Readers of our blog know that we believe that employee volunteering has tremendous potential to be a positive vehicle for business involvement in local and international development initiatives. Employee volunteering is an evolution beyond traditional corporate philanthropy and a one-way flow of investment in communities to enable a more dynamic exchange between corporate employees and key stakeholder groups representing community and civil society.
By Chris Jarvis
Understanding the value
Employee volunteering goes beyond typical efforts of CSR strategies in its unique utilization of social capital. Corporate volunteering programs enable employees to mobilize their personal resources for broad social benefits. The employees not only leverage the assets of the business, but combine these assets across broader social networks, utilizing trust and localized norms of cooperation.
These actions are akin to social movements that are a “purposive and collective attempt of a number of people to change individuals or societal institutions and structures.” In order to affect social movements necessary to address many of the massive social issues of today, mobilizing resources of people, money, and, most importantly, legitimacy are essential. Organizing employees and mobilizing numerous types of resources position corporations to play a key role in broadly addressing contemporary global concerns.
Applying the value
Achieving real and lasting change in the world is neither simple nor cheap. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals represent an historic effort “to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.” Yet by the UN’s own admission, “it will cost $1.4tn (£920bn) a year to end extreme poverty for 700 million people and meet the other ambitious targets enshrined in the world’s new development agenda” (read more here). This kind of capital investment demands that we rethink our approach to sustainable change.
We need to consider an approach coined by Luc Lapointe known as “Blended Capital,” an investment of both financial capital and human capital in a coordinated effort utilizing the best practice of multi-stakeholder partnerships.
In an effort to provide a global mechanism for this new approach to community investment, IMPACT 2030 was launched in 2011 by Realized Worth in partnership with the United Nations Office of Partnerships. The initiative is a collaboration of companies around the world, of all sizes, to mobilize their employees in volunteer efforts towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Assessing the value
Currently, there is limited insight as to the scale, scope, and overall practice of employee volunteering around the world. Complicating matters further, there is a lack of understanding as to the overall awareness of the SDGs among employees who are active in corporate volunteering and community investment programs. In order to properly assess the capacity and potential of the private sector to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs through the voluntary efforts of employees, the following questions must be addressed at a regional level:
- What companies currently have some form of employee volunteering?
- What is the valuation of employee volunteering as part of overall corporate community investment?
- How many other companies are likely to develop a formal employee volunteering program supported by broader corporate community investments?
- What is the current awareness of, and/or active alignment to, the SDGs across employee volunteering programs?
- What are the barriers to increasing the application of employee volunteering programs to helping achieve the SDGs by 2030?
Mapping the value
The Realized Worth team and RW Institute have been active in regions around the world working with IMPACT 2030 Regional Voice Forums to begin mapping the capacity of employee volunteering to help achieve the SDGs. Sabrina Viva just wrapped up a workshop in Cuidad del Este, Paraguay, that received an enthusiastic response from the forum participants.
As I write this blog, Angela Parker and I are in Dubai for a workshop hosted by DP World to explore how employee volunteering can be applied towards a Blended Capital approach in the UAE and surrounding regions. It is an optimal time to explore this concept here as the UAEs President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has declared 2017 as the “Year of Giving”. Najla Al Awar, the UAE Minister of Community Development, declared that the strategic initiatives outlined as part of the UAE’s Year of Giving will “seek to organise volunteerism on the individual and corporate level and make it a way of living in the UAE society. Volunteering is certainly a significant contributor to the national economy and social well-being.”
The approach to mapping the capacity of employee volunteering is fairly straightforward. We are using an established model facilitated by SiMPACT using the LBG Model as a data collection and reporting framework. The LBG Model is recognized by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI), Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and Imagine Canada, (among others), as the international standard for community investment management, measurement & reporting. The process includes the following steps:
- Establish a regionally focused IMPACT 2030 Action Team to drive the project.
- Conduct surveys of both the existing employee volunteering activity as well as the potential for new employee volunteering within a specific region.
- Explore the potential to apply the human capital represented in employee volunteering towards helping achieve the SDGs as understood at the regional level.
- Outline opportunities and barriers that must be addressed by multiple stakeholders (this includes the regional capacity to take advantage of employee volunteering).
- Produce a “blueprint” with clear next steps for the region.
Partnering in value creation
We are proud to be partnering in this historic mapping effort with the Founding and Collaborating Partners, Founding Stakeholders, and the global network of Regional Voice Leads of IMPACT 2030, SiMPACT, RW Institute, and many other regionally based stakeholders.
If you would like to explore the potential to help lead the effort in your city or region to map the capacity of employee volunteering to help achieve the SDGs as part of a Blended Capital approach, we’d love to hear from you. Email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.