Companies and their employees are working together towards social solidarity. So-called “corporate volunteering” is becoming increasingly common in Italy, with hundreds of associations and entities establishing tight relations with companies who are involving their employees in projects that support the ill, help the poorest, protect the environment and much more. If necessary, this all takes place during working hours.
In the end, all parties involved stand to gain: the company boosts its reputation and builds better relationships with its employees, who also develop team working skills. Meanwhile, the charitable associations - and consequently society as a whole - can rely on the support of thousands more people.
Assolombarda is an association promoting corporate sustainability in Italy, in part through corporate volunteering. It also founded Sodalitas in 1995, a body that is sharing increasingly reassuring data on the matter. The latest Sodalitas report was drawn up in collaboration with market research company GFK Italia and revealed that 61% of companies encourage or have encouraged corporate volunteering activities. Particularly in the beginning, the driving forces behind this trend - imported from the English-speaking world - have been the big multinationals. But small- and medium-sized companies also seem to be getting increasingly involved in these projects: around 36% of companies enrolling in such schemes have fewer than 250 employees. Of these, 19% have fewer than 50. Sodalitas explains that this data is the result of a study involving a sample of 126 companies of all sizes, which overall contribute 9% of GDP and employ around 255,000 people.
Of these companies, 61% encourage or have encouraged corporate volunteering activities.
In addition to working hours, 90% of these companies also provide charitable organisations and associations with other types of resources, such as economic ones (65%), products (51%) and services, space and facilities (34%).
One of the first Italian companies to undertake a project of this kind was pasta producer Barilla: back in 2009, after the Abruzzo earthquake, the company created an emergency mobile kitchen, by refurbishing an old lorry and equipping it to quickly serve large numbers of hot meals during that difficult time. The project was coordinated in collaboration with the Italian Civil Protection Service and involved around 80 Barilla Group employees.
Around 300 employees at Alessi - a renowned manufacturer of designer everyday items - were this year involved in a social benefit project. The project involved repainting a primary school in Omegna (in northern Italy), cleaning up the green spaces in the area and accompanying the old and the disabled. The initiative was so successful that the company is continuing to propose similar projects to this day.
Companies’ outward-facing aims focus on three factors: supporting non-profit entity projects, establishing social networks in the area and improving the company’s reputation.
The final part of Sodalitas and GFK’s research provides detailed analysis of the objectives and benefits of corporate volunteering. “Analysing the scope of these projects shows they are fuelled by two main motivations: one internal, one external,” says the report. Companies’ outward-facing aims focus on three main factors: supporting non-profit entity projects or community-focused projects run by other organisations (64%), establishing social networks in the surrounding area that bring lasting value (34%) and improving the company’s reputation (49%). Internally, the focus is instead on creating a work force that is motivated and works harmoniously together (47%) and developing employee skills, although the importance of the latter is more marginal (14%).
The results are clear: 60% of companies said corporate volunteering increased the involvement of their employees, 49% cited an improvement in company atmosphere and 38% better team work. Looking next at the external advantages, the study confirms that 57% of respondents found corporate volunteering improved their reputation and 49% established better relations with the community.