Community involvement is an integral part of the social pillar in our strategic Sustainability framework (see in this section). The requirement to engage with local communities is also embedded in our HSE standards and is part of our auditing cycles. Our main societal contributions fall into three areas:
There is a growing trend towards combining business strategic drivers with societal contributions. Strategic drivers include: license to operate, employee development, company and product branding and market growth through increased prosperity in society.
Our Community Program allows sites and individuals to take part in projects where our products/resources and the skills and knowledge of employees can benefit the wider community. In the past five years this has led to a variety of projects, from educating underprivileged youngsters to creating more awareness about the importance of a clean environment. It also provides opportunities for employees to develop team-building and leadership skills.
Since the start of the program in 2005, more than 8,000 volunteers from 50 countries have worked on over 1,600 projects, representing approximately €11 million in investment. Nearly 70 percent of projects have supported educational/employability and healthcare/well-being activities, with environmental and housing projects also well represented.
The fund is also available to support post-relief efforts for major disasters in countries where we operate, as long as there is hands-on involvement by our employees. For example, in 2011, our employees set up a cross-business initiative called ALERT (AkzoNobel Emergency Response Team) to support those left injured and homeless in Java following the eruption of the Mount Merapi volcano. The initiative focused on four main areas: providing free healthcare services, reforestation of destroyed land, reconstruction of the infrastructure and raising morale of children affected by the disaster through entertainment.
In 2011, 270 new projects were initiated, while more than 3,500 employees voted for their favorite entries in our annual Community Program Best Practice competition.
First prize went to employees in our Decorative Paints business in Mumbai, India, who have helped to set up a 150-acre model farm.
Cumulative Community Program involvement
The Education Fund was created at the end of 1994 in order to make a contribution to the education of children in developing countries. Since being launched, it has changed the lives of tens of thousands of young people by supporting projects from school renovation in Burkina Faso, through improving sanitation and hygiene conditions at schools in Vietnam, to improving the capabilities of primary school teachers in Brazil.
Plan Nederland estimates that several thousand children aged three to 16 have directly benefited from quality pre-school and primary education provided by the Education Fund.
In 2010, three new projects were initiated in Vietnam, India and Brazil to help young people – in many cases girls – find decent and safe employment that offers them long-term prospects. It is estimated that a special fundraising campaign in 2011 will raise around €150,000, which will enable us to provide around 500 young people with vocational training opportunities.