Boosting Corporate Social Responsibility
When Sean Keown walked into his colleague’s Lunch and Learn session on volunteering, he had no idea that it would lead him to Kingston, Jamaica for a seven-week volunteer placement. “It sounded so interesting,” says Sean. “I knew I had to give it a shot.” Cuso International works with corporate partners to offer volunteer opportunities that empower employees to make a difference in the global community. Deloitte, a professional services firm, offers an International Development Fellowship that allows employees to take a leave of absence to volunteer with Cuso International.
Sean’s assignment was to travel across Jamaica and speak with entrepreneurs who operate small and medium-sized businesses and were identified as leaders in corporate social responsibility. His goal was to show how a local business with a limited budget can make small changes, reap big rewards and give back to the community.
One business owner, a local grocer, made a point of hiring people with hearing disabilities to work as cashiers and baggers. Due to a shortage of job opportunities available to people with disabilities, the grocer recruited driven and dedicated workers, reduced his turnover rate and increased the quality of customer service. “This was a low-cost initiative that helps the business and the community,” says Sean. “All the owner had to do was use more written and physical communication at work.”
As a first time volunteer, Sean was happy with the amount of training he received from Cuso in preparation for his placement, especially with respect to cultural differences. “Whenever something came up, it was just a matter of remembering the training,” Sean says. “It made it easier to go with the flow.”
The seven weeks of his placement flew by and soon, Sean and his colleagues were presenting their findings to a large group of stakeholders. “I’m proud of the quality and the depth of the work that we shared during that roundtable,” says Sean. “We made a strong argument in favour of corporate social responsibility for small and medium sized businesses.”
Now back in Canada, Sean is planning another placement with Cuso International – and he is encouraging his coworkers to give volunteering a try! An active promoter of the International Development Fellowship at work, Sean supports his colleagues as they go through the application process. “I try to give them a little nudge to actually fill out the forms and submit them,” laughs Sean. “Once they’re on the ground, they’ll see how amazing volunteering is, for both personal and professional development.”