Tag Archives: corporate social responsibility

The Advent of the Corporate University and How it Impacts Your Company

corporate training

Business schools are gaining some competition. But it’s not from one another, it’s actually from corporations.

Corporations have set up “corporate universities” in order to serve upper level management, and sometimes the entire company.  What they’re doing is educating their team on the essential principles, functions, and operations of how the company works.  Even further, they’re giving business lessons, communications, and technical expertise that can be taught on this “corporate campus,” often obliterating the need for “B-School.”

One of the first company’s to lead the charge was Unilever, a consumer goods company that has been around nearly 60 years.  Its main focus is actually working on an important part of Corporate Social Responsibility, sustainable business.  A lot of classes are geared toward CSR, toward cultivating a sense of “purpose driven leaders.” Part of the management’s internal reasoning is that the world is extremely challenging to navigate and many economies, both developed and emerging, are considered volatile.

To address this, Unilever started gathering the best from the talent pool. Not just employee talent, but professor talent. They recruited some of the top leaders from INSEAD – one of the world’s largest business schools – to be their main professors.

unilever-logoWow. Let’s think about this. Companies becoming a self-sufficient body of knowledge about not only themselves, but the world in which they operate.  How will this change our world? In one way, it relates to recruitment and the strength of your workforce.   If your company doesn’t have a company university, it might be a flag for someone wanting to join a world savvy, resource-rich company that not only provides for employees, but invests in them.

Company universities are becoming the norm.  Apple has taken teachers from Yale; Boeing from the University of Washington; and Unilever from the Harvard Business School.

There is also the difference between educating the entire workforce and just the senior leadership.  Unilever focuses on the top tier.  ArcelorMittal is a steel maker but they have campuses not only in their main centers but also in more isolated places such as the Ukraine and South Africa.  They might open up some campuses in Kazakhstan and Brazil, even though the latter’s economy has not been doing well.  Their point is that they need to educate the firm to understand the principles of the company, to provide technical training, and many times ensure that English is understood as a first language.

They will even provide training in the local dialects where necessary.  It’s a comprehensive education.

What these companies are doing is addressing the real world and where new business lies.  Developing markets may account for more than half of global revenue for many of these companies.   They are strengthening how the company operates locally, and growing management up from within.   And this means that in CSR, our practitioners need to know and embrace these economies in sustainability, philanthropy and volunteering. If you are going to help, you must know the economy and culture on the ground, in order to be effective.


And if you think these “schools” don’t really compete with Business schools, let’s review this.  McDonald’s corporate university was started more than 50 years ago, so it’s not even a new trend.  They offer courses in nearly 30 languages, and people actually “graduate” from campus.  Some note that’s China campus is harder to get into than Harvard.   99% of the people The Advent of the Corporate University and How it Impacts Your Companywho apply get turned down.

Whether its McDonald’s flagship campus in Illinois or Unilever’s school in Singapore, the trend is clear: Corporate universities are giving traditional business schools a run for their money. All leaders, including those in CSR, want to be growing as professionals.   And companies want to attract great talent at all levels.   Having a strong training program in place, and perhaps soon a full-fledged academic program, may help ensure you attract and keep the right CSR leaders.



Corporate Volunteering: Get the Community to See Beyond your Company’s Name


Volunteering as a Positive Return for All

Volunteering is such an important part of our culture, since the inception of our country. It’s in our blood to help, and a natural fit. And yet in order for it to be a win-win situation for everyone, we must think practically about how to make volunteering effective. In this way, nonprofits, corporations, and the corporate employees are inspired to not only start but also continue volunteering.

For each group, there are specific points to keep in mind. The following tips are insights I have gathered in leading (as founder and CEO) the nonprofit UniversalGiving, where we work with Fortune 500 companies on their Corporate Social Responsibility programs, both domestically and abroad.

We’ll start with the benefits of employee volunteering to the companies. Volunteering is a key part of any CSR program. First, it’s the most cost-effective. Your goal is simply to incentivize your employees to get involved as individuals. This is much cheaper than providing matching grants or company donations. In fact, about 46% of companies in Silicon Valley even provide time off for their employees to volunteer.1

To take it to the next level, you can also organize corporate team volunteer events. These events can be some of the highest forms of team building, and, cross-business unit collaboration. So if you are a CSR professional seeking an inexpensive, high leverage way to bolster a positive culture and team-building, this is the option for you. It’s interesting to note that 40% of Silicon Valley companies have 1-4 corporate sponsored events per year; and, even more impressive, 46% of companies hold 10 or more events per year.2

Additional benefits follow to the company. It helps them enhance their corporate brand image; the community sees your company’s presence in a positive light, and in numerous different situations.  Having a meaningful volunteer program in place also improves the recruitment process for new employees: They know your company cares by officially supporting this program as part of the culture. Most likely some new recruits have even met some of your current employees while volunteering themselves. An important plus is that it keeps employees with you; retention rates rise.

A final note for companies is local buy-in. It’s important that local communities see beyond the company’s office buildings, its logo and it marketing. Company employees volunteering in the community lends a new light of visibility to companies. One that instills a sense of trust and engagement. It highlights your company’s presence. All of these warm factors help a company’s bottom line while also serving the community.

One of the toughest issues companies face in implementing a top-quality CSR strategy, and volunteer program, is with which NGO Partners they decide to partner. Establishing and maintaining these partnerships should be made with care, and for the long term. You can read more about how Fortune 500 companies can protect themselves and their brand as they expand their international giving and volunteer programs worldwide in my blog post: “Top 4 International Insights for Fortune 500 Companies.” 

Employees, just like the companies they work for, must also be diligent about choosing the right nonprofit with which to work. In order to maximize the return on their volunteer experience, employees should look for a nonprofit whose mission addresses the issues about which they are most passionate.

In addition, employees also need to look at the governance and type of organization. They need to make sure the leadership and organizational structure of that nonprofit are a good fit. Is the vision clearly articulated and followed? Is the leadership compelling and trustworthy? Is the specific opportunity allowing them to make the biggest impact using their current skills while also providing them the opportunity to learn new skills? I recently wrote an article for TILE Financial’s Spend Grow Give program, and although it is directed at volunteers in their teens, it is nonetheless an excellent resource for volunteers of any age.

Nonprofits, in turn, can benefit most from corporate volunteers by establishing clear roles and communications with them. Nonprofits need to craft individual volunteer positions that serve both their goals and the company’s interests. Nonprofits can also do due diligence on a particular employee to find out how he or she might want to grow and contribute. Then determine how it can fit with the nonprofit’s mission and vision. Does it help with a specific program, outreach services, marketing, operations, accounting? Be sure you are specific about the value to you.

As in the corporate world, “a return” on your volunteering and time spent should be achieved for everyone. Individuals should feel they are growing and contributing significantly and with defined impact. Companies and their employees should feel their skills are being leveraged while reinforcing a strong culture and brand. And nonprofits should ensure their organization’s assets, in this case, its volunteers, are purposefully engaged. With this type of thoughtful planning, volunteering is a positive win for all.

1, 2: 2010 Corporate Citizenship in Silicon Valley

GOOD NEWS: More People Drinking Water and Not Soda. Congratulations Coca Cola and Pepsi!

Water is hot and diet soda is not.” Wall Street Journal Continue reading

Opportunities in This Tough Economy

Here is my response to an Economist article on what entrepreneurs and companies have to do in this gritty economy.  And this is what Embrace is doing!

All my best,



I love that you are being positive. A lot of cost-effective innovation is taking place here — and locally grown, locally serving. Even if the group is national and international, they know they have to relate locally and culturally. That’s the key, whether in economics, philanthropy or Corporate Social Responsibility.

Thank you –


Read the article:Gold-hunting in a Frugal Age

Freedom May Come Incrementally: How UAE Helped Pioneer Philanthropy and CSR by Innovator Sheikh Zayed

Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan was a prominent ruler, philanthropist and promulgator of Corporate Social Responsibility, providing a great model for the Middle East.  First, he was a strategic political leader, by helping to create the United Arab Emirates, assuming its presidency, and being reelected 6 times. So he first had leadership under his belt, which then helped impact his philanthropy and Corporate Social Responsibility.

UAE became very prominent in philanthropy due to Sheikh Zayed’s connection between oil and philanthropic projects, which is a model for many countries all over the world.  While many countries divert oil revenues to corrupt means, Sheikh Zayed devoted much of it to strengthening the community.   He utilized oil revenues to help adopt hundreds of orphans throughout the country.  He mobilized a foundation to construct hospitals, schools and universities. These opportunities were available to all UAE citizens, and also free.  What a powerful gift to his community, constituency and country.

Beyond politics and philanthropy, he also made a solid contribution towards religion, in an age of divisiveness.   He believed his country was wedded to religion, and that the gifts provided from God should be shared, yet without fanfare to a specific individual.  So his type of giving was humble and understated.  In an age when so many seek their name on a building, Sheikh Zayed was a “quiet giver.”

This example is backed by a fundamental belief in Islamic society: Giving to the poor is requisite. Yet it also provides individual redemption: It keeps citizens pure in motive, and staves off any inclination of greed.  And the type of giving is not only a handout, but to help people live lives based on long-term sustainability, with consistent incomes.

Religion, then, plays a strong role in the motivation behind his philanthropy.  For some, this will seem an imperfect model combining religion with good works; for others it can be seen as a positive step forward in a confusing “range of Arab Springs.”

Each country is finding its own way.  It’s manifest in their voice, religion, social change, philanthropy and CSR.  Sheikh Zayed provides one example towards forward thinking, new freedoms, and advancement for society.

We should also note that Sheikh Zayed promulgated the acceptance and tolerance of other religions.  It’s a model that’s one positive step forward.   It’s something we must come to terms with many “struggling Arab Springs”: Freedom may come incrementally.  Each country is finding their own way, in their voice, religion, social change, philanthropy and CSR.  Here’s one example towards forward thinking, new freedoms, and advancement for society.

Sheikh Zayed furthered his contribution across the capital realm: He continued to innovate on the corporate front of philanthropy.  He encouraged Corporate Social Responsibility so that  it was a part of the corporate culture very early on.

Let’s see Sheik Zayed’s model as one positive example of how the Middle East’s philanthropy, values and stability can help further this new age of citizens.  Citizens such as you and me, striving to have a voice, enhanced life, and stable, kind society for all.

Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan (1918 – 2004) was an important leader in the Middle East.  A member of the traditional ruling family of Abu Dhabi, he held various government positions until 1966.  At this time the previous ruler was deposed in a bloodless coup, and Sheikh Zayed assumed rulership of Abu Dhabi, with a goal to develop the country.  He was instrumental in the founding of the United Arab Emirates, and was chosen as their first president.  He was re-elected at five-year intervals for the next 30 years.  Sheikh Zayed is recognized for his comparatively liberal policies and for his charitable work, including establishing the Abu Dhabi Fund for Arab Economic Development, channeling money to forty Arab nations in need in Asia and Africa.

Global Trends in How Companies Are Engaging Their Workforce

This is a recent communication I sent out to our CSR Enthusiasts. Exciting to see how companies are engaged, and getting their employees engaged!

Dear CSR Enthusiasts,

In keeping with providing you with trends in the CSR landscape, I wanted to provide you some valuable information from a few different CSR sources.   This information can help you benchmark your programs in general. It can also help you with the following:

1) Future CSR Strategy.   Determining your future CSR strategy and programs

2) Current CSR Unique Value Proposition.  Understanding why you have invested in certain CSR programs, even if they are not “the most popular.”  (It is not always a bad thing to have different programs; it depends on your product, your goals, your industry.  In addition, it could well separate you from the competition.)

3) Current and/or Future CSR Program Justification.  Should executives questions your decisions or ask for justification, you can point to the trends that the following programs are the most successful, and that the company engages in them.  Or, it can be used to put forth why a new program should be adopted.


The most successful domestic employee volunteer programs included:

  • Dollars for Doers.
  • Paid-Release Time.
  • Company-Wide Day of Services.

The three most successful international employee-volunteer programs were:

  • Paid-Release Time.
  • Company-Wide Day of Service.
  • Dollars for Doers and Employee Recognition Awards (Tie).


The following programs saw the largest increase in the number of companies offering it:

Domestic Offerings:

  • Family Volunteering (10 additional companies).
  • Paid-Release Time (5 additional companies).

International Offering:

  • Paid-Release Time (7 additional companies).
  • Dollars for Doers (5 additional companies).
  • Team Grants (4 additional companies).

I hope this information is helpful to you.  Thank you for being leaders in the realm of Global CSR.

Warm Regards,


Early CSR Efforts, in the ’90s

This is one of my first forays into CSR.  I have to say at a very young age I have both loved nonprofit work, as well as the forprofit sector.  You can read some of my early thoughts as I am getting involved in the sector, giving a speech at Bank of America, about Corporate Social Responsibility.


Good morning, we’re very excited to be here this morning.  We’ve come from California, and we’re thrilled to be partners with Team Bank of America in this initiative…I’ve been a Bank of America customer since I was ten years old.  So—  [applause] Does that work?  Okay, good, I’m so glad.  My father took me to review all the different banks, and I did my market analysis when I was ten and I’ve never changed.

We are a part of VolunteerMatch.  We are an internet based nonprofit organization that creates web-based services that make it easy for individuals, nonprofits and corporations to get involved in the community.  We have been around for about five years, continuing to build on these different applications, and the first one is a public service, VolunteerMatch.  This matches volunteers with nonprofits.  It’s free for the nonprofit organizations.  They simply come into our site, list their mission statement and volunteer opportunities.  And then volunteers come in, punch in their zipcode, choose from a list of criteria—could be welfare-to-work, could be homelessness, the environment—and then they can find the volunteer opportunities in their area.

To date we’ve matched more than 240,000 volunteers with nonprofits nationwide.  We feature more than 20,000 opportunities from all over the United States, and that number’s increasing as we get more and more nonprofits using this free service.  So as we talk more about this service, this is one of the areas that Team Bank of America associates can take advantage of, nonprofits you know of in utilizing this free source.

One of the things that has really helped with the success of VolunteerMatch, and then also our program for Bank of America, has been our partnerships with companies such as AOL, Snap, Yahoo, that drive traffic to our site.  We do co-branded partnerships with them that drive the people and visitors and eyeballs to our site, so that people know that VolunteerMatch is this public resource for both the nonprofits and the volunteer community.

Subsequent to that, what we decided to do, since our mission is to create these services that increase community involvement, was we took a look at the corporate space.  We saw a lot of corporations who were concerned with the visibility of the corporation within the community.  We also saw that as corporations go into each of their local communities, it’s no longer enough to simply offer jobs.  Corporations are giving financially.  They are giving of their employee time.  So to really make sure that a corporation’s presence is felt in the community, it’s no longer enough about just setting up the physical structure and offering the jobs there, so we felt we could really tailor or customize a service that really meets the corporate needs and expectations.

And in addition, what this service also does is it really helps with the whole sense of team within Team Bank of America.  All of you all are volunteering, be it individuals or in groups, and this service really helps bring everyone together.  So what is it?  It’s VolunteerMatch Corporate, and what it does is create a tailored, customized site for Team Bank of America employees.

We have a booth set up in the resource center.  You can check out Team Bank of America’s private label site, so it’s got the kind of look and feel of Team Bank of America with your logo.  And what you can do is go in, find volunteer opportunities, search by your local zipcode, choose from criteria whether you want a one-time or an ongoing event.  You can choose from over twenty different categories.  And then you click on “find” and it comes up with the opportunities in your area.  So that’s the first part of the service.

The second is a tracking capability, so that you can come into a certain area on the site, underneath Activity—and that’s underneath the yellow bar on the top, and you click on Activity.  And up there it shows you how many people have signed up this week; how many people have signed up for the whole year; what are the most popular opportunities for Team Bank of America in each of the local areas all across the U.S. and soon to be internationally. 

So you can come in as an associate in your local area, and find out what are your employees getting involved in.  And you can send them an email and ask them what their experiences are, or would they like to have this sponsored as more of a larger group event.  You can email all of the group by region, so that you can talk or speak or communicate with them, and find out about their experiences in the whole local area.  And in addition, what we have—and this is more for the private reporting—is aggregated information so that you can do your reporting on all of the hours and on all of those kind of solutions.

Finally, we also have an element that allows you to feature opportunities, so that you can feature what is important in your local area and drive your employees towards those kind of opportunities.  So our whole purpose is to make this customized for you, to bring to light the important aspects of Team Bank of America, be it opportunities in welfare-to-work, environment, or any other specialized area that you choose to get involved in.

And for us, I found a lot of similarities in what we heard yesterday.  One of the key words is “ingenuity.”  If you looked at the different products, what they all had in common is they made it easier.  They made a process easier, they made it simpler.  So what we really try to do is bring all that information together on the web, make it customized for Bank of America, so that it is simple for you to use in your efforts to get involved in the community. 

And finally, we are very proud to be partners with Bank of America, simply because we know that companies that promote and endorse volunteerism have a much greater level of respect internally from their employees, from customers and clients, suppliers, nonprofit organizations, and the community at large.  And so we really hope that VolunteerMatch Corporate and our partnership can really be that tool for you as you continue to exemplify those values of volunteerism, and continue to build that unique brand that you all are establishing in the community.