“Doing volunteer work also enriches your own life”

Published on: 10 January 2024

APG Makes a Difference, the platform that lists all the actions APG employees can take to make a positive social impact, has been up and running for two years. A good time to ask Juul Jeurninck-Janssen (Sustainability Advisor at APG) some questions about the platform. “Many of our employees also make a difference outside their work.”

• Through the APG Makes a Difference platform, APG employees contribute something to society by, for example, giving a guest lesson, donating blood or organizing a Christmas dinner for people with lower incomes.
• This fits in with the social role that APG plays as a pension administration organization.
• The goal is for at least 50 percent of employees to be contributing to one of the activities on the platform by 2025

Showing social involvement has always been important at APG, says Jeurninck-Janssen. “For example, we seized the 10th anniversary of APG to get involved with lonely elderly people. By calling them up, but also by giving elderly people in the neighborhood a pleasant afternoon.” However, there were only occasional events like this until the organization started to focus on “a sustainable society” as its theme. “It was clear to me that if we really wanted to work on this, we needed a platform. Now we have a central place where people can share initiatives and sign up for one of the activities.”

Where exactly did the “sustainable society” theme originate?
“For us, sustainability stands for more than just installing solar panels or reducing our carbon emissions. It is reflected in our business operations, our mobility policy and the catering in our company restaurants, but also in the way we invest for our pension fund clients. Our goal is to achieve the best possible return for the participants of our pension fund clients. But what good is a nice pension if the world around you has become unlivable and we can no longer treat each other with respect? This is why we believe it is important for our employees to be able to make a difference beyond their work, and many are doing just that.”

• In 2022, 73 new activities were launched.
• In 2023, that number was already up to 110.
• The goal of APG Makes a Difference is for at least 50 percent of APG employees to be active on the platform by 2025. Last year, 2,114 colleagues contributed through the platform: that is about 42 percent of all our employees.

APG specifically wants to make an impact on four themes: Financial Fitness, Sustainable Environment, Everyone Counts, and Healthier Living. Why these four themes?
“To do this, we looked explicitly at our mission as a company and at the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. There are seventeen of these, all of which we consider important and which are also coherent. But the four we chose fit APG and what we do best. As Sustainability Office, we initiate various activities, but we also try to stimulate the intrinsic motivation of our employees. For example, one person in our company wanted to do something for the Ronald McDonald House because his sister had spent some time there. When his coworkers heard about it, some of them also wanted to contribute. Finally, last week they all cooked together for the guests of the Ronald McDonald House. The best thing is when an initiative spreads across the organization like an oil slick. Another example is the Christmas dinner that APG organizes in collaboration with the VOOR Parkstad Foundation for low-income families. One employee suggested collecting sustainable Christmas presents for them as well and having the APG house band perform. Colleagues reinforce each other in their enthusiasm to do something for others.”

Besides sharing enthusiasm with colleagues, is there another benefit for an APG employee to get involved socially through APG Makes a Difference rather than volunteering somewhere on their own?
“As an organization, we also make a contribution with our sponsorship, so that even more impact can be made. Another advantage of our platform is that you can see what suits you and that our activities do not have to take a lot of time. For example, a guest lesson or job training at a school can be given once or twice a year. So, the threshold to getting involved in something is lower. At the same time, a one-time activity can also turn into something long-term. Most people that donate blood through Sanquin end up doing it not just once, but several times a year.”

Are all the initiatives at APG Makes a Difference focused on the Netherlands?
“At APG, we have our own charitable organization SWAP, which focuses mainly on projects in India, Thailand and Africa, among others. At APG Makes a Difference, we mainly try to support local initiatives in and around Heerlen and Amsterdam, where our Dutch offices are located. Our colleagues in Hong Kong and New York also do a lot of volunteer work through their offices, although for now they have their own channels for that. However, it is possible to put the activities on APG Makes a Difference there as well.”

What do you say to colleagues who are thinking about getting involved through the platform but are still hesitant, for example because they are busy with other things?
“That you also get a lot back for volunteering. For example, 79 percent of volunteers experience less stress and 75 percent experience an improvement in physical health, according to research conducted by Vrijwilligerswerk Nederland. In addition, for the vast majority of volunteers, social commitment leads to more self-confidence and social connection. So, doing volunteer work also enriches your own life.”