June 20, 2019
A guest post by Craig Kielburger, co-founder of our charity partner WE.
When I was 12, I started a children’s charity to fight child labour. In the early days, we kicked down factory doors and boycotted companies. Almost 25 years later, WE Charity works in nine countries with a more holistic approach to development—and partners with some of the world’s biggest brands, including Virgin Atlantic. A pioneer for purpose, Richard Branson and the whole Virgin Group of companies helped lead the trend in business to leverage the vast resources of a for-profit enterprise to create social impact. Many more companies have since got on board.
It’s the dawn of a new era. Gone are the days when companies answer only to shareholders. Anyone can push companies to make a positive difference.
Savvy customers are shopping with social values in mind, looking for authentic brand stories from good corporate citizens. Purpose has become the new thing: Why do you exist, beyond the profit margins? What are you doing for the greater good? Positive social and environmental impacts are benchmarks, and a responsible brand reputation is everything. Increasingly, the most successful companies are embedding purpose into their core models.
Meanwhile, we’re all craving more meaning at the office. A whopping 75 percent of millennials say they would take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company, and 88 percent say their job is more fulfilling when employers give them the chance to make positive social impact. Boomers are delaying retirement in favour of career makeovers and more satisfying jobs.
If your work isn’t exactly changing the world, don’t quit just yet. Bring a worthy cause to your company and you could better your career reputation, boost your job satisfaction and move the needle on an important social issue. (It should be easy to find a business case to convince the boss, since purpose-driven companies tend to make more money).
There’s never been a better time for employees to take their own purpose to work.
Why not volunteer to run a team fundraising event, or head up a non-profit partnership? Your initiative and leadership will likely win you face-time with the boss and social capital with your coworkers. And it’s a chance to help your favourite cause.
With their vast supply chains, infrastructure and resources, companies are poised to effect change on a huge scale. Just look at what Virgin Atlantic did with its sustainability efforts in the sky, and with its Change for Children program. The airline became the first to collect spare coins from passengers to donate to various charities (including WE Charity). With the potential for big change, it’s our responsibility as consumers and citizens, and now as employees to push businesses to have more purpose.
Here are a few purposeful work tips from WEconomy: You can find meaning, make a living, and change the world, a book I co-authored with Virgin Group executive Holly Branson and my brother, WE Charity co-founder, Marc Kielburger.
Give office leftovers new life: Big companies can be wasteful. Encourage in-kind donations of old office supplies, equipment, or even leftover food from meetings. Be sure to check with local groups about which items are needed most before you pitch the idea to your team. You can also encourage your company to donate old inventory—in some countries, this will also qualify for a tax deduction.
Take your charity to work day: Invite a guest speaker from your non-profit partner for a lunch-and-learn session. Too often, corporate-charity partnerships don’t advertise the impact they’re making, but this is a huge opportunity for staff engagement and celebration. If you don’t have a charity partner yet, hold auditions. Invite several charities to present over several weeks, or have your co-workers stand up and make the case for their favourite cause. Then, staff can vote on their choice for the next donation or volunteer effort. This will also create ownership and buy-in for a campaign, ensuring your team is connected to the cause.
Team-building and do-gooding: Giving back is proven to boost moods and help with mental wellness, so encourage your colleagues to join a volunteer group together. You’ll get to know each other outside of office hours, and give back as a team. What better way to bond and learn to work better together? Or, go it solo and take a personal day off for your own service actions (personal days never seem to get used up anyway).
Why not help your company give back to a cause that you care about? Try bringing purpose to work.