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Most Creative People

The 2015 Silicon Valley Nice List

In Fast Company's inaugural Silicon Valley Nice List, we applaud the well-behaved companies of 2015 that deserve some recognition.

[Source Photos: Sari O'Neal via Shutterstock (Unicorn); Flickr user Florin Gorgan (Clouds)]

From improving their parental leave policies to diversifying their workforces, these are the companies whose good deeds in 2015 were enough to not only keep them off the Naughty List but win them special props:

Netflix

The U.S. remains the only developed country in the world where employers aren’t required to offer some kind of paid leave for new mothers. In August, Netflix set an example for the rest of the nation when it announced a generous upgrade in its parental leave: New parents—moms or dads—would now get unlimited paid time off during the first year after their child’s birth or adoption.

As Fast Company’s Lydia Dishman points out, the change could have a significant impact on the gender wage gap:

A mother’s future earnings increased by 7% every month the father takes off, according to the Institute for Labor Market Policy in Sweden. The impact on the American economy is also worth noting. Economists say that if American women worked at the same rates men did, the U.S. GDP would grow by 9%. With its parental leave policy, Netflix is betting that backing parents will boost the economy, as well as its own bottom line.

It wasn’t long before other companies followed suit: Microsoft and Adobe both increased their paid parental leave policies; Spotify announced six months of paid leave to full-time employees; and Facebook rolled out four months of paid parental leave for all employees. While Netflix was applauded for its progressiveness, it was simultaneously criticized for excluding hourly workers from the policy change. So, in December it responded by extending parental leave for hourly employees, as well. Bravo.

Apple

This year, Apple focused on cleaning up its supply chain. The iPhone maker’s U.S. operations and data centers are already powered by renewables, but a majority of its emissions are created during the manufacturing process.

In April, the company announced it would build 200 megawatts of solar projects in China, which, aside from making a dent in supply chain energy use, will also produce enough power to light hundreds of thousands of homes a year. The company is sharing best practices with its suppliers, like Foxconn, which will buy 400 megawatts of solar by 2018. When Apple’s new retail store opens in Singapore (its first in retail operation in Southeast Asia), it will operate entirely on solar. And starting in 2016, a solar farm in Monterey County, California, will power Apple’s new campus, all of its California offices, and retail stores.

Zocdoc

More than 10 million Americans still don’t have health insurance, despite being eligible for plans offered through Obamacare. Part of the problem is education: Many people don’t know about things like enrollment dates or tax credits that may help them pay for coverage. As the enrollment deadline for Obamacare was approaching on December 15, ZocDoc, an online resource for finding and booking medical appointments, teamed up with the White House to help get the word out. The site contacted its users who had paid out of pocket for medical appointments or indicated they don’t have insurance and encouraged them to sign up for coverage through Healthcare.gov.

Facebook

The social media giant (or more precisely, its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg) was in a giving mood this year. After the birth of his daughter, Zuck pledged to give 99% of his company shares—worth about $45 billion—to philanthropic causes over his lifetime and alongside his wife, Priscilla Chan, created the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, LLC.

The company is also making strides to curb discrimination and abuse on its platform. While the company still makes users to provide their real name on the site, it announced it would now require a more detailed explanation from anyone trying to report a fake name. The move could protect stalker victims, transgender people, and others who don’t feel safe putting their real name on the social network. Then, following Donald Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the country, Zuckerberg posted a message of support to Muslims on the social network, saying "you are always welcome here and that we will fight to protect your rights and create a peaceful and safe environment for you."

Credit Karma

Everything from renting an apartment to getting a business loan often requires a credit check, which can make life difficult for the 15 million Americans who don’t have enough credit history to generate a score. These people are referred to by credit bureaus as "thin files," and often they’re in the dark about what’s on their credit history and why it’s so empty. In April, Credit Karma, valued at $3.5 billion, began offering tools to help these people by giving them free credit information. "Most thin file consumers that sign up for Credit Karma will be able to review what is currently on their credit report, as well as learn about why they don't have a credit score and how to build their credit history," the company said. It also offered to direct them to specific loans or credit card options that could help them build their credit history.

Oracle

In October, the computer technology company demonstrated a devotion to education when it announced it would make room on its Redwood Shores campus for a charter high school. The Design Tech High School will house 550 students and focus on science, tech, engineering, arts, and math. Oracle volunteers will help the students with their projects.

Design Tech will make an active effort to recruit girls and minorities, two groups severely underrepresented in the tech industry. As Fast Company’s Sarah Kessler reported, just 29% of employees across America’s biggest tech companies are women. And white students make up 58% of university students who receive tech degrees. The school will move to the Oracle campus in two years.

Pinterest and Intel

Over the summer, Pinterest announced a commitment to diversifying its workforce in 2016, and publicly set some solid goals for itself: Increase new hires in full-time engineering roles to 30% female and 8% minorities (women currently make up 21% of Pinterest's tech roles; African American and Latino employees overall make up 1% and 2% respectively).

It’s one thing for a company to verbally commit to improving the diversity of its workforce, but it’s another entirely to prove you’re serious by putting a hefty lump of cash toward the cause. In January, Intel pledged $300 million toward a "diversity in technology initiative" aimed at vastly improving the diversity of its workforce by 2020. Currently just 24% of Intel’s workforce is female, 8% is Hispanic or Latino, and 3.5% is black or African American.

The money will also go toward attracting more women and minorities to the tech industry, funding scholarships, and providing support to historically black colleges and universities. "The Intel investment will not fix the world, but it will make an example of what can be done," Shellye Archambeau, CEO of MetricStream, told Fast Company. "It almost doesn’t matter if it’s $200 million or $400 million. By putting a specific target that they’re trying to achieve, by putting money behind it, it’s going to make them hold themselves accountable to make some changes. I hope others will follow their lead."

Tesla

The electric carmaker is looking to change the energy industry with its new battery suite, announced in April. The wall-mounted lithium-ion Powerwall battery can be installed in a home to save energy by charging during the day and discharging at night, when the home’s energy demands are lower. Because it stores solar energy, it can also be used as a backup power supply during power outages. The Powerwall could be particularly impactful in Africa, where more than 600 million people lack reliable electricity. Instead, they rely on generators, which spew pollution. Tesla partnered with a solar kit distributor to sell the batteries in South Africa starting in 2016.

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