Different Drivers: Exploring Employee Involvement in Corporate Philanthropy

Journal of Business Ethics 165 (3):453-467 (2020)
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Abstract

Corporate Philanthropy is multi-dimensional, differs between sectors and involves both individual and organisational decision-making to achieve business and social goals. However, the CP literature characteristically focuses on strategic decisions made by business leaders and ignores the role of employees, especially those in lower status and lower paid positions. To redress this imbalance, we conducted a qualitative study of employees’ involvement in CP processes in ten workplaces in the South East of England to identify whether and how they are involved in CP decision-making and to capture their perspective on the nature of CP and the benefits generated by such activities. We specifically chose to study workplaces where employees are involved in the actual execution of the CP strategy, prioritising companies with a visible presence on the high street. The results illustrate the benefits of involving employees in CP decision-making, which we argue derives in part from the ‘liminal-like states’ that typify CP activities organised by shop floor staff, involving the temporary overturning of hierarchies, humanising of workplaces and opportunities for lower level staff to prioritise their personal philanthropic preferences and signal their charitable identity to colleagues and customers. Whilst the data also suggest that CP decision-making remains predominantly top-down and driven by profit-oriented goals, we conclude that employees should be involved in choosing charitable causes as well as in designing and implementing workplace fundraising, in order to maximise the advantages of CP for the company and for wider society.

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