Corporate Social Responsibility is becoming a focus for firms large and small. unLTD’s Jill Theobald met Tracy Viner of the Cathedral Archer Project to find out how businesses themselves can also benefit.

Lego and Rolls Royce Aerospace are doing it well.

But Apple, Samsung and Volkswagen – not so much, apparently.

What is it?

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Three little words that can make a big difference

According to Forbes, analysis of 170,000 company ratings from 15 countries placed global brands including Lego in the top ten companies with the ‘best CSR reputations’, while Apple and Samsung dropped down the list to 49th and 89th places respectively and VW ended up 100th.

It’s been estimated that the biggest businesses in America and Britain together spend in excess of $15 billion a year on CSR, a figure sure to rise as more companies realise customers are keen to buy products or services from firms with a good CSR reputation.

‘Social responsibility’, meanwhile, was rated as an ‘important business value’ by a significant number of respondents in Deloitte’s Millennial Survey 2016.

Closer to home, one woman who knows the power of CSR is Tracy Viner marketing and development manager at city charity Cathedral Archer Project (CAP).

“The working population is definitely becoming more conscious of the long-term impact of companies and the need for CSR to be more than just lip service and self-promotion,” she said. “Some of the graduates we interviewed through the Rise scheme were already telling us they were thinking not necessarily of legacy, but certainly making an impact in any role they went for. 

“We’ve also noticed among the pre-millennials, those who went to university and paid towards their education in part or in full, who still feel that they were in a privileged position and want to give something back in any job role are as a result looking to work with companies that share their values.

“CSR means different things to different companies. Some focus on green and environmental areas, others charitable and community work, some use it to weight their tenders, some all of the above!

“Rachel Fletcher at grants and tender specialists FCS Associates, for example, refers to the Social Value Act that encourages tenders to include weighting for ‘social impact’.  More businesses are recognising it as a real differentiator as it can make one to two marks difference.

“She’s also noted pressure on the public sector to deliver more in the community, so this is being passed on to their suppliers in the tendering process.”

The Cathedral Archer Project was set up in the eighties against a backdrop of declining industry and rising levels of unemployment, when Sheffield Cathedral had become a regular place of shelter for people who had nowhere else to go. The congregation responded by providing a basic breakfast, but what started as tea and toast has developed and expanded into a holistic service designed to help homeless people to improve their lives including the Breakfast Club.

Membership of The Breakfast Club supports a week of breakfasts and each year the business can choose a week for staff to serve breakfast to those using the project.  Corporate support also includes Wear a Woolly Day and The Sleep Out which sees participants sleep under the stars in a safe environment next to the Cathedral to experience rough sleeping for themselves, both great opportunities for fundraising and sponsorship.

Tracy said: “Over many years of working with businesses, I have realised that, donating items, time or money – while all really valuable and appreciated by the benefiting charities – it’s actually the organisations themselves that take away so much more.

“I don’t think companies see it as staff development, but it really is. Employees can learn new skills, while employers can observe how staff organise and project manage a simple event like a sponsored dress down day or raffle – something outside the comfort zone of their day job.  It’s also an excellent opportunity for new employees to get to know everyone.

“Then there are the team-building opportunities which offer the chance to discover employees’ hidden talents, seeing how they react to ideas generation and new situations and challenges.

“And, of course, the feel-good factor of helping others cannot be under-estimated.

“For a business, working within the community does more than just benefit the charity.  It can have huge, long-term benefits for staff and for the organisation as a whole.”

Don’t take Tracy’s word for it – here, in their own words, companies across the city region who have supported CAP tell us why and what they got out of it.

B Braun Medical Ltd
Hans Hux, chairman and group chief executive, said: “The feedback from all B. Braun employees involved with the various projects at The Cathedral Archer Project is consistent in saying it was such a privilege to give something back, but also that there are many aspects to homelessness.

“Some people that helped serve breakfast heard stories from the clients and also staff that changed their views on homelessness and living rough.”

Evolution Print
Director Graham Congreve said: “It is more than just taking part in dress down days and sleep outs. It is about how we support them to become more sustainable, being proactive in the relationship such as social media and the whole team knowing they are valuable relationships just the same as any of our customers.

“Supporting charities and seeing them do well is part of our culture and we are with them side by side.”

HR Media
Director Martin Ross said: “As a boss it really pleases me that CSR is something different team members have taken responsibility for – to know I employ people who are passionate about charitable work and make it an additional part of their role.

The team have served in the kitchen at Breakfast Club, donated Christmas boxes and are regular participants in the sponsored Walk the Weirs event.  Not only do they return enthused and sharing their experiences, but engaging with the community helps to extend their network, opening up new opportunities.”

Irwin Mitchell
Partner Dorrien Peters said: “We have seen some people show skills we were not aware they had.  I didn’t realise how creative one of the team in particular could be. I am sure we have gained more than we have given.”


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