Corporate volunteerism – impact or branding?

FedEx Trucks Alaska

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I must say I’m conflicted on the subject of volunteerism s it a scam or is it real? As a student I had the opportunity to take a day out and work in order raise funds for different projects. I did not my self choose the project or what I got paid for the job but it did give me a sense of belonging to a group of people who were out to do a difference for people who were less well of. The school I was enrolled in gave us students the day of (we would properly have stayed away anyway) in-order to help people out and the time was not registered as absence in our student records.

But what is the difference when companies adopt the same approach. Last week I saw this press release from FedEx were 4000 or 1,8% or the workforce took a day out to make a contribution to the local community.

The FedEx Cares Week as it is called began in the U.S. in 2005 and had since then expanded to more than 40 countries and territories around the globe. Meaning that around 100 people in each country have signed up for the event and it is properly likely that there will be more in the US then in the rest of the countries involved.

“FedEx Cares Week creates deeper connections between our FedEx employees and the local communities we serve,” said Stephanie Butler, manager of Global Citizenship at FedEx. “Every day FedEx employees passionately help customers solve logistics challenges. Through FedEx Cares Week, our employees extend that passion to help local communities with critical social issues.”

According the FedEx the projects involve activities like:

  • Environmentally-focused activities throughout the Asia Pacific region, ranging from tree planting and greening of beaches and urban spaces to conducting environment-focused education sessions
  • Building Improvement and restoration for schools, orphanages, homes for the elderly and ill; environmental clean-up and reforestation projects; and spending time with children, the elderly and people with HIV throughout Latin America
  • Food bank assistance, renovation and clean-up projects for children and senior citizens, and supporting the homeless and adults with disabilities in the U.S.
  • Supporting disadvantaged children and hospitals with books, school supplies, painting activities, and fundraising for children with long-term diseases in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region; cleaning a beach and restoring a river bank; as well as an employee donation drive in support of UNICEF’s relief effort in the Horn of Africa. The employee donation drive coincides with in-kind transportation provided by FedEx with two B-777 relief aid flights into Kenya providing food assistance, in collaboration with UNICEF.

I think that there are several questions that this and other likeminded projects entails.

  1. While there is no doubt that the press release is will written from a communicative point of view it makes one wonder if anything which just resembles CSR can be made into marketing, branding and career campaign?
  2. The employees are working in their local community with projects of their own choice what right does FedEx have to use this in their CSR communication. Is the time spend not owned by the employee them selves and not FedEx?
  3. What does this peace of information really tell us about FedEx as a whole when they can only muster under 2% of their employees to take make a effort even when it is directed at people close to home?
  4. What is the real impact of these 20000 hours of work that the employees of FedEx are contributing with if it not directed at something specific?
  5. I think that the experience from my student days was that it was the sense of making a difference that motivated not that the work in it self. So would it not be more soothing that FedEx gave one payday to a given project and really make a difference?

Volunteering seem to be the buzzword of corporate HR and CSR department these days but what is the real tangible impact of these efforts I do not know other than feeding the branding machine.



One thought on “Corporate volunteerism – impact or branding?

  1. Pingback: Boundaries of CSR « SRI Portfolio Management

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