Thursday, Sep. 11, 2008

Take Off from Work

In a hypercompetitive global economy, there's no time for volunteering. For everyone from CEO to salesperson, workdays are overfull with must-do, high priorities. There's no time for anything noncritical. Gotta make the quarter... As a citizen, I'm aware that 37.3 million Americans live in poverty and 12.6 million children live in homes where there often isn't enough to eat. Utility, child-care and health-care costs are skyrocketing. But as a CEO, what can I be expected to do about any of this?

I was first introduced to the notion of volunteering during the regular workday 20 years ago, when I was invited to serve at a center for young adults recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. It was a startling experience, one that changed my view of what we can accomplish during the workday. I learned that serving strengthened our business from within and allowed us to accomplish not only the regular business agenda but more.

And so we at Timberland have created the Path of Service, offering paid time off for employees to volunteer in their community — during the busy workweek. Today Timberland employees around the globe receive 40 hours of paid volunteer time each year and can apply for longer-term service sabbaticals as well. In our annual employee survey, volunteering is considered a key benefit.

The social challenges that plague our world won't be solved by government or church alone. For-profit business can be part of the solution, as part of the everyday business agenda. We can earn our quarterly profits and take our share of responsibility for repairing the breaches in society at the same time. See you in the civic square.

Swartz is the President and CEO of Timberland