by Mohammed Sharaf, DP World
Businesses are perfectly placed to use their reach to bring about considerable benefits to the communities in which they operate. This is especially true of global businesses who, by acting in the belief of ‘doing good’, can unite a diverse workforce behind a common mission – building a robust organisation, here for the long term.
At DP World, we take our responsibility to sustainability seriously and to deliver on our commitments to our people, our customers and our planet, we rely on the enthusiasm, ideas and skills of all our employees. We are present in more than 35 countries, across six continents, and we encourage every one of our family of 36,000 people to play a part in creating the future we want to see – and for those that come after us.
We have established programmes across the globe supporting issues of social relevance such as improved education, better health and marine protection. We deliver these programmes in a number of ways but volunteering with community partners is still, and always will be, a key way of making this happen.
Building on a long established culture of volunteering, we created ‘Global Volunteer Week’, a weeklong focus every December in which we actively encourage everyone to engage with the community and to make a difference. This year was the second time we have run Global Volunteer Week. Some 3,250 volunteer hours were contributed to our local communities, benefitting over 8,400 people. We saw a 30% increase in the number of programmes we delivered and more than doubled the number of people who personally benefited from our efforts.
Examples of programmes undertaken this year included decorating Christmas activity kits for underprivileged children in Argentina, preparing meals for the homeless in Western Australia, helping care for children with disabilities in Dubai and raising awareness of the importance of safe drinking water in an Indian school.
To ensure there is strong uptake with volunteering, we show leadership from the top. We want a culture where doing good is seen as an important part of everyone’s job. I supported a homeless shelter near our London offices, called The Passage. I joined others in preparing meals for those in need and was touched by the enthusiasm of my colleagues and shared with them the positive experience of seeing firsthand the benefit of our contributions.
Global Volunteer Week does not sit as an ‘add on’ to our business, but is central to how and why we do business. It is the culmination of a year-round commitment to our communities – last year, our employee volunteers supported 527 organisations, benefiting more than 64,000 people and our figures for 2015 are set to grow further.
Global Volunteer Week is a great example of a global plan with local action that enables each of our more than 65 business units to consider what will bring the greatest benefit relevant to what they do and where they are, integrating it into what they do on an on-going basis.
Working with our communities in this way not only enriches the quality of life of the people we help, it improves motivation and offers development opportunities for the individuals taking part. We see volunteering as a highly effective way of developing skills and training.
Our volunteering programme has helped us build excellent levels of engagement in our workforce, with 77% saying that “DPW is corporately responsible in the community”. Our annual employees survey also shows high levels of understanding and support for our organisational objectives, which is crucial to getting everyone behind our mission.
Having such a large and diverse workforce – not just geographically but also in job roles – Global Volunteer Week is a perfect way to bring everyone together to feel part of a global family. We share stories of what we are doing around the world through social media, through our intranet and through our website. We make it the focus of coffee breaks and corporate events.
We rely on engaged and motivated employees to build a strong business. An engaged workforce attracts the top talent and boosts retention.
It establishes a mutual relationship of trust between a business and the communities in which it operates. Conversely, disengaged employees are one of the biggest threats any business can face.
It can lead to higher turnover, absenteeism and, in a business like ours, could mean people are more likely to take risks or experience accidents.
It should be the obligation of every business of every size in every location to build strong partnerships with their communities and to provide every employee the opportunity to be part of this through in-work volunteering. It is core to being a business that is serious about being sustainable, and doing business for years to come.