When it comes to the triple bottom line and sustainability, many companies begin by looking at their environmental impact.
How are they operating as a socially responsible company?
One increasingly common way for a company to improve its social impact is by having a community service policy, which both gives back to the local community and creates opportunities for employees to volunteer.
The Business Case for a Community Service Program
A community service program is a formal program through which a company commits its efforts to giving back to the community.
For some companies this may mean having organized volunteer activities, such as a beach clean-up. For others, it may involve giving paid time off to employees to volunteer. In both cases, however, the company takes an active role in encouraging and supporting employees to pursue volunteer activities.
While paying employees to volunteer off-site may at first not appear to benefit the business, there is actually a good business case to be made.
The primary benefit is in increased employee engagement and retention.
In fact, a study by the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship found that 90% of companies surveyed cited improved employee engagement as one of the top three benefits of having an employee volunteer program, along with displaying organizational values in action and establishing a positive brand within operating communities.
A separate study by Microedge found results that confirmed increased employee engagement as a key benefit of a volunteer program. The study found that employees who regularly volunteer tend to feel more loyalty to the company and to feel proud of working for the company compared to employees who don’t volunteer.
This same study also found that a community service program can help with recruiting talent to the organization, especially since 70% of employees between the ages of 21 and 35 strongly favor companies that are committed to the community.
Lastly, while employee engagement ranks first in the list of benefits, there are other ways in which a strong community service program can help your business. For example, building teamwork among employees and increasing brand value as the community sees the good work that the business is doing are two additional benefits.
Community Service and the B Impact Assessment
Community service is also an important part of the B Impact Assessment, the online tool used by B Corps to benchmark a company’s sustainability efforts.
In fact, in the “Community” part of the assessment, there is a section dedicated to “Civic Engagement and Giving.” A business can earn points for having a community service policy and for the percentage of time that is donated (total volunteer hours/total hours worked, generally 2000 hours per FTE).
Because of their commitment to using the power of business for good, it’s also no surprise that B Corps tend to be more likely to have a community service policy compared to other businesses, according to benchmarking data from B Lab.
Setting up Your Community Service Program
If you don’t have a community service program in place yet, you’ll need to start by assessing your organization’s interest and capacity for a program.
This is a great opportunity to engage your green team. Allowing employees to have input into the creation and implementation of your community service program will help to increase their level of engagement with the program.
Some considerations as you develop your program would be:
- Employee interest – find out what types of volunteer activities would be of interest to your employees.
- Policy – develop a written community service policy that can outline what types of activities would be included in the program (see below for more about this).
- Tracking – the most common metric is volunteer hours. In addition, you can combine this with employee satisfaction surveys to get a more accurate picture of the connection between volunteerism and employee satisfaction.
- Implementation – determine how you will roll out your program and consider having a kick-off event to make sure that all employees know about this new opportunity.
To get started, discuss this idea with company management and your green team. Be clear about the business case and benefits for your company.