Sitting on the train (AVE) in-between Madrid and Barcelona, I reflect on the speech about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and corporate volunteer programs I just held at IESE Business School invited by Kellogg’s. Beside being grateful for the invitation and hoping that my contribution lived up to the expectations of the host and the audience, other thoughts pop-up.
What is the value of having a volunteer organization as part of the activities a company does under the umbrella of “Corporate Responsibility”? Is volunteering a contribution to the total scope of Corporate Responsibility or is it a pure internal employee program? The intention of my short speech was to exemplify how some companies with Corporate Social Responsibility programs also may have a volunteer program with the purpose of giving the employees of the companies the possibility to “make a difference”. Present were several of the most important companies in the country and their stories were “wow” and really making a difference. Some of them had the volunteer program incorporate in the communication organization, others had it under the umbrella Corporate Social Responsibility and some, as my company, as a separate unit.
My key words were:
- corporate values
I chose not to enter the debate of if it is or isn´t Corporate Social Responsibility to have a volunteer program, and decided that I would spend my 20 minutes to convey a message about the core of a volunteer organization, seen from a employee´s point of view and the point of view of the Management Team. I talked about the importance of understanding the volunteer organization as the “soul” of a company and as part of the company´s investment in their employees and/or Corporate Social Responsibility. To make something un-tangible such as the “soul” of a company to something much more tangible. I talked about the importance of linking these activities to the vision, to the mission, to the objectives of the company, to tie it all together so that the employees would understand the fluffy words from a power point presentation at any internal meeting, and make them real through volunteer activities, be able to touch the vision, feel the mission and breath its all essence. I talked about corporate values in its pure state, and how they become understood in the tasks an employee as a volunteer makes out in the field. How they understand, to the very deep of its meaning, the core values of its company just by acting “in the name of” that company. How you, as a volunteer, become the company in the eyes of others out in the field, because when you stand there, on the ground and have been assigned to solve a problem, you are the company and you feel like it. How these words (core values), taken from the same power point slide at an internal meeting, is what you hold tight to when somebody see you as Miss Companyname.
I mentioned what I see happens when you, as a volunteer, return to that company after haven had your experience as volunteer. How you have learned things hard to learn in an office just by living them. Things like teamwork, cooperation, leadership, problem-solving, respect, professionalism and how all this you have learned, now incorporated into your blood, is conveyed in coffee areas, in work-processes, in your day-to-day work. Conveyed, to the extent that it is “contagious” so your colleagues, their families and those that are told the story live the corporate values of your company. And it creates value. Vale for the individual that got the experience, value for the company that gained a motivated, engaged and highly competent worker, value for the society that benefited from your actions. Value that has no price (does somebody dare to put a price on this)? Value that must be appreciated from “the top” to “the bottom”, because in doing so, in creating volunteer organizations that have “soul” that are connected with vision and core values, a company makes their business human, tangible and understood by visualizing all this through their volunteer organization.
And many of the other speakers said the same. Told stories that showed the essence of Corporate Social Responsibility. This gives hope. Social Responsibility is entering the space of a company in a natural way, creating conscious Corporate Social Responsibility organizations and/or volunteer organization and that is extremely important for the future of any worker, company and country.
Do you share this view?