With volunteers week we reflect on the traditional role of business and social value, as being driven by economics. Businesses provide employment, tax revenues and make wider investments such as in local infrastructure, however with the emergence of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) a business focus on community grew, often in a philanthropic way. With increasing ESG expectations and more mature responsible business approaches, strategic value-driven community engagement programmes have emerged.
So how are these programmes shaped? Firstly its about identifying priorities for where and how a business deploys its community support. This can be in terms of the communities connected to supply chains, operations, products and services and / or where employees live and work. There is also a choice around the type and nature of community organisations supported, ideally thinking about what makes sense from both the business and community perspective. This maybe partnering with schools, who will provide a future talent pipeline, or charities that can play the role of a critical friend - helping the business improve on relevant ESG issues, for example, with diversity and inclusion or ecological enhancements. Making a longer term commitment is important, helping to build a solid relationship and providing the community organisation with greater stability. Business support is not just financial, community also benefits from volunteers, pro bono services, the provision of problem solving project teams, the loan of facilities and equipment, trustees and management support, secondments and the leveraging of a wider business network.
And what does the business gain in return? Reputation, stronger ESG / responsible business credentials, the attraction, development and engagement of talent, greater visibility of impact and quite simply doing the right thing. Needless to say good governance, senior support and an alignment of values are important aspects too.
Volunteers' Week is an annual celebration of the contribution millions of people make across the UK through volunteering.