The newest volunteers will bring essential employee skills and a corporate can-do attitude to the Sustainable Development Goals.
The UN has realised that the scope of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) makes volunteers critical to success.
In a report released in June, the UN says that volunteers are a great, under-utilised resource for “transforming governance” globally and creating change. It says that a billion people do some kind of volunteering globally.
There’s also a new type of volunteerism. While corporate philanthropy and employee engagement have always been with us, in this new era companies are more intentionally tapping into the resources of their employees and using them comprehensively.
Take IBM. Since 2008 the company’s Corporate Service Corps (CSC) has leveraged IBM’s top talent all over the globe in projects that foster sustainable development – more than 700 projects, using 2,000 IBM employees in 30 countries. IBM created the CSC to give back in a way that weaves philanthropy with its own internal business strategy.
That type of commitment also drives a new UN initiative called Impact2030, which will attempt to bring private sector energy and innovation to speeding up achievement of those big SDGs such as ending extreme poverty.
Sue Stephenson, vice-chair of the Impact2030 executive committee, says the effort is on track to get 100 companies signed up as members by September’s UN General Assembly in New York.
Stephenson says corporate volunteerism is already popular in North America and Europe, where it is understood that these efforts have a payback in skill-building and employee engagement.
Stephenson says that in future all companies will be looking for a way to map their corporate programmes to big goals like the SDGs, so that their efforts “ladder up to the critical issues on our planet. This is the way for all of us in the corporate world to show our employees that the work we are doing is part of a much bigger story.”
IBM is a founding partner in Impact2030, as is RitzCarlton Hotel Company, where Stephenson is vice-president of the Community Footprints internal corporate social responsibility programme.
Impact2030 will have a 15-year charter to create the same multi-stakeholder partnerships that the UN is touting to make progress on SDG goals. Stephenson says “action teams” will bring together different local and international companies with academia and NGOs to create the kind of projects that can make a measurable impact and be replicated and scaled.
“There will be a lot of focus on measurement,” Stephenson says. “The members in our network cannot turn up [at the UN] and say, ‘We’ve contributed 60 million volunteer hours’– that’s not going to be of enough value. Companies want to show that, if their employees contribute a million hours, what does that translate to in impact?”
Impact2013 will not officially launch until September, and Stephenson says there is still work to be done. She says her hope is that eventually “thousands” of companies join the effort. She adds: “Over time, and as this initiative is built out, the reach we will have is going to make a great story.”
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