News

High Impact Employee Volunteering: A New Way for CSI

PRESS RELEASE BY FIRSTRAND FOUNDATION

Corporate Social Investment (CSI) can sometimes be a challenging affair, which is why the FirstRand Foundation continues to highlight ‘CSI That Works’ in its breakfast events of the same name. The most recent event saw speakers discussing high impact employee volunteering programmes (EVPs).

Speaking at the opening of the event, Sizwe Nxasana, Chairman of the FirstRand Foundation, told the audience that EVPs are slowly becoming a key component of the CSI portfolio among many corporate businesses in South Africa.

“While EVPs can take various forms, including the donation of goods and money or engaging in physical work at the properties of beneficiary organisations, in recent years, it has evolved into skills-based volunteering. Here, employees take time to apply their professional skills and specific expertise to address the needs of not-for profit organisations (NPOs),” said Nxasana.

Colleen du Toit, CEO of the Charities Aid Foundation Southern Africa (CAFSA) told the audience that CAFSA’s stated goal is to increase giving, philanthropy, social investment and volunteering in SA.

“This is particularly true for employee volunteering, as this is seen as a means to influence socially responsible business practice and create shared value for business and society. Of course, in this country, any CSI programme needs to take cognisance of the need to focus on transformation, while also ensuring it is aligned with the company’s core business, the National Development Plan and the social issues on the ground,” she said.

“Corporate social responsibility is deeply embedded in the South African policy framework, and employee engagement is playing an increasingly strategic role in how companies work to improve their communities.”

According to Lebogang Leseba, Director of Corporate Citizenship for Pfizer Africa, her company has been involved in the EVP game for years. In 2003, Pfizer created the Global Health Fellow Programme, which matches Pfizer employees with global health not-for-profit organizations for assignments that last between three and six months.

“Once selected, the Fellows work with community-based partners to help improve health care systems while gaining new perspectives on global health challenges and how the public and private sector can work together to address them,” explained Lesaba.

“Pfizer is committed to working with partners and forging mutually beneficial relationships to advance access to healthcare. We encourage more companies to consider lending their employee talent to advance public health goals, because we certainly need them.”

Sydney Hadebe, Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs Manager at IBM South Africa, added that the company understands the importance of education, which is why it is championing innovative approaches to teaching and learning science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

“In all our programmes for young people, we’re focused on creating opportunities where few may exist. The STEM disciplines help prepare students to help solve some of the world’s most deeply entrenched problems. If we’re going tackle some of the most important issues of our world, we need to prepare the next generation of innovators,” he suggested.

Finally, Garth Japhet, CEO of Heartlines and Chairman of For Good, said that the For Good organisation allows people to respond to the needs of an approved group of local causes, including the need for volunteers, skills or specific goods.

“What we have done, though, is to put all of this into a product for business, meaning they can execute, manage and measure CSI activities. In essence, we are a tool and a platform that allows a business to make an impact in this space, as it can easily manage the causes it supports and facilitate its staff to volunteer and donate to those causes,” said Japhet.

“The primary strategy of ForGood is not to solve individual problems, but to build a platform to enable everyone else to solve problems faster, easier and with more impact. Our vision is to connect 100 000 people to causes – be they individuals, groups or employees within a business.

In conclusion, added Nxasana, EVPs can have a profound impact on employees.

“Being part of ‘doing good’ not only heightens the awareness of community circumstances for employees, but also helps to attract and retain employees in companies. As employees work together to select beneficiaries and solve problems, they also improve interpersonal staff relations, break down workplace silos, gain leadership experience and, ultimately, improve their skills development.”