The Freedom Award was established in 1996 as part of the Department of Defense's Employer Support of Guard and Reserve (ESGR) program. Since then, only 260 companies and government agencies have received this recognition, which is given annually to five large companies, five small companies and five government agencies. In addition to Cargill, 2017 honorees included Johnson & Johnson, Boston Scientific, NBC/Comcast and Tesoro.
“It inspires me to see that so many companies are making efforts to recruit and retain military employees,” said David MacLennan, chairman and chief executive officer of Cargill. “We call on all corporate leaders to work together and share best practices because unemployment is still higher for veterans than for the general population. We can do more to support and help ease the transition to civilian life and the business world.”
There were more than 3,000 nominations for the award in 2017 – more than any previous year. Cargill has been nominated by its employees for the past three years. The winning nomination this year was submitted by Traci Earls, general manager at the company’s protein plant in Butler, Wisconsin, U.S. Earls is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Kansas Army National Guard.
“We are incredibly proud to receive this award,” MacLennan said. “Cargill is committed to hiring people like Traci who serve in the military. They are valued colleagues for many reasons but in particular because of the diverse experiences and global perspectives they bring to their work and teams.”
Cargill has a number of initiatives in place to hire and retain veterans, reservists and members of the National Guard, including:
• Requiring diverse slates of candidates when the company hires, and that diversity explicitly includes military service members.
• Having a dedicated military recruiter.
• Offering military employees, a specialized business resource group, the Cargill Veterans and Military Support Network.
• Offering military employees mentorships to ease their transition into civilian life and flexible workplace policies to accommodate the needs of reservists.
• Working with the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Network, a state-based veterans outreach initiative in Minnesota.
As a reminder for its employees every day of the sacrifices made by the members of the military, Cargill displays an American flag that flew over Baghdad on Sept. 11, 2003, during Operation Iraqi Freedom at its headquarters outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.