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American Express encourages staff to participate in social activities

 Giving back to society is one of the values of the Blue Box (logo of American Express). But with a difference—employee volunteerism forms an important part of the community services that the bank involves itself in. 

Employee volunteerism is one of the fundamental values at American Express across the world. Every event in the community service is put together with the involvement of the employees,” says Rajiv Ahuja, director, Public Affairs, India and area countries, American Express Bank Ltd. “We encourage our employees to volunteer their time to community projects and be good corporate citizens. Our employee-volunteers have worked with several NGOs and put together events for hundreds of underprivileged children,” he adds.

In fact, the employees involvement extends to the decision level as well. Every CSR initiative that the bank takes is duly discussed by the employees and a decision reached thereafter. “It was by vote and consensus of our employees that we have decided to focus on children,” says Ahuja.

This is reflected in the initiatives that the company has undertaken over the years. Employees have volunteered to work for Tamana, an NGO working for Autistic children. Not only did they contribute with their money and time to interact with the children but they also pitched in their labour to white-wash the school building.

Recently, the bank organised special screening of Spider Man II (in Hindi) for over 800 underprivileged children at Sangam theatre in New Delhi. Again, the employees of the bank took their time off to be the part of the programme.

To encourage employee volunteerism, the bank has set up a Global Volunteer Action Fund. The fund is used to support CSR initiatives taken by employees and also to reward them for their volunteer service. The programme, thus, gives the employees an opportunity to direct the American Express Foundation’s philanthropic spending.

Among its other CSR activities, the company supports programmes to protect architectural heritage. The Jaisalmer Conservation initiative is one example of this. The bank contributed $190,000 towards the restoration of the Jaisalmer Fort, which is facing serious pressures from growing population and tourism. “The grant not only supports the conservation programme but also serves to draw public attention to the issue,” says Ahuja.

The Jaipur Heritage Trail is another programme where the bank is helping the Department of Tourism, Art and Culture, Rajasthan in providing authentic information to tourists and guide visitors to monuments in Jaipur through a trail.

The bank has also set up a corpus of $100,000 to support the artisans of India. Twenty-six grants, ranging between $1000 to $5000, have been given through this fund to craft groups across India. These groups collectively represent more than 15,000 artisans, including those affected by the earthquake in Gujarat and floods in Orissa. The grants have been given to artisans working in a wide range of craft media, including pottery, natural fibers, carved wood, handloom textiles, and embroidery.
August 15, 2004