Workplace Culture

Employees Literally All in With Corporate Social Responsibility

By Bethany Tomasian

May. 9, 2019

Score a perfect 100 for corporate social responsibility.

corporate social responsibility
CSAA Insurance Group employees scored a 100 percent volunteer rate in 2018. Here they work at a local food bank.

CSAA Insurance Group announced that the company achieved a 100 percent employee volunteerism rate in 2018.

All 3,800 employees, including executive leadership, donated a total of 47,045 hours through the company’s 609 volunteer events across the United States. The hours employees spent volunteering represented about $1.16 million, according to company officials. Some of the volunteer projects supported nonprofit organizations such as American Heart Association, Habitat for Humanity, Junior Achievement and The Crayon Initiative.

The AAA insurer is based in Walnut Creek, California, and provides AAA-branded insurance to 23 states and the District of Columbia. CSAA, which is based in Walnut Creek, California that provides AAA-branded insurance to 23 states and the District of Columbia, originally set a corporate goal in 2012 to achieve 80 percent volunteerism participation among their employees, said Senior Manager of Community Affairs Vanessa Chan. The company did not initially aspire to have all of its employees participate in the volunteer program, she said.

“That wouldn’t be authentic of us,” Chan said. “We wanted volunteers, not volun-tolds.” The following years saw employee participation climb to 98 percent in 2015 and finally 100 percent in 2018.

Chan gave credit to the employees for making that happen. In fact, Chan noted that she was not surprised that the volunteer programs achieved 100 percent participation.

corporate social responsibility
Vanessa Chan

“Our company values include being caring and doing the right thing. When you hire people based on those values, our results are not surprising,” she said.

While the employees manifested this achievement, leadership played an important role by reaffirming a culture that empowered employees to pursue their passions.

“Part of that culture comes from leadership volunteering alongside our employees,” Chan said. Another aspect of creating a socially responsible corporation comes from empowering the employees through company initiatives and policy, said Chan, who emphasized that a company should approach volunteer programs in a way that is reflective of the corporate values.

“As a company, you really need to understand why you want a volunteer program,” Chan explained, “You have to be authentic when you roll out a volunteer program.”

In order to make the volunteer program more accessible to employees, CSAA has eight locations. These locations are operated employees who serve on a volunteer committee that is supported by a full-time volunteer manager. Employees have the option to propose an event to the committee based on their passion for a project or organization and the committees collectively manage the volunteer events. For Chan, having employees be a part of the planning and decision-making has made the program more authentic, and therefore successful.

“I think that the more authentic that you can be, the better.”

Employee resource groups have also been integrated into the volunteer program at CSAA including Somos, the Hispanic/Latino resource group; the Black Employees Association; and the Asian/Pacific Islander connection group.

“We look to our ERGs to help us identify volunteer activities, so we are making an impact in those communities,” Chan said.

corporate social responsibility
CSAA employees donated 47,045 hours through the company’s 609 volunteer events across the United States, including here at The Crayon Initiative.

Chan’s advice to companies wanting to develop a volunteer program or grow a pre-existing one is to utilize data to support leadership decisions.

“One of the things that really helped us get the support from [leadership] when we started was looking at the data. Data can help inform a lot of things like how many people are volunteering, which locations are most successful, and looking at best practices,” Chan said. Data was key to adding on-site volunteering opportunities for employees that worked in CSAA call centers.

“We recognized that it was harder for them to get off the phone in order to have more flexibility in terms of volunteering,” Chan said.

CSAA partnered with Maryland-based VeraWorks, a consulting firm that helps companies with socially responsible initiatives. Over a six-month period, employees who participated in volunteer events showed an uptick in engagement.

The research also showed 97 percent of employees reported that they were satisfied with the volunteer program. Employees also reported that volunteerism was one of the most meaningful things in their lives, second only to family.

Chan attributes this success to the top-down support of volunteer efforts, active volunteer committees and a year-round volunteer program. CSAA also offers 24 days of paid time off annually in order for employees to take advantage of volunteer opportunities.

“Without the volunteer committees and offering time off, I don’t think we would have as many people volunteering,” Chan said.

Alongside the company’s commitment to charity, CSAA is also focused on sustainability and conservation. “It’s not just our company saying, ‘Employees what can you do to be green?’ It’s the company leading by example as well,” Chan said. The insurer’s headquarters in Northern California is ‘Gold’ certified in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, which is the second highest LEED rating a building can achieve. This building is also designed with electric vehicle charging stations for the company’s fleet of hybrid vehicles.

Environmental awareness is also a part of the company’s community outreach initiatives. In conjunction with their regular volunteer practices CSAA held a Heart-to-Earth event in April of this year which is a week-long campaign that supports environmental organizations through volunteer services, awareness, education and financial support. “We also offer a sustainability community of practice that encourages employees to regularly discuss how we can improve our efforts to go green,” Chan said.

Chan doesn’t expect the company to change the volunteer program.

“Even though we hit 100 percent last year, we don’t have the goal of hitting 100 percent. What’s really important to us is having an authentic program,” Chan said. “We want to make sure that we are doing work that is important to all of our employees.”

Bethany Tomasian is an editorial associate for Workforce. Comment below or email

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