Corporate Giving: Freeport McMoRan

There is no universally accepted definition of corporate social responsibility or corporate philanthropy. It generally means making business decisions that show a respect for people, the community and the environment in which a company or organization operates.


Richard Adkerson, president and CEO of Arizona-based Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold, isn’t worried about a definition, but he’s deeply committed to the practice.


At a very basic level, Adkerson says it’s “just the right thing to do.” Dig a little further and the friendly, hard-working head of the world’s largest publicly traded copper company will tell you about a deep obligation not only to employees, but also to each community where Freeport has operations.


Taking into account the unique needs of each of those communities, Freeport’s social-investment program focuses on developing partnerships with community organizations, funding projects designed to address priority needs and contributing to the sustainability of each community.


Corporate Philanthropy, Social Responsibility

It might sound like common sense, but structured corporate philanthropy is a relatively new business practice. Over the last two decades, more and more companies have incorporated corporate social responsibility into their business plans and Freeport is a shining example.


By virtue of the way mining works – needing to move a lot of materials to extract various metals – the industry is known to have a big impact on the environment. And because mining operations typically cover a large area, they have a big impact on the community, as well.


“Historically the mining industry wasn’t as sensitive to those community and environmental impacts as it is today,” says Adkerson. “We’ve all learned that it’s a critical part of our business to make sure the profits we earn from mining help sustain future development and raise the standard of living through health care, education and other issues that affect families.”


Asked whether corporate social responsibility is simply a smart business strategy, Adkerson acknowledges that it’s part of what Freeport must do to have a license to operate, but says it goes far beyond that.


“It is a business imperative, but it’s so much more than that for Freeport. Our employees have a real sense of caring for the members of the community around them. It’s very gratifying to see that we are able to help people – help them live longer, more healthy lives and gain education for themselves and their children.”


With operations in the mountains of New Guinea, southern Peru, Chile, the jungles of Africa, as well as Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and elsewhere, the culture and community needs in each area are obviously very different. However, Freeport’s presence at the core of each community is consistent, as is the organization’s commitment to the people of those communities.


“We have a deep obligation to the safety, well-being and health standards for our employees; that’s part of our responsibility as an employer. But we can’t just provide for our employees and have them live in a community where everyone else is living without services.”


Commitment to Arizona

While Freeport’s mining operations in Arizona are located outside of Maricopa County, the company is headquartered in Phoenix. As a result, Adkerson and his senior management team are equally committed to this community.


Freeport’s relationship with Banner Health has been mutually beneficial. “We wanted to make sure that when our employees needed health care there was an opportunity for them to have access to an institution with which we had an existing relationship.

We developed that relationship with Banner, and it’s been a very good one,” Adkerson states.


When Banner Health leadership determined it was time to address the region’s cancer needs and join forces with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center to bring a new level of care to the region, the positive relationship between Freeport and Banner led to a new leadership role for Adkerson – chairman of the Cancer Has Met Its Match campaign. Personal loss and a long-standing relationship with MD Anderson give Adkerson profound insight into what this project meant for cancer care and treatment in Arizona.


The Cancer Has Met Its Match campaign is the primary vehicle for raising $40 million to support many of the programmatic and operational elements of Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center, which opened on the campus of Banner Gateway in Gilbert in September 2011. Screening and prevention services, patient and family support programs, research and much more is funded through charitable gifts. In his role as chairman of the campaign, Adkerson leads a diverse group of 40 individuals who recognize the impact and importance of Banner MD Anderson to this community.


Larry Fitzgerald, Banner MD Anderson Cancer Has Met Its Match honorary chair, 

and Richard Adkerson, general chair


Embracing Banner’s mission and vision, Adkerson set an early precedent for the ambitious fundraising campaign, announcing a $1.5 million gift from the Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold Foundation, as well as a personal gift of $500,000. For Adkerson, the decision to both guide and financially support the campaign was an easy one.


“Cancer is a disease that affects virtually every family in the country at one time or another. I’ve personally had friends and family members who have had to deal with the disease, and many have chosen MD Anderson for their treatment and care,” Adkerson says.


“When Banner came to me and said they were developing this unique joint venture to create a cancer center here in our community, it really touched the right spot with me, both because of the high regard I have for MD Anderson and Freeport’s positive relationship with Banner. I thought this was a great opportunity for us to support something that this community appears to need and to support a partnership between two great organizations.”


Focusing their social investment funds in the areas of education and training, community safety, health and wellness, environment, cultural preservation and the arts, and economic development, Freeport’s support of Banner Health barely skims the surface of their overall corporate philanthropic support to this and other communities.


Adkerson recognizes the ever increasing need for philanthropic support, from individuals as well as corporations and foundations. “Just look around you and you can see people in trouble,” he says. “In weak economic times it means there are more people facing challenges. Fortunately our business has done well over the years. We’ve had ups and downs and have been able to help more some years and less other years. I try to tell people to find something they are really interested in, whether it’s a community effort or a church effort or an institution they have an interest in and get involved, either by volunteering or donating.”


Adkerson continues to lead the Cancer Has Met Its Match and his commitment to the campaign and this community will undoubtedly make a positive impact for years to come.


“Arizona is such an attractive place to live – it’s a very easy place to live, it has great people, it has a great history … it’s those things, the things that have made Arizona and Phoenix an attractive place to live for years, that will be the basis for growth in the future. Banner MD Anderson is an important addition to this community, and I’m very pleased to be a part of it.”


Photos by Mark Skalny and Ken Howie Photography


Reprinted, with permission, from Friends, a publication for the benefactors of Banner Health


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