Corporate volunteering: helping from the work environment
The generation of social and environmental benefits through corporate volunteering strategies is something in which companies increasingly participate.
Companies are making an effort to implement plans for their employees to participate in social activities promoted by the company itself, and thereby making their workers increasingly aware of the issue. Despite this situation and the activities set in motion by a large number of corporations, a recent study by Adecco shows that only 20% of workers participate in the corporate volunteering actions promoted by their companies.
An important additional fact is that, according to a study by the IESE Business School, the largest companies are those most involved in volunteer programmes, to the extent that three out of four have more than 500 workers involved in this activity.
In general, these types of programmes are proposed by the company and managed by an NGO, and mean a cost for the firm of between 200 and 500 euros per employee per year. According to the aforementioned study, more and more employees ask for this kind of activity or consider it in staying in the company or accepting a job, and it is therefore a key to the retention of talent.
Corporate social responsibility and in particular volunteering has a growing presence in companies, which means transferring to society the positive image of not only seeking an economic goal, but also committing to charity causes to help vulnerable groups or to design actions to protect the environment.
In many cases, these strategies harmonise elements of social action with the management of human resources, and are often aligned with the culture and values of the organisation.
Corporate volunteering is part of a context in which companies’ work is increasingly linked to concepts such as social responsibility, caring for the environment, preservation of resources and community development. Nobody doubts today that in order to carry out this type of charity causes, the collaboration of the workers is necessary.
According to Banco Santander sources, the business commitment goes beyond economic contributions, and in the specific case of the bank it highlights the devotion, energy and time of the its employees, who in 2016 helped more than 260,000 people. Among its strategic objectives, Santander includes the commitment to help communities with local programmes and promoting the employees’ participation. In 2017 alone, the company registered the participation of 23,000 employees in face-to-face volunteering initiatives and more than 153,000 hours devoted to these causes. These employees’ work together with the 54 million euros that the entity invested in social programmes helped 2.1 million people.
It should be noted that overall, most of the volunteer plans are focused on the professional field, in this sense 60% of the measures implemented are to improve the employability of disadvantaged groups (victims of gender violence, people in prisons, young people at risk of social exclusion, among others). Twenty percent are aimed at children, while the remaining percentage is for the disabled.
As the Observatory of Corporate Volunteering, promoted by NGO International Cooperation, points out, “An adequate implementation of volunteer programs brings clear benefits to society, but it is also very profitable for the company.”
A correct volunteering policy brings advantages for all the players involved, and its implementation provides benefits not only for society but also for the company by involving employees in charity causes, which subsequently means the strengthening of the employees’ pride of belonging and commitment in the company.
Another beneficial aspect comes through the improvement of internal communication, as well as the promotion of new skills among workers, such as leadership skills and teamwork.
A comprehensive view of the company by employees is also encouraged and, finally there is the possibility of media diffusion and improvement of the corporate image.
The Observatory also affirms that, “If NGOs and companies work with professionalism, corporate volunteering will cease to be a fad and become a social instrument and a business tool”.
A study by Deloitte points out in its conclusions that well-understood and managed corporate volunteering can be much more than excellent and become a strategic initiative. It is a great way to channel the energy and potential of workers to make a significant change in society.
How can the company encourage workers’ participation?
- It is a good option to suggest issues to workers in areas such as education, accompaniment, labour and physical activation, which the experiences of other companies show are much in demand. With several options it is easier to increase participation.
- Increase the margin of autonomy. Giving the volunteers themselves more freedom to propose ideas or present collaborations is revulsive for the volunteer programme.
- If the companies promote voluntary actions during the working day, the professionals might be encouraged, especially the millennials.
From the workers' side, the following reasons are given for participating in volunteer programmes: they encourage fraternization, they involve employees fully with the cause and teach them more about what it means to be socially responsible, making them more aware of their actions and the impact they have on the planet and the communities.
THE BENEFIT FOR SOCIETY
The Bank of Spain also promotes an annual call for social projects that allows group employees to present projects with the aim of improving the quality of life of people in situations of social vulnerability. The employees are the true protagonists of this initiative; they are the ones who put forward the organisations and the projects, and who vote for the winning projects.
In addition, the winning projects are financed thanks to the monthly contributions employees make to the EUROS FROM YOUR SALARY fund of 1 euro or more, and which the bank subsequently equals. Today, almost 3,000 employees participate in this fund, which in turn means that every year 10 organisations can carry out their projects.