Volunteerism is a Core Competency

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek

​By Diane Brady

Volunteerism is a Core CompetencyWhether it’s FedEx (FDX) delivering emergency medicine to disaster areas or Aetna(AET) tackling the health ailments of underserved communities, projects have more impact when they draw on a company’s strengths. Since it launched a bold push last year to curb obesity in its hometown of Camden, N.J., Campbell Soup (CPB)has freed up staff to design school menus and fresh produce displays for local stores. It also granted a food bank access to its production lines to turn wilting donations into 54,000 jars of peach salsa that raised $100,000.

A big donation, while laudable, isn’t the same as a corporate campaign. Facebook(FB) founder Mark Zuckerberg got plenty of kudos for donating $100 million to help fix schools in Newark, N.J. But Facebook itself doesn’t have a formal initiative to harness employees’ brainpower to transform education. Contrast that with AT&T(T): It’s invested more than $100 million in education, and its employees have contributed 270,000 hours to a program that has high schoolers shadow AT&T workers. More than 1 million students have participated, the company says.

Of course, some balk at the idea that corporations can or should aspire to be good citizens. Shareholders want the bottom line to come first, and workers might prefer to devote their free time to causes not tied to an employer’s agenda.