The pandemic demonstrated that those who have the least, suffer the most.

This has forced many communities to think about how they support their most vulnerable and how organisations can contribute toward this.

The altruistic aspect of volunteering and the concept of civic engagement – connecting individuals to their wider community – is well known. But there is also an emerging business need to engage in practices that address community and society wellbeing.

A 2022 Deloitte survey demonstrates that millennials and Gen Zs are increasingly prioritizing purpose in their job choices. They sometimes reject or accept a job based largely on personal ethics.

Investors, too, are asking about purpose and societal impact. They are asking those firms in which they invest to demonstrate effective social sustainability performance. Social impact has become paramount.


What does this look like?

Since the launch of the WELL Building Standard, the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) has advocated for organisations to prioritise civic engagement activities such as volunteering. Years on, volunteering remains a crucial part of how WELL encourages health and wellbeing outcomes across communities and society. Feature C11 in the Community Concept specifically looks at how organisations can schedule volunteer opportunities, provide paid volunteer time off, match employee charitable contributions and work with local community organisations. By doing so, employers can foster a culture of social responsibility, boost staff retention and contribute to the local community.

In 2021, IWBI staff contributed to 39 charitable organisations. With IWBI’s matching program, the total donation of more than $10,000 [AUD] supported organisations working across a range of humanitarian endeavors. These include racial and social justice issues; hunger and homelessness; refugee resettlement; care and financial support for single mothers, at-risk children and domestic violence victims; healthcare, education and research; the environment and media.

As an organisation, IWBI also donated US$25,000 to the International Rescue Committee to support the efforts in Afghanistan. This included efforts to feed Afghans, meet their basic needs and help resettle Afghan refugees in the US and elsewhere. Throughout the year, IWBI employees used their Volunteer Time Off (VTO) to assist community organisations working in areas of food insecurity, homelessness, urban gardening, education, community social support, adult education, recreation programs, blood banking, energy sustainability and more.


Who’s doing it “WELL” in Australia?

IWBI’s clients, customers and community are further bringing this work to life.

One example is construction contracting firm Built, which is pursuing WELL Certification for its new Sydney headquarters. As part of this, the firm leverages its large and diverse supply chain to support jobs for people that have been historically excluded from the economy. Built has partnered with social impact providers to identify opportunities that support the employment of local communities, people with disabilities and those people underrepresented in the workforce such as indigenous youths.

Another example is the Pledge 1 percent initiative from Charter Hall, which is WELL Certified Silver at its Melbourne and Perth offices and further engaged in WELL through the WELL at scale program. Under this initiative, the firm donates one percent of its spaces, its profits and its people’s time towards community organisations. Throughout FY2021, this resulted in 41,000sqm+ in space being provided for community use.

These are two examples, but there are many initiatives being undertaken by Frasers, Mirvac, and Lendlease.

And it’s not just about doing the “right thing” or a business need. There are also health benefits to supporting what’s going on and those who live and work around us. A sense of social cohesion, community empowerment and collective feelings of ownership can help to reduce community health risks such as stress, depression, heart disease, stroke and chronic disease and can help to facilitate better physical and mental health, greater happiness and healthy behaviours.

That’s good for all.

To learn more about how your organisation can prioritise civic engagement, take a look at the Community Concept in the WELL Standard.


By Jack Noonan, Vice President, Commercial, APAC Region, International WELL Building Institute (IWBI)