Synonymous with fulfilment, community engagement offers a great deal to those who volunteer to give some of their time to others, according to their wishes, interests and availability. Traditionally, such engagement is part of an individual’s private life. But more and more companies, in line with their CSR policies, are making it easier for their employees to give time to others. This is the case at ENGIE, where an increasing number of measures are available for those employees who wish to help and support others.
According to a study carried out by France Bénévolat in 2019*, some 20 million people volunteer in France, 13 million of them with a charitable organisation. That is one person out of every three – 38% of people aged over 15 – which is a very large proportion of the population. And chance plays no part here! Because, while volunteering means giving time – from a few days a year to a whole lot more – and energy, it also means receiving. It brings personal fulfilment and a hundred and one benefits: meeting people and expanding your network, lending meaning to your life, widening your horizons, improving self-esteem, etc.
Although voluntary work is usually carried out in the private sphere, charitable initiatives are now very widely applauded in the world of business. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become a matter of major importance to both employees and customers, and it is now very common for companies to encourage their employees to volunteer their time to community causes. Naturally, this is the case at ENGIE, which has developed an open ecosystem with no barriers – as our many communities demonstrate – that boosts positive interaction and enables us to learn from each other. With the Good Galaxy for example, the Group has “implemented an original and inclusive ecosystem for ENGIE’s diverse community engagement, to bring together and promote the company’s progress in social innovation,” as Valérie Gaudart, Director of Culture and Communities, explains.
While the ENGIE Foundation has been supporting actions for childhood & youth and projects to improve access to energy for many years now, there are many other ways in which you can give your time, at your convenience. One such example is the “10 Days” programme, which enables employees to free up some time to share their expertise through an assignment within the company. Another key example is the Science Factor competition for secondary school students, whereby employees provide long-term support to help ENGIE prize winners refine their projects.
As you can see, ENGIE has a host of initiatives supporting community engagement. For example, the Group partners the “Capital Filles” programme, which supports young women from working-class neighbourhoods starting out in the company. An expert in Group mobility for 29 years and a volunteer mentor, Isabelle Jouët-Pastré has been involved in the programme for the last four years and loves it: “When I first got involved, it was through a desire to be useful and because I felt that there weren’t enough stepping stones between life at school and the world of work.” Since then, she has mentored four young women in their final year of secondary school, regularly discussing their plans with them, offering her advice and opinions, and giving them the opportunity to discover office life for a day. “I am not a social worker, nor am I their ‘mum’. My aim is to explain the world of business, give them the codes and, if possible, unlock doors for them,” she says. Mission accomplished twice over, because two of the young women that Isabelle Jouët-Pastré mentored have since joined the Group. “Of course, it is also a way to recruit female talent. But, from a personal point of view, it is very fulfilling, I am proud to be taking part in this programme. It actually takes up a fairly small amount of time and I can only encourage women in business to do the same!”
Olivier Broché, a 41-year-old business support director, also feels he’s both giving and receiving when he offers some of his time to the “J'apprends l'énergie” (I am learning about energy) awareness programme created by ENGIE for school children. The renewable energy expert and father of two young boys was immediately keen to take part: “I suggested to my son’s school teacher that I could go in and talk to his Year 6 class. The first time I went, I was a bit nervous but I actually loved the experience!” he says. To the point of repeating it a dozen times in a matter of weeks, giving some 300 children a fun and lively presentation to raise their awareness of renewables and of how to save energy. “The children were thrilled that someone from outside the school took the time to come and talk to them. They asked a lot of questions and made some funny comments... and I think I even sparked some into making it their vocation!” These sessions will soon be extended into secondary schools. And how does Olivier Broché sum up his experience? “It’s addictive! I am delighted to have passed on my knowledge and taught children about climate issues. I feel useful, I feel as though I am taking action because I believe it is very important to help the younger generations understand that they have a vital role to play in their near future.”
Now let’s head to Madagascar to hear from 29-year-old Hedi Mellekh, an IT engineer and member of Energy Assistance France, a Group organisation run by volunteer employees, providing vulnerable communities with access to energy. “I wanted to engage in a practical way, helping people in need within the community, explains the young man who spent two weeks on the ground, helping to bring electricity to a small village in the south of the island. I am not a technician so I had to learn on the job. But it was a unique experience, we stayed with the locals, who were so friendly. We didn’t have internet or smartphones so it was a complete change from my normal daily life,” says Hedi Mellekh. And what did he take away from this extraordinary trip? “I am proud to have worked on this project to bring electricity to the village: it has a long-lasting impact on almost 10,000 people. Electricity means access to healthcare, information, comfort, education, etc. As well as widening my horizons, the experience gave me a new perspective on my work. I can’t wait to go again.”
Besides their enthusiasm and motivation, these three employees have one thing in common: working at ENGIE. In line with its employer promise, the Group has provided the conditions they need to progress, to feel fulfilled, and to have a useful and positive impact through their work.
Why not follow their example?
*Growth in charitable voluntary work in France, from 2010 to 2019