Interview

25 years “Make an Impact on Tomorrow”: Henkel's volunteering initiative celebrates its anniversary

Two Henkel employees talk about their experiences

Responsibility Dec 5, 2023

Making the world a little better, bit by bit. That is the goal of Henkel employees, retirees and teams who have been volunteering for 25 years! In 1998, Henkel was one of the first German companies to make voluntary social engagement a key element of its corporate citizenship activities with the founding of its volunteering initiative "Make an Impact on Tomorrow", or "MIT" for short. The initiative offers Henkel employees the opportunity to support their favorite project, volunteer in a team on a project and help NGOs in their work with their expertise.  

Andrea Becher, Head of Global Employer Reputation, Recruitment and Corporate Citizenship, and Gino Walstab, Manager Sales Excellence, share the experience they have gained through MIT in recent years.

Andrea, you offer three forms of volunteering at Henkel. What exactly are they?

Andrea: There are three forms of volunteering at Henkel. We differentiate between individual volunteering, team volunteering and skill-based volunteering.  
In individual volunteering, an employee gets involved in a project privately, but reaches their limits and then hopes for help from their employer. This can take the form of paid time off, a product donation or financial support.  
Team volunteering is organized by Henkel itself. This means that opportunities are created to apply for projects, such as the Special Olympics or Trashfighter, if you would like to get involved. This is very easy via our internal channels.
The same applies to skill-based volunteering. We ask the NGOs in advance which skills would help them in particular. Employees can then apply for the positions so that the NGOs benefit from an expert who can then achieve a great impact.

Gino, you have already taken part in several team volunteering programs. What were the most meaningful projects for you?

Gino: Personally, two projects are particularly close to my heart. One is Henkel's long-standing commitment in South Africa. Since 2007, a project has been supporting a school there called Tamaho. What makes the project so remarkable for me is the ongoing collaboration. In the meantime, the first students have graduated, and we are even considering offering them internships at Henkel.
The second project is the Special Olympics in Berlin. This is the world's largest event for people with special needs. A total of 60 Henkel employees from all over the world were there. We not only had various tasks, such as directing guests and sorting balls, but also accompanied the athletes and celebrated with them. It was a special experience and I am very grateful to have been part of it.

Portrait of Gino Walstab

This is a fulfilment that goes beyond the daily work and is simply amazing.

Why were you interested in volunteering in the first place?

Gino: One decisive factor for me was that I had an interest in developing countries from an early age. Besides travelling, I also lived in India, Malaysia and Indonesia and witnessed what poverty means on a daily basis, so I decided to make an active contribution myself. During my studies of International Business Administration with a focus on emerging markets, I realized that although you can make monetary donations, you can often achieve a more sustainable impact through social engagement.

Highlights from 25 years of MIT

YouTube Thumbnail Happy 25th anniversary, Make an Impact on Tomorrow! (Thumbnail)


What skills do you gain from volunteering that help you in your job?

Gino: Sticking with the example of the Special Olympics, I would definitely say that I learned how to work efficiently in intercultural teams, because both my team members and the athletes came from different countries. My second takeaway is that I now want to integrate celebrating successes much more into my everyday working life. It was a great feeling to be happy and proud together with the athletes after an intense competition.

Andrea, you are in close contact with the employees who volunteer. Is there anything else you can add?

Andrea: First of all, you always notice the emotional impact of it all. Most colleagues say: "You give something and you get so much more in return". Volunteering also increases openness because you get to know new perspectives and have these special experiences. Paired with this, you certainly also learn the required agility. You are often pushed out of your comfort zone and have to react spontaneously to situations.

Gino, what skills do you think people should have if they want to volunteer?

Gino: One important aspect is that you shouldn't have any fears or prejudices. I will soon be taking part in swimming lessons with students who have special needs. That means: Putting on your swimming trunks and helping with the lessons!  
Another aspect is that you should have a fundamental passion for social engagement and not consider volunteering as PR for yourself.

How do you decide which projects to support?

Andrea: We made a conscious decision not to place any restrictions. Individual volunteering in particular should simply be a matter of the heart. However, education is usually the focus of the projects that Henkel organizes.

Portrait of Andrea Becher

Especially individual volunteering should simply be a matter of heart.

Why should others also take part in volunteering?

Gino: I feel that I am doing something meaningful, contributing to society and making a difference. point is personal development. I learn new skills, step out of my comfort zone and overcome fears. The last thing I would mention is community building. I am still close with the other volunteers from the Special Olympics. No matter what country, department or position you came from – the experience bonded us together.


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