Corporate Volunteering: Viel mehr als nur in Kindergärten Wände zu streichen

Langsam kommt der Trend Corporate Volunteering aus den angelsächsischen Ländern nach Deutschland. Unternehmen verschenken aber das meiste Potenzial, wenn sie sich über den Einsatz ihrer Mitarbeiter nicht mehr Gedanken machen als dass sie Wände in Kindergärten streichen, dann Dann ist das nicht viel mehr als eine Teambuilding-Maßnahme, findet CSR-Berater Wim de Jong, der bei der NGO VSO Programme für Unternehmen konzipiert und umgesetzt hat. Lesen Sie das Interview mit ihm.

Mr. de Jong, you are working as an account manager for Voluntary Service Overseas in the Netherlands. VSO is a company enabling and encouraging Corporate Volunteering. What exactly do you do in your daily work?

Wim: Our overall aim is to reduce poverty in the world. We are working in more than 20 developing countries worldwide. With our holistic approach, we try to combine health, education and opportunities for income for the population there. It is unique that we are working with volunteers from businesses who share their knowledge in those countries.

We are working with companies and the public sector to get their employees involved in volunteering. My personal task is to look for companies who could contribute to volunteering projects. I search for companies with important core competencies and, most of the time, presence in development countries.

Why do companies even do Corporate Volunteering? What are their ambitions?

Wim: Companies can benefit from engaging in Corporate Volunteering, but in very different ways. One example was a very big project we set up together with Shell. Shell wanted to enter the gas market in Tanzania. For the government that gave away the licences for gas mining, it was important to see how the companies would include the local communities. Together with us, Shell set up a wide array of vocational trainings for the locals. They were being trained for jobs in the gas sector which helped them to find employment and to earn their own money. The local community really benefitted from this engagement, as well as the company Shell did.

Other companies just feel that they should invest in Corporate Social Responsibility projects. They feel that their footprint should go beyond what they do in the Western world and should incorporate developing countries as well.

How can companies benefit from Corporate Volunteering?

Wim: The most important aspect for companies often is the HR perspective. Giving staff experiences outside their comfort zone works much better than giving them theoretical trainings. Very often, after their engagement employees feel proud, appreciate the opportunity they were given and feel more connected to their company.

Besides, the possibility to do Corporate Volunteering is very appealing for young, new members of staff.  It is also a good way to get a fresh perspective for older employees. Especially for companies with low turnover, employees can get valuable new ideas from social projects in developing countries.

How does such a project usually work?

Wim: We usually have a database of projects we try to support. Based on that, I locate companies that could do good for the projects with their know-how and core competencies.

The employees do projects as groups or individually. They prepare for their Corporate Volunteering project back at home and then go to the project for a certain period. Three, six or even nine months are common, but right now we have a project where the volunteers are present for just two weeks.

It is very important for us to offer partnerships were company and project really fit together. We want to make use of the company’s strengths and thereby they benefit from their employee’s experiences.

Based on your experience, would you say that the business perspective or the CSR perspective is more important for companies?

Wim: That really depends on the company you are working with. In general, it is still a very difficult topic, and many companies don’t want to engage at all. But I would say that the business perspective might be more important for companies with presences in developing countries, while CSR might be more important for companies who only work in the Western world.

What is the most interesting project you have worked with?

Wim: There are so many interesting projects! One project was very successful: We worked with a HR company to increase employability in developing countries. We set up different workshops for training of young professionals to match their supply with the demands for employees on the market. We also did trainings for entrepreneurship, as in developing countries it is rather common to start your own business after school or university.

This was a very special project, as it was exactly what this company was doing in the Western world. And therefore, it was very easy to communicate what the company does. By supporting the employability project through Corporate Volunteering, the company had a really strong message to communicate.

You have worked with many different Corporate Volunteering projects: Does volunteering make a difference, for the companies as well as for the local communities?

Wim: Of course, it is hard to give numbers on this issue. But in general: Definitely yes. One example I can give is from the employability project. Before the Corporate Volunteering started, less than 20% of the youth got a job in six months after completing school or university. Now, it is more than 50%.

In general, local projects really do good for the communities. And Corporate Volunteering helps to strengthen the capacities of these projects a lot.

Interview: Franziska Forster