— By Mark Dato, New York Cares Corporate Service Manager
A recent piece in the Wall Street Journal, “The Case Against Corporate Social Responsibility,” provocatively suggests that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is ineffective because business executives are beholden to their shareholders, whose primary concern is personal profit, not the public good.
As a member of New York Cares’ Corporate Service department, I strongly disagree with the claim that increasing corporate profit and acting in the public interest are mutually exclusive. In fact, I work to improve corporate volunteer programs because I believe engaged employees are more productive and loyal and that businesses prosper when they are socially responsible in the community.
Companies benefit from well-executed employee volunteer programs in a number of ways. Volunteer programs help recruit and retain the best and brightest talent by increasing employee loyalty. A recent study by Deloitte shows that over two thirds of 18-26 year olds would prefer to work for companies that allow them to volunteer their skills to nonprofit organizations. Mobilizing employee volunteers in the community is also an extremely effective way to extend and strengthen a brand. Golin Harris reports that nearly 70% of consumers consider companies’ business practices when deciding whether they should switch to an alternate brand.
Corporate volunteers have much to gain from donating their time and skills to a good cause. Volunteering is an excellent way to develop professionally and provides individuals a cost-effective opportunity to hone leadership, communication, and fundraising skills. A Women’s Way study found a close correlation between the skills acquired during volunteer service and professional advancement. Volunteer service is an excellent way for employees to practice business skills and build the confidence necessary to advance their careers – as well as providing them the opportunity to network and develop new ties within their organizations.
Last but not least. The benefits of corporate volunteerism to the community extend well past the immediate service provided. Companies play a key role in making community needs visible through media coverage. A 2009 Fidelity Investments study found that people who volunteer with community organizations donate ten times more to charity then those who do not. Corporate volunteers multiply their impact on the community by providing direct service, increasing awareness, and raising funds to sustain community organizations.
One of the most compelling reasons to expand corporate volunteer programs is that no one loses. Given the overwhelmingly positive impact of corporate volunteerism, it is easy to see why 90% of Fortune 500 companies have dedicated employee volunteer programs.
At New York Cares, we use our network of over 1,000 non-profit agencies in all five boroughs to maximize the impact of employee volunteer programs and make volunteering convenient for those who would like to help. We invite you to join the debate on the case for or against Corporate Social Responsibility. We look forward to hearing your feedback!