"Our people are not satisfied with just one-time actions"
Employees renovate schools in Asia, clean up nature preserves in Scandinavia and give young people in Germany tips for putting together effective resumes and job applications. There is no limit to the number of ways in which Deutsche Post DHL employees can get involved in Global Volunteer Day and contribute to a good cause. In 2013, the Group is again encouraging employees around the world to take part in volunteer projects. In an interview with Deutsche Post DHL News, Christof Ehrhart, Director of Corporate Communications and Responsibility at Deutsche Post DHL, explains why Global Volunteer Day has been expanded into a year-round project and how this is part of the Group's larger corporate responsibility strategy.
Christof Ehrhart, Director of Corporate Communications and Corporate Responsibility Deutsche Post DHL
Mr Ehrhart, this is the third year in a row that Deutsche Post DHL is encouraging employees to take part in the Group-wide Global Volunteer Day. Why?
Christof Ehrhart: There are several reasons for this. We have made corporate responsibility an integral part of our larger corporate strategy across the Group. Responsible business and a sense of personal responsibility is something that we want to establish across the company at all levels. As a company with operations around the globe, we have a responsibility to the many communities in which we operate. We can only accomplish this if we get as many of our 475,000 employees as possible around the world to engage and turn this idea into reality. Over the last two years, we have also seen how these joint Volunteer Day projects boost team spirit and motivation amongst employees. Employees enjoy that they can support local projects in their area and will often get involved on a longer-term basis - not just for one-time actions.
You decided this year to extend Global Volunteer Day activities throughout the year. What do you see as the benefit of this?
Christof Ehrhart: Most of the Global Volunteer Day activity this year will still be focused between 5 and 15 September but it will no longer be limited to just these few days. We are now inviting employees to plan and implement activities throughout the year and tell us about their experiences. This not only gives more employees the chance to get involved; it also gives us a way to honour the many employees who devote themselves to their projects throughout the year. Employee participation has grown each year since the Group-wide launch of Global Volunteer Day in 2011. Last year more than 62,000 employees took part in about 1,000 different projects.
Deutsche Post DHL employees support projects around the world - from Germany to Indonesia, from Chile to South Africa. What are your criteria for selecting these projects?
Christof Ehrhart: We made the conscious decision not to define set criteria for our support. We want our colleagues to decide for themselves which projects - whether large or small - should receive support in their respective countries, regions and communities. Our employees are obviously most familiar with the situations in their respective communities; they have the connections to the relief organisations and can plan the projects accordingly. We shall often support ongoing, established projects as a way to avoid the 'flash in the pan' effect and we not only encourage our employees to take part but also extend the invitation to our customers and business partners.
We basically provide all projects with the organisational platform, bundle the activities and lend support in the form of tips and materials. At the same time, we encourage employees to make the connection between their volunteer projects and the three main focus areas of our Living Responsibility programme: environmental protection (GoGreen), education (GoTeach) and disaster management (GoHelp). You can see this reflected in the projects: employees are helping to re-build and renovate in the wake of the flood disaster in Germany, they are cleaning up the beaches in Thailand and are using our logistics expertise to help distribute donated toys.
How does Global Volunteer Day fit into Deutsche Post DHL's larger CR strategy?
Christof Ehrhart: Global Volunteer Day is an important part of our many Living Responsibility initiatives and programmes. As the leading global logistics company, we benefit from growth of markets in Asia, Europe, the Americas and Africa but in this leadership role, we also have an obligation to society. We need and want to be engaged in the many places around the world where we do business.
To this end we have initiated global co-operative partnerships where we work together with the United Nations, SOS Children's Villages, the educational network Teach For All and each of their country organisations. In addition, our employees support many smaller organisations in their local areas during the Global Volunteer Days. Through this combination of large-scale global projects on the one hand and small, local activities on the other, we can join together and gradually help shape the future of our society.
To conclude on a more personal note, have you decided in which project you will get involved this year?
Christof Ehrhart: I was already able to make a small contribution to Global Volunteer Day a few weeks ago. I visited a Teach First Deutschland partner school in Berlin, where I not only got a close look behind the scenes of one of our educational partners but also worked together with pupils representatives to develop a communications concept for a 'get out the vote' campaign. I was very impressed by the students' level of commitment and the numerous projects they had developed together with the fellows - teachers who work mainly with socially disadvantaged young people.