles to guide the economic recovery effort toward a more equitable and more sustainable future. They want to support:
The health and well-being of all Island residents
A healthy relationship with our natural environment
A diverse Island economy with more local business and a new model for tourism
Economic equity and community engagement processes
State and local government leadership
At the time of this writing, 100 organizations and more than 100 individuals have signed on to support the principles, the committee says. The committee plans to revise the list, with input from other Uplift Hawai‘i members; the expectation is that the revised principles will help influence
Dawn Lippert, CEO of Elemental Excelerator, views the principles as a way to bring people together during the economic crisis to discuss and make decisions about the future of Hawai‘i.
“This is an imperfect set of principles,” Lippert admits. “Any plan will be imperfect. The best way to move forward is to get as many people as possible in the room and reflected in these decisions.”
Gavin Thornton, executive director of the Hawai‘i Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice, says that a set of shared principles can help decision-makers push through policy gridlock. In his policy work, Thornton has watched people “beat heads against a wall year after year.” He’s seen “countless reports, countless plans.” The task now is to find a plan people can agree on.
Billy Pieper is a VP at Barclays, the international financial services company, where he oversees the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard program. He believes principles can guide community leaders to better decisions. “Values and principles shape decision making,” Pieper says. “Leaders are hungry for this.”
Ikaika Hussey, an organizer for Unite Here Local 5, views Uplift Hawai‘i’s principles as emerging from Hawaiian culture. They reflect what the Native Hawaiians “figured out over thousands of years,” he says.
Hussey and Keoni Lee were also involved in writing the ‘Āina Aloha Economic Futures Declaration, a set of shared principles backed by an extensive network.
Uplift Hawai‘i includes the Economic Futures Declaration in its “potluck of resources,” a collection of presentations, reports, fact sheets and vision statements related to its objectives. Uplift Hawai‘i says it intends to support other efforts to create change and serve as a bridge between them.
Of course, agreeing on principles is easy. The hard part is translating those principles into policy. Our legislators share this task with Alan Oshima, the state’s economic and community recovery navigator appointed by Gov. David Ige.
Oshima views the recoveryas “a play with an ensemble cast and no lead actor.” To make it through the recovery, he says, we’ll need to manage expectations, support safety nets and listen to different voices.
As navigator, Oshima has convened 18 economic sector groups to provide input in the recovery planning process. He’s working with these groups to strengthen existing ties and establish new connections between leaders in unrelated economic sectors. These new networks will facilitate collaboration and stimulate innovation during the recovery, he says.
Oshima says we shouldn’t “build an economy that looks like now, just bigger and better.” Instead, we need to take “an inventory of the new world.” Because of technological improvements in telework, telemedicine and remote learning, Hawai‘i’s “geographical isolation is no longer an impediment.”
“We already know how connected we are to each other,” Oshima says. “But connectivity has revealed our fragility. (After hurricanes) Iniki and Iselle, the damage was localized. The effect of the pandemic has been huge.
“We’re looking for sustainable fixes, not quick fixes. It can’t be what’s good for me, it’s got to be what’s good for us.”
Hale Makua has been providing essential care and housing services for Maui’s kupuna for decades. With over 25 years as one of our longstanding nonprofit partners, A&B was proud to underwrite the costs to upgrade Hale Makua’s COVID-19 screening tent to a beautifully constructed wooden hut called “Da Hale.” Read all about the new upgrades on their website post here.
The U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling on June 15 that protects gay and transgender workers from workplace discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
In Hawai‘i, state law already made it unlawful for employers to discriminate because of sex (including gender identity or expression) or sexual orientation. Emily Marr, assistant general counsel at the Hawaii Employers Council, explains the significance of the federal decision and offers legal insights into how employers can prevent discrimination in the workplace.
Why is the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County significant?
The Bostock case is actually a consolidated case composed of three different cases heard by lower courts. In each case, an employee alleged their employer fired them simply for being a homosexual or transgender person and sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII, which applies to employers with 15 or more employees, makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate based upon certain protected characteristics, including sex.
However, the term “sex” was not defined by Title VII, and the question before the Supreme Court was to determine whether Title VII’s ban on discrimination because of “sex” includes gender identity and sexual orientation. On June 15, in a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court held that an “employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII.”
Bostock is a landmark decision for civil rights and employment law. Before Bostock, civil rights protections for gay or transgender individuals at work were dependent on state law. While Hawai‘i employers were already prohibited from discriminating against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, this is an important time for employers to ensure they understand the laws and are promoting an inclusive workplace for all employees.
Are companies allowed to use the religious convictions of their owners as a reason for firing openly gay, lesbian or transgender employees?
None of the employers in Bostock argued that compliance with Title VII would infringe upon their religious liberties, so the decision does not squarely tell us how the courts would decide this question. It seems inevitable that, after Bostock, employees will argue that Title VII’s prohibition against gay and transgender discrimination cannot be nullified by an employer’s assertion of a sincerely held religious conviction.
However, as the Bostock court decision noted, employers have a number of defenses to such claims, including: Title VII’s statutory exception for religious organizations; the First Amendment; and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. The Bostock ruling described the RFRA as a “super statute” that “might supersede Title VII’s commands in appropriate cases.”
Ultimately, however, the Bostock decision observed that “how these doctrines protecting religious liberty interact with Title VII are questions for future cases.” So, at this point, whether employers will prevail if they use a sincerely held religious conviction to justify firing openly gay, lesbian or transgender employees remains to be seen.
Can religious organizations, such as churches or private religious schools, use their religious mission as a reason for firing openly gay, lesbian or transgender employees?
As mentioned above, Title VII does contain a religious organization exception. This exception allows religious organizations – i.e., institutions whose “purpose and character are primarily religious” – to give preference to members of their own religion. However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has made clear that this exception does not allow religious organizations to otherwise discriminate in employment on the basis of a protected Title VII category.
What happens if my employees harass other employees because they are openly gay, lesbian or transgender?
Employers should not tolerate this behavior. In addition to creating poor workplace morale, this type of behavior is legally actionable if it rises to the level of creating a hostile work environment. To avoid this situation, employers should take a proactive approach to developing and maintaining a welcoming workplace. Employers should also demonstrate their commitment to conducting fair investigations and implementing appropriate discipline if harassment does occur.
What steps should I take to prevent such harassment?
Employers can meaningfully prevent harassment against gay, lesbian and transgender employees by implementing clear and effective equal employment opportunity policies. Employers should provide training and have discussions with management and HR to ensure everyone involved in the hiring process understands and appropriately enforces the policies.
As with any other form of discrimination, employers should make sure that all employees are aware that any behavior that creates a hostile environment, such as verbal harassment, will not be tolerated. Educating employees on sexual orientation, gender identity, and transgender-related issues will help cultivate sensitivity and convey the employer’s commitment to equality in the workplace. Employers should also train personnel responsible for handling internal complaints on proper responsive techniques, including investigation and discipline.
Promoting inclusivity in the workplace is always important, and this landmark decision should prompt some employers to take a close look at their policies and culture to ensure they are prioritizing diversity and inclusion in any initiatives. Listen to your LGBTQ employees to learn how you can help them feel supported and secure at work.
Alexander & Baldwin is proud to support the Maui Fire Department and offer them protection during the COVID-19 crisis. With the collaboration of our Director of Environmental Affairs Sean O’Keefe and Maui VP Carol Reimann, we were able to get unused PPE equipment from Pu‘unene Mill into the hands of first responders. Over 250 pieces of PPE were donated including safety glasses, respirator filters, gloves and hazmat suit pieces. Mahalo to all first responders!