An appliance giant puts safe, decent housing within the reach of millions
Whirlpool Corporation, the iconic manufacturer of refrigerators, washing machines and other appliances, frames its vision as “the constant pursuit of improving life at home.” But for millions of people around the world, the first step toward that vision is having a livable home. Carpenter Group notes that Whirlpool has played a major role there as well.
Since 1999, Whirlpool has partnered with Habitat for Humanity in providing underserved families with safe, decent housing, donating more than $136 million in cash and products to the organization and benefiting more than 971,000 people on five continents.
“Around the world today, 1.6 billion people live in substandard housing, and one in ten live in distressed communities, experiencing a perpetual cycle of low-wage jobs, education instability and racial inequality,” notes the company’s website. “Helping find solutions to these problems guides our approach to corporate social responsibility.”
That approach goes far beyond cash donations and gifts in kind. Employees regularly put their backs into it, working alongside Habitat and local partners to build safe, affordable housing for economically stressed families. In Bloomington, IN, this past October, they joined forces with Habitat volunteers and students, faculty and staff from Indiana University to break ground on a new home for single mom Maria Magno-Perez and her three children.
“One of the dreams of my children is to have their own home, to have their own space,” says Ms. Magno-Perez, who works multiple jobs in construction and cleaning houses. The family currently rents a cramped but costly apartment where needed repairs rarely get done on time. This summer the landlord took four days to repair a leaking air conditioner system that caused serious water damage in Ms. Magno-Perez’s apartment and cost her $300 in electric bills. “What a blessing to know that we’ll be moving into our own home,” she says.
Imnportantly, the homes Whirlpool builds with Habitat meet the highest standards of energy efficiency, yielding savings for owners as well as environmental benefits. This is not a recent phenomenon. In 1970, Whirlpool was one of the first Fortune 500 companies to establish an Office of the Environment; in 2003 it became the first appliance manufacturer to set an emissions reduction target. Sustainability is an integral part of its brand.
In 2021, the company embarked on a three-year effort to expand Habitat’s BuildBetter initiative, which helps families in need of affordable housing mitigate the impacts of climate change with more energy-efficient and climate-resilient homes. The aim, says Habitat, is to achieve a 15% increase in energy efficiency compared to homes built to current government code.
With the pandemic showing tentative signs of beginning to wind down, students are back in class, but the effects of COVID-19 continue to undercut attendance rates. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly three quarters of U.S. public schools reported a spike in chronic absenteeism during the 2021-22 school year. In low-income communities especially, lack of access to clean clothes, exacerbated during the pandemic, has been a small but measurable barrier to classroom attendance.
Over the past eight years, Whirlpool’s Care Counts™ program has installed washers and dryers at selected elementary schools across the country with high absenteeism rates. Data analyzed by the company indicates that nearly 70% of participating high-risk school students have seen an increase in attendance and that 30% were no longer at risk for chronic absenteeism. Even more dramatic improvements are forecast for the current academic year.
“The impact of the washer and dryer is truly incredible,” says Krishna Barroso, principal of Avon Avenue School in Newark, NJ. “These two simple machines that most people take for granted provide essential access to clean clothes, which builds pride, confidence, and improves attendance for our students.”
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About Brand Acts of Kindness®
Brand Acts of Kindness® is a series from Carpenter Group that spotlights companies across industries that are living their brand values in addressing the unprecedented challenges facing the world today.
The series initially headlined companies assisting healthcare workers and first responders, as well as communities, businesses and families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We also highlight brands taking the lead in supporting social and racial justice, LGBTQ rights, sustainability and the environment. Their stories show how innovation, resolve and action, built on a solid value proposition, can both strengthen a brand and help create a better world.
About Carpenter Group
Carpenter Group is an independent, woman-owned strategic branding, messaging and marketing communications firm that has delivered results-driven solutions to financial, professional services and technology firms for 30+ years.
Our broad cross-discipline experience enables us to craft brand messaging and carry it through to the channels that most effectively connect with our clients’ target audience, from editorial content to advertising to event marketing and more.