THE BLOG

International Corporate Volunteering: Rapidly Growing Trend to Advance People, Planet, Profits

03/04/2013 08:56 pm ET | Updated May 04, 2013

Corporations are recognizing their mutual interests in partnerships with NGOs and governments to address vital global challenges. Collaborations include companies bringing valuable resources to bear in helping to develop regional economies in emerging and dynamic markets where corporations seek to establish or expand their presence. In particular, companies are engaging in global pro bono, also known as international corporate volunteering (ICV), to foster leadership development among their employees, while also improving health care, education, and business success among local enterprises.

Deirdre White, president of CDC Development Solutions, points out that ICV is a "rapidly growing trend that improves the company's triple bottom line," meaning people, planet, and profits. In fact, over the past five years, the number of companies engaging in ICV programs has increased from just a handful to several dozen Fortune 500s and multinationals today. CDC Development Solutions partners with leading companies worldwide to facilitate ICV programs in more than 70 countries.

This April 11 and 12th, I will join corporate, NGO, and government leaders at the 4th Annual International Corporate Volunteerism (ICV) Conference, hosted by CDC Development Solutions. Held in Washington, D.C., the program will feature people from PepsiCo, IBM, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, John Deere, Merck, Emirates, SAP and others, who will share how ICV is building leadership ranks at their companies. Through ICV, these and other corporations deploy teams of employees who volunteer their professional skills for local governments, social enterprises, educational institutions, and NGOs in emerging and dynamic markets around the world.

The primary benefit to companies for engaging their employees in global pro bono is the uniquely effective leadership development opportunity of this immersion experience. Having facilitated last year's plenary session for returning ICV volunteers, I heard directly from panelists from Ernst & Young, GlaxoSmithKline, Intel, and IBM that teamwork, communications, listening and body language, diversity sensitivity, and problem-solving are among the skills they derived from their global pro bono deployments. These are the very skills that people require to be successful in business today. Additionally, by helping businesses and social enterprises in emerging markets to succeed and thrive, international volunteers advance regional economic development which is good for business.

At this year's conference, Dr. Angel Cabrera, president of George Mason University, will address the audience on "Leadership in a Converging World." "It is one thing to map out value-creating strategies on paper. To capture that value in practice is entirely different," points out Cabrera in his recent book, Being Global, How to Think, Act, and Lead in a Transformed World. "Where successful global firms stand out is usually not in the quality of the underlying analyses, but in the ability of their leaders to bring together people from different cultures and economic realities. To successfully lead a global organization, leaders need to possess a global mindset. Simply put, being global -- by leading and acting globally- requires that you first master the ability to think globally."

Another conference speaker Sue Tsokris, vice president Global Citizenship and Sustainability at PepsiCo, explains what makes her company's program successful. "PepsiCorps is designed for 360 degree benefit, which is what makes it successful. Employees develop leadership skills and international experience, PepsiCo gains globally-minded employees that return more flexible, solution-oriented, inspired, and committed to their jobs, and the local community we serve and NGOs we partner with benefit from the knowledge and skills of our employees."

The best way for companies to design and implement global pro bono programs that maximize the benefits of their ICV programs is through partnerships and collaboration. Please join us in Washington in April to explore how your company or organization can benefit, while helping to build a better world.