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Corporate social responsibility programs can enhance communication and unity in organizations. Pictured here are SAP employees planting trees with Ontario Streams.

Corporate Social Responsibility isn't just good for employees and the communities they live and work in – it's also good for business. That's the opinion of Paula Speevak, president and CEO of Volunteer Canada, a national organization that facilitates and promotes volunteerism and civic participation and reciprocal relationships among businesses and community groups.

Businesses that implement corporate social responsibility programs can reap myriad benefits; for example, they can attract and retain top talent, says Ms. Speevak. Especially in situations where volunteer opportunities align with an individual's values, "people develop a pride in both themselves and the places they work, and that enhances their overall engagement with the company," she explains, adding that research indicates that Canadians would choose a job with an organization that shares their values and provides them with opportunities to act upon them even if it means a decrease in other benefits.

Corporate social responsibility programs also enhance communication and promote unity in organizations large and small. "When you're volunteering together, there is a level of equality and a degree of communication that is not always present in the workplace," she says. "But then suddenly, people who don't ordinarily speak to each other are digging or painting or celebrating together as part of something that matters to them all, and the good will that is fostered gets transferred back to the workplace."

Gift WrappingAmerican Express Canada employees wrapping holiday gifts for kids to receive from The Children's Breakfast Clubs (Photo Credit: SUPPLIED)

There can be strategic benefits as well. Human resource managers often find they can develop leadership skills by assigning individuals to leadership positions in volunteer activities. "They could be assigned to a committee or even lead one engaging in a fundraiser or community event," she says.

Deloitte Canada, a professional services firm providing audit and assurance, consulting, financial advisory, tax and related services, has extensive corporate social responsibility experience. "Our focus is all around breaking down barriers around education, employment and inclusion," says Sarah Chapman, director, corporate responsibility. She adds that best practices can help improve outcomes for all stakeholders.

"Align around a focused cause or theme," says Dr. Chapman. "Don't try to be everything to everybody. And when you're aligning, think about the area of focus and how it relates to your organization's core competencies and assets. If you can harness your expertise and assets, you can both differentiate yourself and have a more meaningful impact in the community."

Ms. Speevak adds that corporate responsibility efforts benefit from flexibility. "It's better if there are a variety of options suitable to the temperament and skills of the individuals involved," she advises. "Encourage and inspire."

Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.