Founder of Johnson Wax, Samuel Curtis Johnson, giving back to the family company’s hometown of Racine, Wisconsin

Samuel Curtis Johnson Set the Standard for Corporate Social Responsibility and Corporate Giving

SC Johnson’s legacy of corporate philanthropy goes back to its founder, who donated 10% of his income to civic improvements.
“I believe that most people would rather be associated with a leader who has a social conscience.” – Sam Johnson, fourth-generation leader of SC Johnson

In many families, the stories passed down through the generations influence the aspirations of those who follow. As a family company, that is true for us too. And one of those family legacies is corporate giving.

It is a commitment that goes all the way back to Samuel Curtis Johnson, who founded SC Johnson in 1886. Every year, he donated 10 percent of his income toward civic improvements in our hometown community of Racine, Wisconsin.

Samuel was known for his great interest in supporting youth in the community. His service in this area included being president of the local YMCA, and giving generously to both the YMCA and the YWCA. He also supported an industrial school for children in Braxton, Mississippi, and served as state head of the “Sunshine Society,” which cared for special needs children.

This interest in supporting young people became a fundamental part of our company values. Today, SC Johnson helps fund education from reading programmes to STEM training, and also assists in bringing hope to kids in need.

Samuel Curtis Johnson playing chess
Samuel faced career struggles most of his life. When he succeeded, he thought not of himself, but how to give back.

Samuel recognised that a business should be more than just dollars and cents. This seed he planted grew with every generation that followed. His son, Herbert F. Johnson, Sr., was the first to articulate our guiding principles and the company’s unique perspective on the role businesses play in society.

Samuel’s grandson, H.F. Johnson, Jr., furthered this notion with his “Inside/Out” theory, which said you can’t have a healthy environment inside a company unless the community around it is healthy too. H.F. gave away most of his money during his lifetime, and championed giving by the company.

Sam Johnson, our fourth-generation company leader, continued the tradition, encouraging corporate responsibility and service to others at every turn. “I believe that most people would rather be associated with a leader who has a social conscience, than with a man who says that the business of business is business,” he said. As Sam drove the company’s expansion from the 1960s to 2000, the corporate values of philanthropy and volunteerism grew with it.

I believe that most people would rather be associated with a leader who has a social conscience, than with a man who says that the business of business is business.
Sam Johnson, fourth-generation leader of SC Johnson

Most recently, our current Chairman and CEO, Fisk Johnson, has continued SC Johnson’s longstanding tradition of giving five percent of all pretax profits to charities every year, to help make life better for families. In 2016 and 2017, as just one example, the company donated $15 million in products and support for families fighting mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever and Zika.

Every Johnson leader has helped reinforce and extend the company’s commitment to community. But it was Samuel who brought that philosophy to life and ensured it would carry on more than a century in the future.

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