My colleague Robert D. Putnam has a piece in the March-April 2008 Conference Board Review called “Way Beyond Volunteerism: Helping society is about more than building houses.”
In it, Putnam notes that corporate volunteering is important, but unlikely to be of the magnitude to really move society. For example, he talks about how a new Families and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) focused on enabling employees to care for their aging parents could have great effect both in keeping those aging parents engaged and healthy and also a huge decrease in the societal costs of Medicare by forestalling the age at which those aging parents need to be put in nursing homes. Putnam points out that left to their own devices, corporations will underinvest in the provision of this flexibility, since most of the benefits are borne by society and most of the costs of more flexibility are borne by corporations. Thus, without a large-scale effort to make employers whole for their costs in providing greater workplace flexibility, a Pareto-optimal solution will be lost.
The full article “Way Beyond Volunteerism” is available here.