Corporate Social Responsibility: International Corporate Volunteering Workshop
Learning from the practitioners
Thursday, 10 June, 2010
Learning from the practitioners
The Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) movement is drawing considerably more interest from the world’s leading corporations. Many of these corporations are showing that international corporate volunteering (ICV) is an effective way to move beyond the old philanthropic model, and achieve measurable business results whilst also benefiting the communities in which they work.
ABV was recently invited to join a workshop on a wide range of issues related to international corporate volunteering. This event was the first of its kind, and it presented an opportunity for companies to convene and share best practices, seek advice on problems they are facing, and meet their peers who are involved in the same types of ICV programs that they are managing. With growing interest in this area, the workshop saw almost seventy attendees from the private, non-government, and government sectors. The organisations they represented included:
|Corporate Executive Board|
|Ernst & Young||Siemens|
|Gittins & Associates|
Major lessons & takeaways
At the end of the workshop, the participants agreed that there were several major takeaways from the event:
i. The concept of sending skilled-based corporate employees to provide needed pro bono services to organisations in emerging markets is relatively new with only 12-15 companies that have these programs in place. However, there was general agreement that many more companies will jump on board and launch their own programs within the next year or two.
ii. The program benefits are wider and deeper than originally expected – Many of the companies that have programs are discovering that they are experiencing tangible benefits with economic value to both their respective companies as well as to the local recipients. The benefits that the implementing companies are receiving range from employee retention and increased leadership skills to identifying new business opportunities.
iii. There isn’t one model that all companies adopt – Virtually every company has taken the basic concepts and adapted them to meet their own culture and business/social objectives.
iv. There is high interest on the part of the US government, which may lead to new, innovative ideas for public-private partnerships – Several government agencies and departments are closely watching the development of ICV programs. The present administration has been very clear and vocal that it is willing to provide appropriate support to grow the footprint of US companies in emerging markets.
Program design: meeting corporate objectives and satisfying internal stakeholders
ICV programs are highly customised and represent a wide range of business objectives. Regardless of the specific design decisions, having a strong supporters/champions is paramount to successfully sell the program to key internal stakeholders and gain sufficient funding. The champions, who are almost always executive-level, can help guide and focus the program. IBM, for example, has the explicit support of its CEO. The same is true at GlaxoSmithKline. Of vital importance, however, is transparency in program development, regular communications and engagement with internal and external shareholders, and the ongoing collection and sharing of metrics, stories, and continuous feedback from both employee volunteers and local clients.
Program implementation: what to do and how to do it
It appears that this is a wide range of implementation models that the companies have adopted. Some of the more interesting program implementation features include:
• IBM – The volunteer teams are comprised of staff members from different countries where IBM has offices. One of their program goals is to foster teambuilding and leadership skills within a multi-cultural team.
• Accenture – The volunteers who commit to participate in the Accenture Development Partnerships program spend up to 9-12 months on a project. ADP volunteers also agree to lower (half salary) compensation from the company during the time they spend on their project.
• Pfizer – Volunteers can view the potential projects online and choose which one they would like to be considered for. This model has more of an “open market” feel than the others.
There was a general consensus that one of the most important factors for successful program implementation was the selection of the right projects. This entails careful consideration of many variables, including the scope, supervision, peer colleagues, available resources, organisation and cultural influences, and success metrics.
Read more about corporate volunteering with ABV.
Workshop paper courtesy of CDS | Washington.