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A World of Volunteering by Global Corporations

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It’s not very likely that the barista serving your morning latte, or the receptionist checking you into your vacation hotel, or the bank manager deciding whether to approve your home renovation loan are thinking about volunteering as they go about their daily work. But their corporate employers back at headquarters might be doing just that – especially if they represent one of the major global conglomerates whose products or services are prominent in shopping malls and main streets all around the world. Many of these global mega-companies coordinate volunteering by their staff as one practical way to help the communities where they do business.

Corporate employee volunteering is, of course, nothing new to organisations involving volunteers. But in this Along the Web, we penetrate the glossy Web sites of various global corporations to see what they reveal about their volunteer or service programmes. Even if the information is often hidden away and sometimes not very easy to access through page links, such Web pages can be a useful first source of information to organisations considering recruiting new volunteers from major employers worldwide. As we explore, we see how some corporations measure their programme’s social and environmental impacts; how others link volunteering to their Corporate Social Responsibility or Global Impact policies and to business goals; and how some connect their financial donations, ‘in kind’ giving, and volunteering activities. We also consider whether improving clarity and transparency would make some corporations’ Web sites more useful to recruiters seeking workplace volunteers. 

The corporations listed here are not selected on any grounds other than to offer a sample of the huge amount of volunteering that takes place with the active support and encouragement of employers. The latest available information is used in all cases, which usually is for 2012.

Paid Time for Staff to Volunteer

Some employers encourage regular volunteering by their staff, which is helped along by giving some company time for the volunteering to take place.  Employers might also make funds, equipment, or corporate facilities available to staff project.

Global Service Days, Weeks and Months

In addition to all-year-round volunteering, this group of corporates also choose to give a focus and profile to its volunteering and recognition to volunteers through mass volunteer events. 

  • Hilton. Its Corporate Responsibility Report features coverage of the ‘Community Hospitality’ work of the company, including Hilton’s Global Team Member Volunteer Program. Launched in 2012, this includes access to the ‘Purpose Portal,’ an online tool that helps Team Members (as its staff are called) find and plan volunteer opportunities, as well as measuring and tracking service hours and monetary contributions across Hilton’s global footprint.

    An additional part of the Global Team Member Volunteer Program and also launched in November 2012 is Hilton’s Global Week of Service, ‘an annual celebration of community service that celebrates the hospitality and generosity of Team Members year-round.’ For a video of the Global Week of Service:  http://cr.hiltonworldwide.com/index.html

    Every Hilton Worldwide office and hotel is encouraged to host or participate in hands-on volunteer activities. 100,000 hours of volunteer time were donated in 51 countries in 2012, according to the CSR report. http://cr.hiltonworldwide.com/strengthening-communities/communities_hospitality.html

    And in February 2013, Hilton Worldwide, Points of Light, and the Taproot Foundation announced a new collaboration called “Hospitality + Service,” a curriculum created to bring exception service to the nonprofit sector by improving the culture of hospitality in organizations and enhance client service. http://news.hiltonworldwide.com/index.cfm/misc/hospitality

  • UPS, the shipping, freight, and Logistics Corporation, holds a Global Volunteer month in around 50 countries each October. UPS says that its employees and their families donate 1.8 million hours of volunteering to organisations ranging from grassroots non-profits to UPS’s global philanthropic partners. It also gives the Jim Casey Community Service Award, named after the company founder, to an individual employee who has demonstrated exceptional commitment to helping others.

    For more about UPS volunteers, see: http://responsibility.ups.com/Community/UPS+Volunteers.

    The UPS 2012 Corporate Sustainability Report called ‘More of what matters’ can be downloaded, using the link at http://responsibility.ups.com/Sustainability/Highlights with details about volunteering to be found in the ‘Community’ section on page 54.

  • Citibank.Information about the bank’s employee volunteer programme is tucked away on page 32 of its 2012 Global Citizenship report, but it reveals how more than 111,000 Citibank employees and their fami­lies and friends in 93 countries volunteered for community projects on its Global Community Day in 2012. The project activities focused on literacy, housing, environmental protection, nutrition, health care, and disaster relief. For more information: http://www.citigroup.com/citi/about/citizenshipreport.htm (available in English and Spanish).

Employee Volunteers and Grant Funding Programmes

Employers’ corporate giving policies sometimes connect giving time with giving money and other ‘in kind’ or indirect support to community organisations.

  • Walmart has its headquarters in Arkansas, USA, but has 11,000 stores under 69 different banners in 27 countries, including 573 retail units under the Asda brand in the UK. Through the Volunteerism Always Pays (VAP) program, the Walmart Foundation awards grants to eligible organizations where associates (its name for employees) volunteer. In 2012, Walmart associates volunteered more than 2.2 million hours and generated more than $18 million in local grants through the VAP program. http://foundation.walmart.com/our-volunteers/
  • Qantas, the airline headquartered in Australia, employs 35,000 people. Some of its staff volunteer to organise and run fundraising events, while the ‘Qantas Cabin Crew Team’ of volunteers give practical support to orphanages, homeless people, and other projects around the world. Read more at: http://www.qantas.com.au/travel/airlines/people/global/en

Corporate Volunteer Centers

  • PepsiCo. An American multi-national food and beverage corporation headquartered in Purchase, N.Y., with a product portfolio which includes Doritos, Lipton, Quaker and many others, volunteering has high profile support from the corporation CEO and Chair. PepsiCo also has a Vice President for Global Citizenship and Sustainability. Community service and volunteering is stated as one of the corporate priorities in its ‘Performance with Purpose vision.’ The company estimated that its employees contributed more than 33,000 hours of volunteering globally in 2012.

    PepsiCo helped to set up PepsiCorps, a skills-based volunteer program.  In 2012, associates from Lebanon, Pakistan, Spain, Turkey, the U.A.E., and the U.S. participated in PepsiCorps, with one team working with a local community in India to improve and promote rainwater harvesting, and the other team working with a Native American community in Albuquerque, N.M., to plan and build a community garden to encourage healthy eating habits.

Pro Bono Volunteering

Pro bono is the long-established term to describe the work, skills, and expertise that professionals like accountants or engineers give for free. It is commonplace among lawyers, for example.

  • Linklaters is one of the world’s largest law firms, with 29 offices globally. It does ‘pro bono’ work such as offering free legal advice for community organisations but does not set any targets, nor seems to monitor volunteer hours given or billable equivalent time. It claims that all but two of its offices now achieve a 25% volunteering rate and at least 68% of that volunteering is skills-based, i.e., uses the skills, expertise, and experience of its people. The Web site elsewhere says that the company views employee volunteering as a staff skill developmental tool and that it is still evolving this aspect of its business. It wants to move toward improved measurement of its impact and influence. Interestingly, the numbers reported on the Web site show a fall in volunteering hours from 2009-2010 to 2011-2012.  See http://www.linklaters.com/Responsibility/Pages/ProBono.aspx and http://www.linklaters.com/Responsibility/Pages/CommunityInvestment.aspx.

Volunteering Linked Directly to Business Goals

Many corporates align their employee volunteers’ activities with some aspects of their core business activities, while others are less concerned that their community programs are perceived as extensions of the business.

  • Shell is an example of a corporation that is mainly encouraging its staff to volunteer in environmental projects which are directly linked to its business goals, particularly through mentoring and research.  Like many corporates, Shell produces a Sustainability report, available to download, designed to show how employee volunteering is an aspect of the way it takes care of society and the environment and is behaving as a responsible corporate citizen. There is actually little detail about volunteering on the Shell Web site, but it mentions a partnership with ‘Earthwatch’ and has a case study of staff volunteers doing marine research in Singapore: http://www.shell.com/global/environment-society/society/social-investment/Volunteering.html

This list is only the tip of the iceberg, but it helps demonstrate that volunteering is seen by businesses as an important part of their corporate social responsibility.  It has to be important to the image of volunteering – and the respect it deserves – when these activities receive distinct attention on a corporate Web site.

Please share any additional company links you particularly like, as well as those which describe any unique type of employee volunteering.


What an interesting topic: corporate volunteering and social responsibility. Does anyone reading this know if these organizations and others encourage or enable volunteering by their employees and by doing so are able to reap benefits that prove increased profitability or brand loyalty? Or, in exchange for having employees volunteer in the community, do they report the "gift" as social responsibility figures? How does an organization know if this giving is beneficial to the organization and in what ways do organizations measure such? Any information that others may have on the subject is of great interest to me.
Thank you,

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