South Jersey Industries: Delivering energy and positive impact

Some 400,000 residents and businesses rely on South Jersey Gas, a subsidiary of South Jersey Industries, for the fuel that powers life in the region.   

While natural gas is invisible, the same cannot be said about the utility that delivers the energy source. Committed to making a measurable positive impact in the communities it serves, SJI and its employees invest substantial financial resources and volunteer hours to organizations that make a difference in the lives of its customers and workers. 

For all the activities, partnerships and organizations SJI works with, the company may actually seem to be everywhere all at once. They sponsor dozens of youth sports teams, provide grants for first responders for training and equipment – and SJI employees always have a huge presence at local charitable events and volunteer drives, including MLK Day service programs every January and the American Heart Association’s annual walk. Their impact can also be measured in the dozens of Atlantic City teens now interested in pursuing technology careers after attending SJI’s high tech boot camp. Another demonstration of its commitment to the region is in the cost savings customers are seeing following SJI’s recent implementation of a voluntary rate reduction.

Dominick DiRocco

“We’re visible because we are earnestly endeavoring to make our communities better for customers and employees,” says SJI spokesman Dominick DiRocco. “Giving back is one of our core values. We have deep roots in the communities we serve and our customers literally let us into their homes to provide their energy, which impacts their everyday lives. We don’t take that for granted.”

Among high profile ways SJI makes an impact is its employee giving campaign, which brings together employees of South Jersey Gas and Elizabethtown Gas, its subsidiary in North Jersey, to collectively support local organizations. 

“We asked our employees to help us decide which charitable and service organizations they want us to support,” DiRocco says. “Then over the course of the year our employees contribute to these organizations or volunteer their time.”

Among the many enthusiastic participants, members of SJI’s Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) often lead the way, he says. The company’s ERGs are dedicated to helping drive employee engagement, fostering an inclusive and collaborative workplace, developing future leaders and broadening community partnerships.

The American Association of Blacks in Energy, for example, hosts an annual scholarship golf outing for graduating minority high school students focusing on STEM-related programs in addition to its popular panel for Black History Month on diversity and inclusion. VETS, the Veteran’s Engagement Team, hosts an annual drive-up food drive in partnership with the American Red Cross that last year collected nearly 4,000 pounds of food for families at the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.

In recognition of the value employees place on the employee giving campaign, last year for the first time SJI matched its employee contributions, raising $330,000 through the 2022 annual drive. Organizations receiving support included the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, the American Red Cross, the American Association of Blacks in Energy South Jersey Chapter, The Arc, Junior Achievement, the Nature Conservancy and the New Jersey Veterans Network.

“We’re particularly proud of the employee giving campaign,” DiRocco adds, noting the company will continue supporting community-based organizations moving forward. “It receives so much support from our 1,200 employees, who give up their own resources to help others.”

SJI traces its roots back to 1910, when Atlantic City Gas merged with Atlantic City Water Company. SJI became the second-largest natural gas provider in New Jersey with its purchase of Elizabethtown Gas in 2018. Earlier this year, SJI was acquired by the Infrastructure Investments Fund, a privately held firm that owns utility and transportation businesses. However SJI will retain its current management and headquarters in Folsom.

Separate from the employer giving campaign, SJI’s corporate giving program focuses support on educational and medical institutions that were hard hit by the pandemic. Over the past few years, the utility has been assisting hospital and college foundations to improve care and workplace readiness programs. Cooper University Foundation, AtlanticCare and Rowan University are among the recipients. The program has been so impactful that SJI has pledged a $1 million annual commitment to corporate giving starting this year, DiRocco says. 

In addition to corporate and employee-focused giving, the company’s popular Game On Program is now in its 10th year assisting community-centered children’s athletic programs, leagues, clubs, associations and recreational organizations. The $40,000, allocated in $1,000 increments, provides safe, fun activities to thousands of kids annually, he adds.

Through SJI’s First Responders Program, the company makes communities safer, DiRocco says. The $60,000 annual allocation supports critical safety training and lifesaving efforts conducted by local fire, police and EMS first responders. Since the program was founded, South Jersey Gas and Elizabethtown Gas have provided more than $250,000 in grants for purchases including combustible gas detectors, turnout gear, fire hoses, medical supplies and equipment, body armor and security cameras.

SJI makes intergenerational connections through its Artificial Intelligence bootcamp that provides Atlantic City teens an opportunity to learn about AI’s impact on the jobs of today and tomorrow. Partnering with the Mark Cuban Foundation and the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, SJI pairs high school students with South Jersey Gas experts in the field at its Atlantic City headquarters. 

“They get hands-on demonstrations about AI, its impact on business and how it helps us serve our customers better,” he says. “It’s such a great educational experience to get teens who might not otherwise have the opportunity to be exposed to artificial intelligence thinking about this growing and emerging field.”

Like natural gas, core values may not be visible to the naked eye, but DiRocco says SJI gets its message of caring across through its ongoing relationships with the organizations they support.

“We work hard throughout the year and every day,” he adds, “to make sure our core values are delivered to the community.”