Corporate social responsibility and socio-economic development of communities have for long become interlinked. In many parts of the world, the government no longer has enough money or the manpower to address all of society’s problems or often, even basic needs. The corporate sector has been making financial contributions towards many of these needs of society in the shape of corporate philanthropy. The dearth in services delivered to the community is being met by not for profit institutions.
Increasing accountability of the corporate sector by all its stakeholders – particularly civil society, has changed the passive role of corporate to an active, more responsible function. This has changed their role of philanthropic giving into concepts of corporate citizenship and sustainability. Concepts of environmental stewardship, community involvement and social innovation are important aspects of corporate external CSR strategy.
The business case for investing in corporate citizenship is that it can present a way of dealing with future risks in the field. With talk of increasing uncertainty of climate change, the corporate sector faces the same risks as its consumers in rising commodity prices. Similarly the burden of disease the local community carries can also impact their employees – in terms of increasing the absences in the office.
Another aspect which can be considered is that whilst governments exist within borders, many companies are transnational. They have the market incentives, technical knowledge and corporate research departments which are continuously developing and improving products to adapt to future scenarios. Hence a lot of research has gone into future issues and needs.
Corporate citizenship also presents a window for the corporate sector to extend this know- how voluntarily. Activities organizations partake in include establishing volunteer programmes with non-profit institutions, to working to improve environmental issues, to using core competencies to create products or services that help solve social issues.
Corporate volunteering programmes have become a popular way of merging both community and organizational gains. Ideally these programmes have strategies to use the core skills of company employees to make their contribution to society. Not for Profit institutions, whilst not looking at profits for their bottom line – are still run and managed in the same manner as the for profit sector. Human resources need to be managed, the bottom line is accountable to donors and boards, and even management of social media has become of prime importance to them. It is thus expected that this sector needs the same sort of resources corporate do. Thus corporate organizations can make a social impact by asking their employees to volunteer their skills at the not for profits.
In recent years, this practice has become a growing trend in many employee engagement programmes of companies. The Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP), a group of CEOs encouraging philanthropy in companies, reported 70% of 260 companies surveyed in its group, support employee volunteering by paying them. A number of companies have also created employee volunteering programmes as part of career development: sending selected high performing employees to places in Africa, South America and Asia to help businesses grow.
Such partnerships create shared value. Common Impact, a global consultancy group which offers services to help companies build employee volunteering programmes and link them to non profits and institutions, reports employees often give added value to business from what they have learnt at non profits. Non profits are innovative in solving problems as they have little financial cushion or comfort – which many companies have had to increasingly face as well. Employees have reported using similar solutions in the workplace.
More than 10 years ago, I met Abdul Sattar Edhi while donating at the Edhi Charity Shop in London. He spoke of the need of professional volunteers in his institution. Other not-for-profit institutions working in Pakistan would agree with him. Many need help in mentoring students, training, applying for grants, developing annual reports, human resource management – the list is endless. Companies in Pakistan are often giving philanthropic donations to these institutions. In a corporate volunteering programme, employees as volunteers would offer much needed human resource support. We have all come to admire the efforts of the not- for- profits institutions and value what is given back to society – establishing a corporate volunteering programme could be looked upon as partaking in a similar contribution to society.