Agility 'people bank' pays off

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 February, 2012, 12:00am


As a company that relies on its 'people bank' to build supply-chain bridges, integrated global logistics firm Agility also turns to its employees to recommend local worthy causes it might support as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.

In Hong Kong, this means working with non-government organisations such as the Crossroads Foundation. The Hong Kong-based not-for-profit charity is dedicated to collecting quality excess and second-hand goods in the city, restoring them, if necessary, and then distributing them to those in need, here and beyond.

Agility staff have also taken part in Hong Kong beach clean-ups.

Under the company's Community Volunteer Programme, employees are encouraged to initiate and lead humanitarian projects in the communities in which they live.

'It makes sense,' says Frank Clary, head of Global CSR for Agility. 'Employees are going to be far more aware about their own communities than most senior management [who don't live there] and [aware of] where they can help,' he says.

'Our people in Hong Kong are going to pinpoint areas where they want to help, which will be hugely different to our Agility locations elsewhere,' Clary adds.

As the headquarters for Greater China, Agility's Hong Kong office also helps to co-ordinate education programmes for the needy, and disaster relief across the region.

For instance, during the aftermath of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, Agility used its logistics and transport expertise to deliver relief materials to the area.

'The people behind our community volunteer programmes are not just managers, they come from anywhere in the hierarchy, and are empowered through leading projects,' says Clary.

He adds that under the structure, any Agility employee can apply for a company grant to support a community project.

'Not only do we believe our Community Volunteer Programme is the 'right' thing to do as a company, we also believe it is a positive way to strengthen the connections between our people locally, and [in] the communities where they live and work,' says Clary.

Across Agility's operations - 24 countries in Asia, including 50 offices in China in 30 locations and more than 16,000 employees - the firm looks for volunteers to drive CSR initiatives.

Clary says that by empowering employees to shape the company's community investment strategy, the firm believes the initiatives are able to achieve a greater impact.

'This is not about signing cheques. We support and encourage our employees to be engaged and to lead the project in co-operation with the partner organisation,' he says. 'This way, the scope and scale of projects they can undertake has a tone of greater local relevance.'

Clary says that projects should meet priority focus areas of youth and education, health, disaster response, or environmental action.

These focus areas are designed to be broad enough for employees to interpret them in ways which are genuinely relevant to their local communities, themselves and their families.

For instance, taking the lead from Mao Zedong's maxim that 'women hold up half the sky', Agility has recently partnered up with the Asian University for Women (AUW) in Chittagong in Bangladesh.

'We plan to offer internship placements for AUW students,' says Clary, adding that the logistics industry tends to be male dominated and could benefit from having more females in leadership positions.

Clary says that in emerging economies where education is often disparate between the sexes, education is especially important for females. 'Supporting the education of females is one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty, and provides an entry point to other opportunities,' he says, adding that educated women are usually more self-confident.