Accessibility report

Corporate volunteering: How to make positive societal impacts

Corporate volunteering has become of interest during the past several years, also in Finland. Despite its growing popularity, until today, rather few businesses have formally organized their volunteering projects. Accordingly, there is not yet too much data available on corporate volunteering work. However, some illustrative experiences from volunteering projects and their impacts do exist.

About 12% of Finnish employees have reported that their employer offers the opportunity to participate in volunteering work (Kansalaisareena/Tuhat Suomalaista – Kalliolan Setlementti 3/2019). The tradition of making positive societal impacts can in Finland be traced back to the early 2000s, when Nokia initiated their first “Helping Hands” program, based on foreign examples.

Typical corporate volunteering work includes annually one or two days in projects chosen by the volunteer from a variety of opportunities provided by the employer. Interestingly, volunteering work is equally popular among management and staff, reflecting not only the desire to make good across the whole organization, but also the importance of values within management.  Corporate volunteering projects are often carried out in collaboration with non-governmental organizations. One interesting example in Finland was initiated by president Sauli Niinistö himself: Finnish banks and financial institutions collaborated to offer personal finance training for young people, together with the Deaconess Foundation.

There are some national specificities in corporate volunteering. In Finland volunteering work has traditionally been considered to belong to the third sector and be much based on individuals. This is connected to the extensive public services, which for a long time have not been the responsibility of private companies. However, lately, in line with increasing demands for businesses to contribute also to the society at large, corporate volunteering has become more popular. Extensive cross-sector networking has also paved the way for companies to be involved in solving societal challenges, for which corporate volunteering is one interesting means.

Our studies on corporate volunteering have been carried out in collaboration with researchers in Poland. The outcomes were quite similar, even though the starting points and the contexts were different. Volunteers gained experiences that affected their awareness of social responsibility and sustainability. This created remarkable impacts beyond the work done for beneficiaries in the volunteering projects. People wanted to continue doing good based on their experiences. Studies show indeed that for example over 60% of Finns are prepared to do volunteering work in their own time (Kansalaisareena/ Vapaaehtoistyö Suomessa 2021 -tutkimusraportti).

In our research we have found out that volunteering creates also impacts which emerge between companies and non-governmental organizations throughout their mutual relationships. This means that organizational impacts involve phases before and after the actual volunteering projects in which organizations participate.

The general attitude is increasingly in favour of collective responsibility: there is a wide consensus that we need to take care of everyone. Corporate volunteering projects are a meaningful way for businesses, non-governmental organizations and individuals to grasp this development. We can conclude that volunteering work has impacts over time on individual, organizational and societal levels.

More information:

Pauliina Ulkuniemi, Pauliina.Ulkuniemi[at]
Akram Hatami, Akram.Hatami[at]
Jan Hermes, Jan.Hermes[at]
Anne Keränen, Anne.Keranen[at]