"We believe strongly that responsible business practice builds the foundation for our long-term success as a company."
Interview with Christof Ehrhart, Executive Vice President of Corporate Communications and Corporate Responsibility, on Global Volunteer Day 2015 and its role as part of the Group’s CR strategy.
Christof Ehrhart, Director of Corporate Communications and Corporate Responsibility Deutsche Post DHL Group
Mr. Ehrhart, since 2008, Deutsche Post DHL Group has called on employees, and also customers and partners, to take part in its annual Global Volunteer Day. How successful has this call to volunteer action been?
Ehrhart: Since the beginning of Global Volunteer Day, we have seen a steady growth in enthusiasm on the part of our employees. In the earlier days, participation was more regional, with a major involvement from our colleagues in Asia, but last year we were already up to 108,000 employees taking part worldwide. This growth reveals how keen our employees are to engage and to give something back to their communities.
So how does it work?
Ehrhart: As a company, we specify a timeframe each year during which employees have the opportunity to contribute to a diverse range of projects; this year, the window will be from September 17th to the 27th. However, we consciously took the decision not to limit volunteer work to these days, but to recognize any activity also beyond this timeframe. We focus on projects which are related to our Corporate Programs GoGreen, GoHelp, GoTeach but many employees are also involved in supporting kindergartens, homes for the elderly or local charity projects all year round. For our partners in these projects (mainly non-profit organizations), this kind of continuous support on the part of employees is very helpful.
How are the projects chosen?
Ehrhart: The employees themselves, in their respective countries, decide which projects will receive support. They are, after all, most familiar with the situation in their country/region, have the contacts to charitable organizations, and are in the best position to plan the projects accordingly. And it's not just employees who take part; we also invite customers and business partners to get involved. Here at headquarters, we lend support in the form of organizational guidance and materials. And we collect their stories on a special website which serves as a source of inspiration for others as well.
Which partner organizations do they work with and why?
Ehrhart: The Group has initiated collaborative projects directly with international organizations such as the United Nations, Teach For All, SOS Children’s Villages and their respective country organizations. But for Global Volunteer Day our partners are often smaller organizations that our employees are familiar with in their respective country or city. Very often, it makes sense to engage in targeted projects. This year, I will for instance support our partner Teach First Deutschland in conducting job application training for young people at a school.
What does the Group do to support this overall engagement sustainably?
Ehrhart: It has developed to the point where, today, we encourage employees to plan and carry out their own volunteer projects and initiatives throughout the year, and to keep us informed on progress. As a Group, we support this with our specially designed Living Responsibility Fund, which allows employees to apply for financial support for "their" volunteer project each year. The amount depends on the invested time and the support is transferred directly to the organization as part of a donation. This kind of sustained involvement over a longer period of time translates into sustainable support.
Why is volunteering so important?
Ehrhart: On Global Volunteer Day employees have the chance to work together with their colleagues on a task completely different to their everyday work, so it's a chance to get to know another side of themselves and their colleagues. We have seen how this kind of joint activity fosters team spirit and motivation among the employees who take part. And, of course, contributing actively to a good cause can be very satisfying in its own right. One of the goals of our company is to give back to the communities in which we do business. One of our strategic goals is to conduct our business, in all areas, in a way that honors our responsibility to society and the environment. When our employees volunteer their time and energy to achieving these goals, they are also consciously carrying out - and living - our corporate strategy.
Global Volunteer Day is already an established part of your Corporate Responsibility strategy...
Ehrhart: Yes, Global Volunteer Day is part of a whole series of programs and initiatives that contribute to our Corporate Responsibility program. We believe strongly that responsible business practice builds the foundation for our long-term success as a company. In fact, more and more customers today will first consider a company's contribution to society before choosing a service provider. And our position as the world's leading logistics company is also a responsibility in itself. We feel both an obligation and a desire to get involved and contribute to society wherever we conduct business around the world.