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Trends in Business Volunteer Programs

It is interesting to note trends in business approaches to volunteering. A research report conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), a professional human resources membership association, suggests community volunteer programs and paid time-off for volunteering are becoming increasingly popular employee benefits. The Employee Benefits Study, conducted in February of 2013, asked a sample of HR professionals from SHRM’s membership database if they offered or planned to offer a list of 299 benefits. Of the 4000 SHRM members who received the survey 518 HR professionals elected to respond. Their answers serve as an important indicator of employee benefit trends.

The 2013 survey found that 20% of respondents offered some form of paid time-off for volunteering, while 1% planned to offer it in the next twelve months. This is a sizeable improvement from 2009 when only 15% of companies offered paid time-off for volunteering. The study also examined community volunteer programs. It found that 47% of firms had a community volunteer program compared to just 42% in 2009. Taken together, these findings indicate that companies are looking to expand their volunteer schemes.

There are a number of advantages to offering community volunteer programs and paid time-off for volunteering. The advantages of community volunteer programs have been well-documented on this blog and often generate shared-value for the community and the business. They have also been linked to increased employee retention. Paid time-off for volunteering is crucial for those looking to volunteer on top of personal and professional responsibilities. It is a simple way to allow employees to pursue important causes. Overall, this study offers some refreshing news about business approaches to volunteering. It appears an increasing number of companies are recognizing the benefits it offers to the workplace, the brand, and the community.

World Changers: Giva Salutes VolunteerMatch

VolunteerMatch describes itself as an organization dedicated to connecting good people with good causes. As their Annual Impact Report shows they have been incredibly successful at accomplishing this challenging goal. In 2013 alone, VolunteerMatch helped create 915 million dollars in social value and attracted 900,000 new volunteers. For every 1 dollar invested in the organization, VolunteerMatch was able to produce 190 dollars in social value. Given the success of this phenomenal organization and its importance in the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) industry, it surely merits a closer look.

One of the largest hindrances in the nonprofit industry is the information gap that exists between volunteers and nonprofit organizations. Nonprofits have difficulty communicating the skills and attributes they need in volunteers, and can occasionally struggle to communicate their message to a larger audience. Conversely, volunteers have trouble finding organizations that represent their concerns and interests. VolunteerMatch solves this problem by synthesizing a vast network of nonprofits with a vast network of volunteers. The entire process is personalized. Prospective volunteers begin by selecting an area of interest such as Animals, Education, or the Environment. They are then matched up with a local opportunity to contribute to this nonprofit sector. In essence, VolunteerMatch makes it easy to search, sign up and contribute to these wonderful causes.

The customization of this process helps explain the positive impact VolunteerMatch has had on a variety of workplaces. According to their Annual Report, 3.7 million employees had access to their services in 2013. In total, 38% of VolunteerMatch activity occurred via workplace programs with the average employee dedicating 36 hours to altruistic endeavors. By utilizing the skills and enthusiasm of their employees many companies were able to make significant contributions to their local communities. They were also able to track their efforts, including the hours logged by their employees, to determine the success of each program. This ability to track and quantify the value of volunteerism has provided valuable feedback to individuals and firms about the significance of their contributions.

By connecting volunteers with nonprofit organizations VolunteerMatch has helped thousands of causes across a wide range of communities. Their ability to personalize and organize the volunteering experience has been essential to the development of social responsibility. Their efforts are to be commended.

For more information on VolunteerMatch or to begin volunteering in your local community visit: http://www.volunteermatch.org

Sustainability Indexes

Companies are increasingly recognizing the benefits of strong corporate citizenship. As investors have become more attuned to the necessity of sustainable business practices there has been a growing demand for indexes and rankings that highlight global firms with strong sustainability records. In particular, three indexes provide an interesting look at how corporate responsibility is quantified and what non-financial characteristics are important in firms.

Corporate Knights is a Toronto-based media and investment advisory company that works with Solactive, a German index provider, to produce an annual list of the most socially responsible companies in each sector of the global economy. Termed the Global 100, the list scores companies on a series of indicators based on how they rank against their global industry peers. Indicators range from energy and water productivity to tax structure and employee safety and are specific to a company’s industry. To qualify for the list companies must be transparent, disclosing their current business practices to the public. The end result is a comprehensive list that details the top performing companies in each industry. Most recently Westpac Banking Corporation of Australia topped the list. They were the first Australian Bank to join the Australian Government’s Greenhouse Challenge Plus and were the first bank in Australia to create a matching donor program for their employees.

The Dow Jones Sustainability Indices is based on a similar belief in corporate responsibility. As factors such as resource scarcity and demographic shifts become more important in the business community, businesses that are operated sustainably will increasingly be able to capitalize on their value. A partnership with RobecoSAM has led to the creation of the Corporate Sustainability Assessment. This assessment is based on a questionnaire sent to the world’s 2,500 largest companies. It is looking for a company’s awareness of and the steps it has taken to address various economic, environmental, and social concerns. Social concerns include standards for suppliers, corporate citizenship and philanthropy, and labor practices. By addressing sustainability issues a company is seen as insuring its long-term vitality.

The last index series is compiled by the FTSE Group, a subsidiary of the London Stock Exchange. Termed the FTSE4Good Index Series it evaluates companies on a variety of sustainability issues. Strong Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practices are seen as a means of mitigating risk and an indication of sound management. The FTSE Group looks into a company’s environmental sustainability and supply chain labor standards as well as other areas of interest. This analysis helps determine the most sustainable businesses.

Although these indexes are primarily a means of evaluating investments they provide essential insights into the area of corporate responsibility. Each is further evidence that supporting communities rather than harming them is a vital business practice. They are further evidence of the evolving landscape of CSR. It is now increasingly seen as a means of reinforcing a brand, building loyalty, and ensuring that one’s business is appropriately situated to address societal challenges.

Creating a Culture of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Your Company

When thinking of how to create a corporate social responsibility (CSR) culture inside of your company it is important to think about both the values of your company and also what CSR involves. In a general sense, CSR includes the parts of your business that do not have to deal with finance. Alexander Garrett of Management Today describes it as, “ethics; interactions with people inside and outside your company; and how you affect the planet” (Garrett, 1) in his article Crash Course in...Creating a CSR Strategy.

In terms of values, the social work that is done cannot go against what your company believes in. People will see right through your CSR report and begin to distrust your company; this means all of your consumers walk away. In a study done by Shital Jhunjhunwala, Assistant Professor of Finance, Institute of Public Enterprise, entitled Intertwining CSR with Strategy- the way ahead, there were social implications which claimed, “business cannot survive without society’s acquiescence nor succeed without its active support” (Jhunjhunwala, 1). For example, within a tech company, it isn’t wise to claim to love being green and being energy efficient if the products that are being sold use far more energy than other products on the market. This would demonstrate that not only do you not care about the planet, but you also think consumers lack the intelligence to find out that you are lying to them, not the best plan in any scenario.

Furthermore, while CSR initiatives have to start from the top-down, because nothing will be sustainable if the board is not supporting CSR efforts, employees have to also believe in the mission that is being encouraged. If the board decides that they want their employees to get a specific number of hours of volunteer work, ask the employees what they are interested in. If people are more interested in animals, begin a puppy and kitten initiative where they are able to support and volunteer with animal shelters; if they want to help the poor, create initiatives where they are volunteering at a food bank or building homes.

According to Garrett, these initiatives should not only come from employees but also customers and investors. It is important to know what people want from your company (Garrett, 1). One of the ways to do this is to be open with everyone, to never provoke sentiments that your company is untrustworthy. There are many ways to do this such as the use of social media. One of the methods that Garrett suggests is to give clear pieces of your CSR message but then also have ways for the public to see the full scale of all that you are doing. This could be a link online that leads to a full report of the initiatives that your business is taking. Along with being trustworthy comes accepting that the company is not perfect. It could be that the company never recycles and they serve every meal in Styrofoam. The important thing is also explaining how those behaviors are going to change. Let everyone know how you will do better but that it will take time and then explain to them your time frame for meeting different target goals (1).

Is this a step by step tutorial on how to make a perfect CSR culture? No. Every company is different and they will have to start small and find out what works best for their company, one does not simply know the best strategy for a CSR culture right away. This is just where to start, to find out how a CSR culture can work for both the company and society. The right CSR culture will do both and add value and sustainability to a corporation.

 

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