In my recent article on diversity, I discussed how companies with great diversity had outperformed other organisations and diversity had made a direct impact on the bottom line. The same is true for corporate and social responsibility and, more specifically, corporate volunteering, since it has a direct impact in helping you to attract and retain both customers and employees, which in turn leads to increased profit and a more sustainable company in the long term.One of my previous employers had a fantastic initiative whereby 20% of all profit went to charity. It was a great scheme and made me proud to work for the company. The only issue I personally found was that I didn’t have any involvement in the charity work and most of the time the charity work wasn’t in my local community, which meant that, although I still felt proud of it, the work felt a little distant.
The Singapore government announced in its latest budget further incentives to encourage businesses to take an interest in nurturing societies and communities in which they operate. It offered businesses an additional 150% tax deduction on wages and incidental expenses if they sent their employees to volunteer or are sent on secondment. Further details will be announced in June 2016, but, essentially it is giving businesses the same take breaks as donating cash.
Late last year, Links International implemented a volunteering programme that encourages Links employees to spend a half-day per quarter volunteering. While this is just a start, it is something that we believe in and can build on, and we have already seen some benefits across the region. Most recently, here in Singapore, we volunteered at Willing Hearts, an organisation that provides daily meals and support to the underprivileged, the needy and other marginalised members of Singapore’s society. Most specifically, their soup kitchen serves around 4,500 daily meals, seven days a week. We helped to pack bread and peel buckets of hard-boiled eggs. We had a great day out as a team and felt we were contributing to a very worthy cause.
Below is a list of six benefits to implementing a corporate volunteer programme:
1. Employee branding
Employees are often seen as a company’s most important asset, so attracting the most talented employees to your company should be on every company’s agenda. Employees want to work for companies that have a good reputation; companies that are socially responsible, care and invest in their local communities. A survey by the nonprofit organisation, Net Impact, showed that 53% of workers said that “a job where I can make an impact” was important to their happiness, and 72% of students about to enter the workforce agreed.
2. Employee Engagement
When employees have personal values that are aligned to their companies’ values, employee engagement goes up and productivity also rises. Companies that have successfully implemented a CSR strategy, engaged with employees to find out what issues are important to them in their local community and implemented volunteering as well as other CSR programmes have seen a significant increase in retention, job satisfaction and motivation. A report by Insead analysed a global management consulting firm and those that participated in a CSR programme were up to 32% less likely to leave the company.
3. Customer engagement
Studies have found that consumers are 88% more likely to buy from a company that supports and engages in activities to improve society. Using CSR can help you engage your customers in new ways, attract new customers that are socially aware and add money to the bottom line.
4. Professional Development
By implementing a volunteering strategy that takes into account the skills and positions of employees, you can provide additional value through professional development. Giving employees learning opportunities or access to leadership opportunities might not be possible in the workplace, yet, through volunteering, employees can develop new skills, lead teams in a new environment with limited resources and improve communication skills.
Through a good CSR strategy, companies can increase their brand reputation and brand identity in the market to attract new customers. If CSR is aligned to company values, this can differentiate the brand from competitors and improve customer engagement and retention. If done at a local community level, it can change local perception and increase the opportunity for tailored marketing campaigns which generate positive publicity and media opportunities due to media interest in ethical business activities.
6. New Business
Large MNCs understand the value that CSR and volunteering adds to their business, employees and the communities in which they work. Therefore, when companies that are socially responsible are looking for supplies and service providers, they expect the same. As part of the tender process, they will ask you about your hiring practice, sourcing and suitability, compliance and CSR. A good volunteering programme will enhance your reputation and help you win and retain business.