During Xylem’s Month of Service in October, employees volunteered for water-related activities in their communities, including cleaning up water sources and rebuilding homes in Houston. Xylem has set a goal for employees to volunteer 35,000 hours during 2017. We spoke with Michael Fields, Director of Xylem Watermark, to learn more.

What is Xylem’s Month of Service?

Xylem Watermark has two big volunteer events during the year: our 30-day challenge between March 22, World Water Day, and April 22, Earth Day, and our Month of Service in October. During the Month of Service, our employees work with non-profits and NGOs to support them in their water-related missions. It could be activities related to cleaning up water sources, or building aqua towers in developing countries, or it could be an activity they do on their own.

How has Xylem Watermark’s focus changed?

Xylem Watermark is our company’s corporate citizenship and social investment program, and we’ve now expanded the program to include more of a focus on employee volunteerism. Xylem Watermark works with non-profits to provide access to clean water and sanitation in developing countries. Now we have added to this by encouraging employees to volunteer for water-activities in their local communities.

What do employees think of the project?

Our employees have really embraced the Month of Service. It’s incredible. We expect 10,000 volunteer hours during the month. I think it has opened people’s eyes more to the impact they can have on water issues in their communities. People take a lot of pride in knowing that their colleagues around the world are volunteering during October. It’s a great time to rally around Xylem Watermark and make a difference.

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Does Xylem Watermark still focus on developing countries?

Absolutely. These volunteer activities are an extension of the program. In the past, we have sent volunteers to developing countries to help our partners build water towers, for example. What we heard, though, was that people wanted to know how they could be more involved in making a difference wherever they were. The Month of Service gives them an opportunity to do that. They can volunteer for three hours on company time, either working at a non-profit or doing something else. If you’re volunteering at your kid’s school, that’s great, too.

Who are the Watermark Champions?

In every Xylem location around the world, we have Watermark Champions. These Champions, about 300 people, help organize local volunteer activities for our employees. What’s great about these activities is that whether you work in an office, or are an engineer, or work on the production floor, when you’re volunteering everyone is working towards the same goal. It’s a great way to do something positive while connecting with people at work. For many of the non-profits we partner with, it’s hard for them to get volunteers, so they really appreciate the help.

How has Xylem Watermark been helping with hurricane relief?

Xylem has already pledged $1 million in support for relief efforts for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and flooding in South Asia. The company also pledged expanded support for Puerto Rico, including financial support, matching employee contributions, and an effort to bring clean water to the hardest hit areas of the island.

Beyond that, I was in Houston recently with Xylem volunteers. We’re having a number of volunteers going there to help to rebuild houses that were impacted by the hurricane, particularly for low-income families. This might seem outside of what Xylem Watermark does, but If you look at what we do with water towers in developing countries, we concentrate on providing services to people who are less fortunate. With the hurricane, there are government funds to help people rebuild, but low-income people currently don’t have access to them. We really want to make sure we are giving back to people who have difficulty providing for themselves.

What were some other activities in October?

There have been many different kinds of projects all over the world. For example, at our headquarters here in the US, we went out to a preserve in New York and organized a water-source clean up. At our plant in Emmaboda, Sweden, more than 700 employees participated in an event to share ideas about saving water in our daily lives and at work. In Germany, volunteers took part in a marathon organized by a water NGO to help raise funds. Employees at our plant in India volunteered to build water towers at schools.

What inspires you about the Month of Service?

Every activity is really inspirational. It’s a really good feeling when you attend an event and see the result of all the hard work that went into planning it. For me the ultimate reward is when volunteers tell me that they want to do it again.