Is Employee Supported Volunteering really volunteering?
It must be a difficult job being responsible for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in a commercial company. CSR involves managing the economic, social and environmental impacts of an organisation’s operations in such a way as to ‘maximise the benefits and minimise the downside’.
Clearly there is a financial risk to this in that CSR activities often involve a cost which has to be borne by the shareholders, so the CSR manager has to persuade the Management and Board that the benefits outweigh the costs. This can be a hard ask unless there is commitment from the senior management. You could very easily get caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.
Not only do you have to convince the staff, management and directors that CSR has genuine value, but you also have to quantify that value to the company.
In this context, it is incredible how much CSR has taken off in recent years, a trend reflecting an increasing awareness that, unless companies display a responsible social attitude, they risk being marginalised by their clients and staff, thus leading ultimately to reduced financial performance. This is surely the mark of civilised capitalism.
As part of their CSR programmes, many companies offer employee volunteering schemes whereby employees are allowed a certain number of paid days a year to engage in voluntary community work. Since 1996, Volunteer Centre Westminster has been running a project (Time & Talents for Westminster) which helps companies and government departments deliver their Employer Supported Volunteering schemes. Our aim is to support as many local employers as possible to encourage their staff to spend some time transferring professional skills to help the local community. For more information about this click here
But is employee volunteering really volunteering? After all, employees usually get paid for doing it. It is a moot point, but I would argue that i) they are working for company whose policy is for employees to volunteer in the community ii) participation is usually not compulsory, therefore ‘voluntary’, and ii) it can lead to greater social awareness and encourage employees to do more in their spare time on a truly voluntary basis.
Recently I met an ex-colleague working in a City bank who does a lot of volunteering in her own time. She was complaining about young dealers bragging about their paid volunteering contribution of only one day a year, arranged by the bank. That’s great as far as I am concerned; firstly because the young dealers even know what volunteering is (this was not the case ten years ago), secondly that they are proud to have done it, and thirdly that there seems to be an element of competition about who was doing most. It’s dog eat dog out there, I can tell you.
Finally, here is a picture of this year’s Volunteer Centre Westminster’s team lunch to celebrate National Fish & Chips Day 2012.
Gareth Owen, 30/05/2012
Volunteer Centre Westminster: 4 Sutherland Avenue London W9 2HQ | Switchboard: 020 7266 1992|
Registered Charity No. 295501 | Registered Company No. 2052268
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