Virtual Employee Volunteering in the times of Corporate Activism

“Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose.” (BlackRock, 2018). Volunteering has undergone a paradigm shift in the current times with the burgeoning impact of the Covid-19 across the world. More and more corporate organizations are strategically moving towards Remote or Virtual Volunteering processes to engage their employees to generate social impact in particular, in the moment of this crisis.

Most companies that wish to take a stand on social issues are directly or indirectly influenced by their employees and customers who desire to create tangible, positive, impactful, and long-lasting community change. Additionally, with the rise in corporate social responsibility, companies want to be more actively involved in boosting not just their economic activities but also their stand in society, giving rise to Corporate Activism. According to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Kevin Thompson from IBM proposed to start a Corporate Peace Corps to place IBM’s high-potential employees with NGOs and governments in developing countries, to provide services to these organizations that could not otherwise afford. However, Thompson was only able to find support for his initiative when IBM’s Chairman, Sam Palmisano at the time, extended his vision of an integrated global enterprise. The program witnessed great success as it impacted the lives of 140,000+ people outside of IBM through skills transfer and capacity building with the assistance of over 2,500 participants to more than 30 countries. (Davis and White, 2015)

Business leaders play a greater role in shaping the social ecosystem — much more than their role in the corporate world because of their public standing and power. Social media platforms further enable them to reach out to larger audiences and share their views to influence and inspire them to resonate with discrete focus areas (Taneja, 2019). More than half of the millennials believe that the obligation for CEOs to speak out on important issues is greater now than it used to be (CEO Activism, 2020). Therefore, corporations have the power to start social movements, even from the most obscure corners of the world (Parker, 2020). Brands with sophisticated products often realize that they should communicate more than their products to the customers to generate value, particularly in uncertain times like this, when these brands are constantly required to innovate.

According to Smith, 2019, CGO at TOMS there’s a one-for-one model or framework for purpose-driven businesses who are looking to engage -

  • Align Values & Actions — It is important to be authentic to ensure employees find the companies’ cause credible.
  • Enter Humbly — It is essential for corporations to know that they’re not the experts in the social space. Therefore, partnering with nonprofit organizations can help them look at exactly what the issue looks like, what interventions can be taken, and how they can make their advocacy effective.
  • Put your money where your mouth is — Having an integrated investment to support an organization’s cause is necessary.
  • Engage your customers — Finding ways to involve consumers in corporate action plans to drive social change will allow companies to take a stand with credibility.

With a successful assessment and execution of this framework, a company can ensure that activism works in all situations. Therefore, when the management and executives are authentic, and employees are given a sense of ownership, companies can become places where people have a sense of belongingness to achieve more than just a shared value of financial performance. Such processes remind us about humanity and that organizations can devote their time, skills, and money to singular causes which in turn can trigger social movements to revolutionize how the world operates even via a virtual ecosystem.

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An online volunteering platform that seeks to promote a culture of volunteering and maximize the human potential within the social sector.

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