By Melissa J. Anderson

Yesterday marked World AIDS Day, and while the big news involved the “celebrity Digital Death” promoted by Alicia Keys’ charity Keep a Child Alive, and cities around the globe lighting their skylines and landmarks red to commemorate the day, a number of companies also developed innovative ways to participate.

And that participation is about more than consumer outreach. Today’s employees want to work for companies that portray the values that are important to them. This World AIDS Day, several companies worked to engage employees in their outreach efforts. Starbucks, for example, donated 5 cents to the Global Fund to Fight Aids for every “handcrafted” beverage consumers purchased in US in Canada. Participation in this project can be a very powerful and emotional tie to the cause and the company, especially for baristas who have other workplace options.

But M.A.C Cosmetics’ worldwide corporate volunteering initiative went above and beyond the call of duty, with over 2,000 of the company’s makeup artists laying down their make-up brushes to volunteer with HIV/AIDS focused charities for the day.

Nancy Mahon, Senior Vice President of M.A.C Cosmetics and Executive Director of the M.A.C Aids Fund said, “People today care about where they work, and the values of where they work.”

Strengthening Brand-Based Values

M.A.C Cosmetics has long been a staunch supporter of HIV/AIDS related charities and programs, including the company’s own M.A.C. AIDS Fund. According to Mahon, M.A.C boasts the highest level of staff retention in the make-up industry, and employee surveys have shown that the company’s commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS is why.

She continued, “AIDS has had an incredible impact on the fashion and backstage industry,” and to date, M.A.C AIDS fund has donated $32-33 million to AIDS charities, through the sale of the company’s Viva Glam lipstick – the proceeds of which go entirely to the AIDS fund.

Mahon explained that because the company’s makeup artists are the primary salespeople for the lipstick, it’s important that they feel connected to the cause. One way of strengthening this connection is though the World AIDS Day volunteering initiative. “We have staff participating at 144 sites today, and by the latest count over 2000 people are volunteering – painting rooms in London, chopping carrots in New York, and projects in Bali and Hawaii too. It’s really a global initiative.”

In a press release, Fatima Thomas, senior makeup artist at M.A.C Cosmetics remarked, “Volunteering on World AIDS Day has been such an inspiring experience… Volunteering has allowed me to get to know my co-workers and I truly believe this experience helps everyone tell the M.A.C AIDS Fund story in their own personal way.”

The initiative feeds into M.A.C’s employee retention and business strategies. Mahon added, “The volunteering project really helps us translate to our staff where [the M.A.C AIDS Fund] money goes.”

A Continuing Commitment

Mahon said that this is the second year M.A.C’s make-up artists have participated in the initiative, and that is a continuation of the company’s commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS. “The charity predated a lot of the modern CSR and corporate philanthropy movements,” she explained. “But it’s what the company is all about.”

A family-run company, she explained, M.A.C has worked hard to maintain the core values of the company, even as it has grown into a global brand.

Mahon also mentioned the value of giving back during the holiday season. “At a very basic level, it’s nice to give back, especially during hard times.”