Leading Japanese consulting companies including Deloitte Tohmatsu Consulting (DTC) and Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting (MURC) are actively enhancing their pro bono businesses. Rather than it being simply voluntary work, their aim is to use their employees’ specialized skills to help social businesses and the NPO/NGO sector, thereby increasing their employees’ positive motivations and, as a side effect, enhancing their companies’ social reputations.
Deloitte launches pro bono system
In June 2016, DTC held a meeting to explain its proposed pro bono program, which would provide free consultations for organizations dedicated to tackling social issues. Around 20 people from the NPO/NGO & social entrepreneur sectors participated. In this program, DTC employees are professionally involved in the program and provide the same high quality of service enjoyed by all DTC clients.
Deloitte’s Social Innovation Pioneers program is based upon two themes related to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They are to ‘implement sustainable & ethical production and consumption with a view to the entire supply chain,’ and to ‘support financial independence & employment of various people including women, young people and foreigners.’
Ryo Kanayama, Executive Officer of Corporate Affairs, said: “We would like to create a new movement in which NPOs/NGOs and social entrepreneurs involve consumers and companies in an effort to solve major social problems.”
The program was closed to applications at the end of June, and all applicants went through three stages of assessment. Successful applicants were selected at the final assessment and entered into Deloitte’s Pioneers program, which provides them with 3-4 months’ consultation and other vital help from a dedicated team of DTC consultants, without charge.
Takeshi Okada is a former Japan national football team coach, an owner of FC Imabari of the Shikoku league, and a senior advisor to DTC. Speaking at a special lecture, he urged his audience: “Don’t just pursue profit. If you pursue your own principles, people will support you. Invisible capital is more important than visible profit.”
No special skills required
On July 1, 2016, Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting announced the names of the three organizations it will support this year with its Social Business Support Program, which started in 2013 and provides organizations with financial support and pro bono services for a period of 6-7 months.
This year MURC will support a program of Sustainability Empowerment run jointly by Kashiwa-city, Chiba and the NPO Chance For All of Sumida-ku, Tokyo; the NPO Smile Style of Osaka-city; and the NPO Human Animal Symbiosis Center of Gifu-city.
MURC advertises the program in order to recruit organizations, and selects finalists by assessing their application documents and presentations. As a part of the assessment process, MURC executives and employees cast ‘sympathy votes’ and ‘support votes.’
Those wishing to provide pro bono services cast ‘support votes,’ with the top three organizations obtaining more than 5 votes selected as finalists. A ‘pro bono team’ is assembled from the voters, and the winning organizations also receive 500,000 yen in financial support.
All employees cast ‘sympathy votes’ for the six organizations participating in the presentation assessment, and in total 1 million yen is distributed between them in accordance with the number of votes they receive.
MURC President Hidenobu Fujii said: “When we launched the program in 2013, I kept wondering what MURC’s social contribution was to be. Our mission was to provide solutions for social issues, so we decided not only to support financially but also to provide Pro bono services.”
Executives and employees participating in pro bono services have said: “Internal collaboration has improved because we can work with people from other departments who don’t usually work together,” and “I can see a great future ahead for the company. We can do anything with our in-house network.”
Pro bono service takes advantage of skills, but special skills are not always necessary. In 2015, MURC Human Resources Department Chief Shizuko Nakano helped support a creative team called Makigumi.
“NPO staff concentrate on the tasks at hand and tend to put administrative work at the bottom of their to-do lists, and as a consequence often work inefficiently,” she said. “I’m not a consultant; my expertise is in administrative work, and this is how I can help NPOs.”
Anyone can help, even for a day
Service Grant of Shibuya, Tokyo matches NPOs and community action groups with pro bono services provided by companies, and assists them by providing the support they require. With its pro bono 1-Day Challenge, an easy-to-participate-in program held in various locations, the organization encourages people with professional skills to register as pro bono workers, especially those skilled in project management, research, marketing, design, and web creation.
Service Grant’s success speaks for itself: It currently has around 3,000 pro bono workers registered with them, working on 23 active programs.
This post first appeared on Sustainable Brands Japan on July 25, 2016.