Ethel Maldonado: Volunteering brings CSR policies to life

Ethel Maldonado-Business in the Community-2015Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies too often sit on a website, poorly communicated, rarely visited and even more rarely understood by employees. So what can really bring them to life?

Employee volunteering is the most powerful mechanism that we come across at Business in the Community. For example, 80% of employees who take part in workplace volunteering say they are fully aware of the community investment policies put in place by their employer, this falls to 44% when employees who do not volunteer, according to Business in the Community’s (BITC) CommunityMark holders 2014-15 research, published in July 2015.

Volunteering brings corporate responsibility to life for staff; it connects them directly to the issues that are being focused on and they feel part of their employer’s efforts.

BITC’s CommunityMark is its standard for excellence in community investment, and the 36 organisations that hold the standard are reaping the rewards of engaging their staff through volunteering.

In fact, 75% of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) staff that volunteer say it is helping them to develop faster and further in their roles. Zurich Insurance has seen volunteers report improved wellbeing and happiness (53%), increased understanding and empathy (61%), and increased awareness of social issues (68%). Manchester Airport Group reports that engagement is 18% higher in employees that volunteer. Significantly, the absence rate of volunteers is more than 3% lower than that of non-volunteers.

Employee volunteering as an engagement mechanism is only going to grow as the current government looks to build Britain’s volunteering culture. During the 2015 general election it announced that employees of large firms (those with over 250 staff) will be entitled to three volunteering days a year.

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While details around the policy are still being worked out, it is sure to shine a much brighter light on employer-supported volunteering and the value it has.

Ethel Maldonado is community investment manager at Business in the Community.