Image: VSO/Allison Joyce

Why International Volunteering is (In)valuable to Your Company

By Chris Walker, VSO’s Director of Private Sector Engagement

Why International Volunteering is (In)valuable to Your Company

Getting involved in international corporate volunteering can leave you with mixed emotions. It sounds alluring, but you might get laughed out of the board room for making the case. The crucial question you will need to answer is; what would volunteers and the business get in return from spending anything from a month to a year working in a developing country on a project that helps to bring people out of poverty?

The companies that have developed international corporate volunteering programmes with VSO, the leading International Development Charity that works through volunteers, have identified five big returns that make corporate volunteering an extremely attractive proposition. Listen up…

1. Attracting top talent to your company

The competition for talent is intensifying as ‘millennials’ (educated, skinny jeaned younger people) are specifically seeking out socially responsible workplaces and the opportunity to have a direct impact in the wider world. According to Deloitte´s 2014 survey, 84% of millennials agreed with the statement “knowing I am helping to make a positive difference in the world is more important to me than professional recognition” and 77% stated that their ability to excel in their job is contingent upon deriving meaning from their work.

Accenture, the global management consulting services company, have long recognised that a meaningful corporate volunteering programme is a serious draw to potential recruits, and they leverage their long running VSO staff volunteering program to demonstrate how they are different on campuses to attract the best to their ranks.

Does your recruit package to the business leaders of tomorrow actually offer them what they want – to change the world?

2. Engaging, motivating and retaining your staff

A good manager recognises the importance of keeping staff motivated and engaged in order to keep them from looking elsewhere. Studies have shown that employees who take part in well-developed volunteering programmes are more likely to feel proud of and loyal toward their company and nearly twice as likely to be very satisfied with the progression of their career (8th annual Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT Survey, 2011).

Returned volunteers from IBM’s Corporate Service Corps showed that 82% “increased their desire to continue their career at IBM” and 78% of managers stating that “employee shows improved attitude and motivation” after completing an assignment. This is no small fry either, IBM sends 500 members of staff overseas with organisations like VSO each year.

HR directors – read it and weep!

3. Developing 21st Century leaders

By putting employees into challenging and unfamiliar circumstances and giving them a goal that they are highly motivated to complete, they have no choice but to move out of their comfort zones and adapt . There is really no quicker way to pass on the skills and aptitude necessary to mould a successful and effective leader.
Randstad, a leading global HR services company, has been sending their employees to volunteer with VSO for over a decade. Flexibility, adaptability, resilience, cross-cultural communication, and knowledge transfer skills of their staff have been developed through volunteering – at a pace that would be impossible in a traditional professional development setting.

Do you really think your training team can deliver the same through warm-up exercises and Play-Doh?

4. Strengthening Supply chains:

Economic theorist and strategist, Michael E Porter has identified “redefining productivity in the value chain” as one of the ways companies can generate shared value from their social responsibility investments. If you’re not an economic theorist, in practical terms that means if you work alongside the communities that provide you with their raw materials you need, companies can make those communities stronger and more resilient, so that supply can be guaranteed.

Mondelez, the multinational chocolate confectioner, have started to address potential shortfalls in cocoa yields by initiating a range of farmer community strengthening programmes, many with VSO, that make cocoa farming more attractive and viable. Regular groups of Mondelez employees visit these programme in order to better understand and help to shape the needs of the communities and take back these critical insights in order to improve their business practices.

It’s a win for you, a win for them and a win for us. Nom nom… Chocs.

5. Gaining market knowledge

By sending teams to emerging markets to work with local communities, businesses are able to understand more fully how these markets operate. At the same time, by providing training and capacity building to these communities, they can develop their potential to engage directly within the global marketplace and thrive as both producers and consumers.

Syngenta, a leading plant science company, is collaborating with VSO on this new approach. By living and working alongside rice and potato farmers for four weeks, their teams of employees are able to not only make evidence-based recommendations on how farmers can improve their yields and incomes, but also gain valuable insights into the needs and challenges of smallholder farmers and the innovations needed to make their own products and services viable and valuable within this growing market.

VSO is the world’s leading charity that works through volunteers. If you’d like to see how International Corporate Volunteering could work for your organisation visit:

Editor’s Note:

Image description:

Liz Hunt is Syngenta’s Sustainable Sourcing Lead. She’s pictured talking to farmers from the Rangpur district of North West Bangladesh. VSO is working in partnership with Syngenta on the three year Growing Together programme. The aim of the programme is to make farming more profitable for 7000 small-scale rice, potato and vegetable farmers in the Rangpur and Dinajpur districts of north western Bangladesh.

Share this story



Next Event

Business Fights Poverty Global Goals Summit 2024