29 June 2004
Corporate philanthropy and social investments are common practices in developing countries, but there are not many examples of long-term formal corporate volunteering programmes, says a new research report published jointly by the United Nations Volunteer (UNV) programme and the New Academy of Business (NAB).
UNV and NAB began the action research project in 2001 in association with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to support healthy business-community relations and enhanced corporate citizenship practices at the local level in economically developing countries.
The project constituted 70 case studies of such private sector initiatives in seven countries: Brazil, Ghana, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, the Philippines and South Africa. A synthesis of the case studies as well as key findings and conclusions of the project has been published in the form of a global report called "Enhancing Business-Community Relations: The Role of Volunteers in Promoting Global Corporate Citizenship".
The report explores practices being used by businesses and communities to improve their relationships as they recognize the mutually dependent dimensions of their success. Many businesses continue to struggle to balance partnership and domination approaches in their relationships with communities. Similarly, communities are often caught between assessing the benefits of satisfying current needs versus achieving longer-term development
The study also looked at the contribution of volunteerism in improving relations between the private sector and in communities where they operate. It found that all countries have a strong tradition of individuals undertaking voluntary work in their communities. But there are fewer examples of long-term formal corporate volunteering or employee involvement programmes.
In terms of partnerships, the study found that various businesses are managing and understanding the influence of groups of stakeholders upon their business operations and strategies. It found companies responding with a variety of engagement strategies.
The concept of corporate citizenship or corporate responsibility is also gaining acceptability in developing countries, the report says. "It has come to be recognized in recent years as both a framework to enhance understanding of the role of business in society and as an area of practice in its own right."
"Our initial contact with the private sector," says Ad de Raad, Executive Coordinator a.i. of UNV in his foreword to the report, "followed by pilot activities, has revealed that many companies realize businesses have a responsibility, not only to shareholders, customers and employees, but also to society at large; that business has a role to play, not only in contributing to economic growth, but also to social and political stability."
David F. Murphy, Director of the New Academy of Business sees a lot of value in the research findings. "We believe that the findings, conclusions and recommendations herein will offer UNV, the New Academy, businesses, NGOs and other organizations important lessons about the contribution of corporate volunteering and business-community relations to eliminating poverty and achieving sustainable human development," he says in his foreword.
Besides the global report, the outputs of the research project constitute 70 case studies and seven country reports. All the reports are available on the UNV and NAB websites for free download. Printed copies may also be obtained from UNV.