Every year, the corporate citizenship team at Accenture hosts its Making a Difference Battle (MaDB). The competition is an opportunity for Accenture employees to create impactful projects that address wider social and environmental issues. But the benefits don't stop there...

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This year’s Making a Difference Battle was just as inspiring as ever and the initiatives developed (which will continue) show great potential for the future. The proud winner of first prize was 100% Kringloop, a project from Social Enterprise Lab, that aims to maximize the benefits we get from re-using, recycling and re-purposing used items – not only saving our environment, but also hiring people with a distance to the labor market in the process.

It’s a fantastic idea, and it’s just one of the many outstanding entries in this year’s competition, all with the admirable ambition to make the world a better place. The truth is, when we work together for our shared future, we’re all winners in the end. This article explains more about the inspirational whats, hows and whys behind employee-driven corporate social responsibility (CSR) and gives an interactive taster of the good that it can bring.

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When we work together for our shared future, we're all winners in the end.

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Making a Difference – our best practice in corporate citizenship

At Accenture, we believe that improving the way the world works and lives is the key to a better tomorrow. Starting by taking a look at what we should be doing, and then going on to consider what we could be doing, we developed a corporate citizenship program that aims to make business more responsible and make Accenture’s benefits and opportunities more widely accessible for all.

At its heart, our corporate citizenship program contributes to creating a more sustainable future, socially and environmentally, by aligning our strategic partnerships with the volunteering actions of our employees.

So how does it work?

Every year, each Accenture employee has 24 volunteering hours that they can spend working to support a cause they are passionate about. Using this as a starting point, we collaborated with our partner GoodUp to see how we can put the talent and skills of our colleagues to optimal use. With this idea in mind, our annual Making a Difference Battle was born.

In the Making a Difference Battle, our employees have one month to work together in cross-business teams to solve pressing social or environmental issues. Employees collaborate using their volunteering hours to create real, sustainable solutions to a specific problem, often in collaboration with social enterprise partners.

Each team receives support from the corporate citizenship team, while GoodUp provides tailored workshops on storytelling and pitching. This helps the teams to focus their efforts and create measurable impact, building on their initial ideas. All social partners benefit, but at the final stage, one project is awarded first place by a jury, which comes with a prize: a modest financial contribution to help the project grow.

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166 employees joined the battle, contributing over 2,200 hours to support 12 causes.

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In this year’s battle, our employees have done outstanding work to create a better future, taking on weighty issues such as carbon emission, gender equality and freedom of speech. In total, 166 employees joined the battle, contributing over 2,200 hours to support 12 causes they care about.

For a month, each team worked hard to put their expertise into practice ensuring a scalable impact. This year’s participating projects were Refugee Talent Hub, The Colour Kitchen, Buurtbuik, Plan International, Carbon Suckers, Vooruit, Missing Maps, Energy transition battle, Go Green, ORC, Amref and 100% Kringloop. All of the projects made a great impact and left everyone involved feeling inspired to do more.

At the finals of the Making a Difference Battle, a panel of esteemed judges selected the winner. The jury consisted of Accenture Foundation Board members Taimen Boumans, Judith Blijdenstein, and Irine Gaasbeek, Country Managing Director Netherlands, accompanied by Diana Krieger, CEO of GoodUp, and Arthur Simonetti, Marketing Director at DSM.

The winner was chosen as the project that provided a ready-to-use-toolkit for all circular stores in the Netherlands: 100% Kringloop. Their project focused on maximizing the impact of circular stores, underlining the importance of social and environmentally sustainable business practices. The 100% Kringloop team was awarded €2,500 to accelerate the project, and its impact, further.

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Doing good gives back – the benefits are worth the battle

Enabling a wider group of employees to get involved can be incredibly rewarding, both on a personal level for participants and in its impact on an organization overall. When people think of CSR, they might see it as the antithesis of traditional business concerns. And in some ways that is correct – corporate citizenship should be primarily focused on taking a responsible role in our communities, environment and future. But business can benefit from it, too!

Unlocking the value of employee engagement

What is the key to bringing out the best in your employees? What drives them to rise to their full potential? For years, the terminology of employee engagement and motivation colored the answers to such questions. Much research has been done; however, putting these concepts into practice remains a challenge.

At Accenture, we found that there is a strong desire amongst employees for purpose in their work. At its core, ‘purpose’ describes a sense of meaningfulness someone derives from their work. According to research from Harvard Business Review, people perform at their best when they identify with their work, and feel like they are contributing to something they care for or something that aligns with their values. Furthermore, the report identified a positive impact of purposeful work on the mental and physical well-being of employees.

By enabling employees to do good in their own personal way, they could find or even create purpose in their work, boosting engagement and motivation. Besides the personal purpose, taking part in initiatives such as the Making a Difference Battle provides a great learning environment. For instance, participants have the opportunity to learn new skills such as storytelling, pitching, team management and design thinking in a more open and naturally-motivated way. Employees can grow and learn from taking an active role in corporate citizenship projects – developing their potential and bringing what they’ve learned back to their everyday work.

It all starts with the ideas and the passion to make a positive impact. As individual employees learn and grow to meet the challenges they set for themselves, they become better employees: more engaged, more skilled, and more involved with the world beyond their daily tasks.

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They become better employees: more engaged, more skilled, and more involved with the world.

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Doing good – for others and for ourselves – makes people feel good

As more and more people see the impact of employee-driven CSR initiatives, both inside and outside of the organization, an innovative cultural change emerges: employees interact more diversely across the company based on shared passions and goals, and they positively associate their employer with purposeful work that connects with what they care about. Overall, better individual employees support the development of a more engaged and interconnected workforce. And still, at the heart of it all, we find people doing good just because they want to. It really is a powerful thing.

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This article has been created with the support of Amy Lees and Kaspar Holznagel.

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