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Businesses Working with and for the Community – CSR in action – benefits to you and your business

May 28, 2012

A brief introduction

I had the pleasure of sitting with Les Christiansen  – Business Leaders Group at Exeter Council for Voluntary Service at a recent Exeter Business Network lunch.

I am grateful to Les for putting together this piece which really shows the benefits that embracing CSR (Corporate Social responsibility) can have for you, your team, the community and your business.

I trust that the following will inspire and motivate – over to Les……

The group, currently known as “The Business Leaders Group” but soon to change to a more realistic name was formed under the volunteering project term “Time and Talents” and through Exeter CVS. Initially this was formed as part of the governments Big Society programme and endeavoured to get business to allow their staff to use company time and employees talents to do projects within the local community. As you will see further on and from the attachments this was already being done locally and across the country and did not need another bright idea from Mr Cameron. Projects may be something as small as digging the residential home garden, painting the scout hut or indeed utilising the skills of a person in an organisation for the benefit of a local charity, an accountant doing the charities book keeping for instance, or being a school governor.

The “Time and Talents” scheme was initially funded for a person to run it in Exeter CVS through Volunteer England but after a year or so required the project to become self-funding for that person who was employed to co-ordinate it. That was not sustainable by Exeter by CVS.

So enter Les.

 I was asked if I would take it on board voluntarily. This I agreed to do but on the basis of showcasing/facilitating/co-ordinating what was already being done by businesses and NOT finding projects to be done, e.g. not up to me to find the scout hut that needs painting. The business that wants to do that sort of project finds it themselves. As you will appreciate organisations have differing thoughts on community involvement, some support the environment, others unemployment, others homelessness for instance.

Some of the initial group formed the new Business Leaders Group and we are now at a stage of putting in place a true realistic vision for the group and how we will achieve that vision, what it should be properly titled etc.

However the community work still continues in the background and to that end I have included 2 case studies documents, which clearly set out the amount of employee and company involvement in community fundraising/hands on work being done.

Click on the logo for the case study

Michelmores – from the last 4 years!

Courtesy of Gregory Field

The official terms for this type of involvement in the community is “Corporate Social Responsibility” (CSR) and Employee Supported Volunteering” (ESV). Some raise funds, some do hands-on projects.

The May Gurney initiative I mentioned at the lunch was them getting pedal cycles that needed refurbishment, getting them to Dartmoor and Channings Wood Prisons where the prisoners did the refurbishment. They were then used by the Torbay area cycle proficiency group to allow people to take their test/exam and in some instances given the cycle if they did not have one. A win win all round.

CSR does not have to be a major time consuming issue, something as small as an organisation not sending Christmas Cards to clients and in its place making a donation to a charity of their choice is all CSR.

I hope that gives you a flavour of what I in my volunteer role for CVS is about. My voluntary role with Exeter CAB is similar in that I am trying to develop a “Corporate Friends Scheme” to assist with their funding. That has been successful with gifts in kind cutting volunteers expenses and not cash payments which companies find difficult to do in these economic times.

The idea of buddying was to allow small businesses, one man bands etc. to work with the larger organisations on CSR who may have more time. CSR is recognised as being good for a company in terms of staff retention, reduce work place absence, support staff re-structuring and enhance brand image etc.

What do the people in your business do?

  • Pro bono
  • Community work – in hospices, at charity events,
  • Charity/Sponsored events – skydiving, abseiling, walks, treks, ascents, swims, crossings – land, sea, air, mud and water!
  • Offering apprenticeships
  • Reducing your carbon footprint – cycle to work
  • Charity Christmas cards
  • Recycling
  • IT Recycling
  • Donations
  • Your supply chain – green energy, green office supplies

For more details on how you can get involved – contact

Les Christiansen – Business Engagement



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