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SPECIAL REPORT: CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILTY

2 SPECIAL REPORT: CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILTY

WATER WORKS

SARA’S HOPE

POWER TO THE PEOPLE

GROW WITH ESH

For Louise Hunter it’s all about being a responsible business

How business support can make a difference

Local government and CSR

Brian Manning on his company’s roots


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CONTENTS

ADVERTISING

06 NEWS CSR activity by North East businesses

08 CSR & SUCCESS Peter Jackson examines Corporate Social Resposibility

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SPECIAL REPORT:

CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILTY

WELCOME Businesses do not exist in a vacuum but are an integral part of the communities in which they operate and upon which they rely for their suppliers, for their workforce and for their markets. Far-sighted business leaders have long recognised this and many of the greatest names in industry and commerce, particularly here in the North East, have been renowned for the extent to which they have sought to share the benefits of business success with the wider community. The nature of the way in which business gives back to the community has changed in recent years and has been given the label corporate social responsibility, or CSR. In this issue of BQ2 we look at how CSR is developing here in the region, how different organisations view it and how it is likely to be affected by the recession. What we have discovered is uplifting: that businesses – large and small – in the North East put tremendous effort into CSR, that staff are enthusiastic supporters and that thousands of people benefit, year-in, year-out. North East business has much to be proud of.

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CONTACTS e: sales@room501.co.uk t: 0191 419 3221 EDITORIAL Peter Jackson e: peter@bq-magazine.co.uk DESIGN & PRODUCTION

Louise Hunter on Northumbrian Water’s commitment to its region

20 IN SARA’S NAME How CSR can mean so much

30 HEART OF THE COMMUNITY Brian Manning of Esh Group

32 FOUNDATION FOR THE FUTURE Alistair Balls on the Northern Rock Foundation

36 EVERY LITTLE HELPS How small businesses make difference

40 A CULTURED APPROACH

Euan Underwood e: studio@room501.co.uk PHOTOGRAPHY KG Photography e: info@kgphotography.co.uk ROOM501 LTD Christopher March Managing Director e: chris@room501.co.uk George Cheung Director e: george@room501.co.uk Euan Underwood Director e: euan@room501.co.uk Bryan Hoare Director e: bryan@room501.co.uk Mark Anderson Business Development e: mark@room501.co.uk Debi Coldwell Senior Sales e: debi@room501.co.uk

Supporting the Arts

room501 Contract Publishing Ltd, 10 Baird Close, Stephenson Ind Est, Washington, Tyne & Wear NE37 3HL www.room501.co.uk

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room501 was formed from a partnership of directors who, combined, have many years of experience in contract publishing, print, marketing, sales and advertising and distribution. We are a passionate, dedicated company that strives to help you to meet your overall business needs and requirements. All contents copyright © 2009 room501 Ltd. All rights reserved. While every effort is made to ensure accuracy, no responsibility can be accepted for inaccuracies, howsoever caused. No liability can be accepted for illustrations, photographs, artwork or advertising materials while in transmission or with the publisher or their agents. All information is correct at time of going to print, July 2009.

BQ Magazine is published quarterly by room501 Ltd.

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NEWS

SUMMER 09

Many good causes and thousands of individuals are benefiting from CSR activity throughout the North East. Peter Jackson reviews recent developments >> Praise for positive action trainees at Nexus

Stage struck: Barbara Panes from the 43 Fund with members of the Springwell Village Hall Assocaition Drama Group

>> Funding from 43 Fund Boosts Community Theatre Projects More than £28,000 from the newly established 43 Fund at the Community Foundation has been awarded in grants to community theatre projects. The 43 Fund was established in 2008 after Gosforth Theatre Company dissolved their group due to dwindling membership and sold their clubhouse in Gosforth. The proceeds generated more than £150,000 which is now held at the Community Foundation and will generate income to support community theatre, amateur dramatics and performing arts projects in Tyne & Wear and Northumberland. In total 15 projects benefited from the grants including Springwell Village Hall Association in Gateshead which received a grant of £1,135 to run its junior drama group. The youngsters will now have an opportunity to learn about prop and costume design, publicity, and stage make-up techniques. Barbara Panes, a committee member on The 43 Fund panel said: “I’m thrilled that the legacy of Gosforth Theatre Company is able to continue through the 43 Fund at the Community Foundation, I don’t know what we would have done without them! It’s wonderful to see all of these amateur dramatics societies and community theatre groups developing and will hopefully continue to do so with the help of the 43 Fund.” Suzanne Shaftoe from Springwell Village Hall Association said: “All of the members are delighted that we have received this money to develop a new project for the junior drama group. It means that they will be able to learn even more skills and really develop a knowledge of what theatre and performing arts is all about. I think Gosforth Theatre Company did exactly the right thing by setting up the 43 Fund to benefit groups like ours in Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.”

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Nexus has underlined its commitment to workplace training and development by giving another a group of trainees from ethnic minority backgrounds the chance to gain key work skills on a six-month placement. This is the third year running that Nexus, the organisation which owns and manages the Metro system, has taken trainees from diverse backgrounds as part of the Positive Action Training Scheme. Over the years there have been many success stories to emerge from the scheme and a large number of the trainees have gone on to secure permanent positions. Many others have learned key skills and gone on to secure jobs elsewhere. The latest group, which joined Nexus in November, has earned praise for its effort and commitment. Five out of the six have gone on to secure extensions to their contracts of employment. Nexus Equality and Diversity Manager, Muan’a Mbikayi, said: “This group has been a real pleasure to work with. They’ve been brilliant and have made a success of their opportunities. “I am especially pleased with the way they have demonstrated their capabilities and competency. They have shown that they can be trusted and that they can do great work. “Out of the six trainees we took on, we have five who have had their contracts extended. Even the one person who has left us did very well and they were just unfortunate there was no opening for them.’’ Nigiste Yohannes has managed to secure a 12-month fixed contract with Nexus, working as a Travel Sales Executive in the Sunderland Travel Shop. The four other trainees who have had their contracts extended are Gary Gladman in Health and Safety, Susan Masani at the Metro Control Centre, Yin Myat Thu in Metro Commercial and Myo Mya in Social Inclusion.

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Muan’a added: “Thanks go to all the managers for their support and hard work. We would not have achieved the success we’ve had with this intake of trainees without the help of all the Nexus and Metro departments involved.”

>> Spark’s three-pronged approach to improving CSR Gateshead-based contact centre and eCommerce fulfilment specialist Spark Response has boosted its CSR initiatives with a focus on becoming greener, safer and a big local fundraiser. The company has raised almost all of its 2009 target for local charities already this year. Staff from around the business have contributed to a target of more than £5,000 raised for two good causes. Marketing and communications executive Alan Sawyers Alan said: “We wanted to increase our fundraising drive and committed to two local causes, which meant we needed to double the previous year’s effort. I set a goal of £4,000 with our HR department, so that if we managed to achieve this, our briefed target of £3,000 would appear to be well and truly smashed. As it turned out, we ended up raising over £4,800 so our expectations were more than exceeded.” “This year, we’re raising money for an equally worthy yet often overlooked cause – the Tyneside Rape Crisis Centre. Again, the money raised will be split two ways, with the other half being used to buy Christmas presents for local children’s hospitals and hospices. This will give some of our staff the best opportunity to put a face to the money they have raised, which is what choosing local causes has aimed to achieve. The great news it that this year’s target of £4,000 is going to be reached by around mid-year, as we had collected £3,100 at the end of May. This is great testament to the way our staff get involved in fundraising.” Another area of Spark’s CSR is its approach to environmental management. The company’s Project Focus was set up in

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2006 as a way for senior managers to save energy. The project was then given a brand identity and was re-launched last August as an internal communications plan to encourage staff to recycle and be more eco-aware by turning off lights, computers and photocopiers and other equipment. The amount of recycled waste removed from Spark’s Follingsby Park site increased by over 900% in just three months. In addition to this, Spark works with its packaging partner, Kite Packaging, in ensuring it uses ‘green’ packaging products for all of its eCommerce fulfilment clients.

>> Rio Tinto Alcan goes native Rio Tinto Alcan and Glen Nevis Estate have created 5,000 hectares of new, native woodland in the Scottish Highlands. The Glen Nevis project aims to create a matrix of native woodland and open ground habitats, replicating the structure of a natural forest. Using a combination of natural regeneration and planting, the woodland will include Caledonian Scots pine, birch, oak, alder, rowan and holly. The project, believed to be the largest regeneration scheme of its type in the UK, is set in the midst of unsurpassed Highland scenery. Glen Nevis winds for about seven miles into the heart of rugged mountains, bounded by the massive slopes of Ben Nevis on the northern side and the steep Mamore range on the south. In addition to restoring the natural landscape, this project is aligned with Rio Tinto Alcan’s commitment to the environment, in that the forest, when mature, will offset carbon from the nearby aluminium smelter in Lochaber. Indeed, this is the second major woodland regeneration project that Rio Tinto Alcan has implemented in the Highlands. A 3,500 hectare scheme currently sits close to its power station at Kinlochleven. The first phase of the Glen Nevis project will see over 100,000 trees planted within a 100 hectare site that has recently been temporarily fenced off on both estates. Only 60% of the site will be planted so as to preserve the wet flushes, especially important for the ground flora, heather, heath and blueberry.

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NEWS

Jim Beattie, Highlands Estate Manager, Rio Tinto Alcan, said: “Our first major woodland regeneration project, near the Kinlochleven power station, has been in operation for a number of years. It is incredible to see how rapidly the new forest is taking shape as a home for a wide range of flora and wildlife. The Glen Nevis project will be even larger and more exciting, possibly the biggest of its type in the UK, and will be completed over the next ten years.” “Rio Tinto Alcan is rigorous in its protection of the environment and this scheme is just one of the many ways we implement our responsibilities.”

>>Community foundation appoints chief executive The Community Foundation has appointed a leading figure in the world of grant making, philanthropy and social justice, to be its new chief executive. Rob Williamson, 37, has been director of policy and communications and assistant foundation director at Northern Rock Foundation for the last six years. During that time he had helped shape policy development and service delivery at the Northern Rock Foundation which is the region’s largest charitable donor. He has widespread experience in the voluntary and public sector and is uniquely placed to understand the types of organisations helped by the Community Foundation having worked in the front line as a volunteer and an employee during his career. Community Foundation chairman, Hugh Welch said: “We are delighted to have appointed Rob as our new chief executive. His passion for social justice is huge and fits in with our plans for the Community Foundation now and in the future. He is uniquely well-placed, with his experience and background in the region, to take the Community Foundation forward.” Rob Williamson has spent the majority of his career in the region having graduated continued on page 06

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from York University. He worked for Newcastle Council for Voluntary Services before moving to Newcastle City Council as a Policy and Strategy Officer on the Social Policy and Corporate Initiatives Team. He joined Northern Rock Foundation in 2003 and during his time there led an 18-month strategic review of the Foundation’s work, consulting more than 1000 stakeholders and developed, commissioned and managed a £500,000 research programme into the Third Sector in the North East and Cumbria. Rob Williamson said: “I feel extremely privileged to be appointed as the Community Foundation’s next chief executive. There has never been a more important time to encourage, support and plan charitable giving. The Community Foundation engages private donors, public bodies and voluntary organisations in a joint endeavour focused on strengthening our communities and reaching people facing particular disadvantage. Alongside its excellent board and staff team, and with the continuing support of its current donors, I am looking forward to the challenge of building on its fantastic track record and leading the development of philanthropy in our region.” Rob will be taking over from George Hepburn OBE who has been in the role since the Foundation was set up 1988. George will be leaving the Foundation to become Director of Shepherds Dene Retreat House in the summer. He said: “I am delighted to be handing over to Rob who is one of the most astute grant makers around and look forward to a whole new chapter of development at the Community Foundation under his leadership”.

>> Banks grant helps shine a light on local mining history More than 100 pieces of local mining history have gone on display for the first time later this year after a County Durham developer gave £11,000 to Beamish Museum. The Banks Group has donated the cash from its Banks Community Fund, to help fund a new exhibition of miners’ safety lamps, and to

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help support the open air museum’s work to establish an authentic colliery lamp cabin within its mining exhibit. More than 100 lamps, most of which were used at and collected from North East pits, will be part of the exhibition. The construction of the lamp cabin is the first part of Beamish’s long-term vision to enhance its facilities and establish itself as one of the world’s leading museums.

As well as the exhibition space in which the lamps will go on show, it is planned that the cabin will eventually include space for educational activities, scientific experiments with miners’ lamps, and display cases and graphic panels showing a day in the life of an early 20th century miner. Project leader Chris Scott said: “We’re aiming to recreate a 1913 miners’ lamp cabin as part of our colliery exhibit, and are using both

>> Newcastle Building Society launches new CSR strategy Newcastle Building Society has announced a series of new initiatives designed to help further integrate socially responsible business practices into the way it operates. The Society’s Board has approved an extensive new Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy, which is now in place and which is being led by the Society’s head of legal and CSR, Gillian Tiplady. The new policy will impact on the Newcastle’s day-to-day operations, from giving staff additional paid leave to support voluntary causes to minimising the impact it has on the environment. The Newcastle’s CSR policy covers its four key operational areas – environment, workplace, community and marketplace – and aims to help demonstrate that strong commercial businesses can also be socially responsible. The Society is now working towards ‘carbon neutral’ status for its entire operations within the next three years. This will be achieved through a combination of carbon offsetting, carbon saving through energy efficiency measures, and carbon reduction initiatives such as a car sharing scheme, greater use of recycled products, and an extended recycling scheme. A volunteering strategy has been set up, allowing staff an additional half day’s paid leave to support one of a number of local charities, and the Society is focusing on an ethical purchasing approach, which will identify the positive impact on the regional business community of the work it does with local companies. Newcastle staff raised £21,000 for their 2008/09 Charity of the Year, Maggie’s, which is building a new cancer care centre at the Freeman Hospital . But Gillian Tiplady believes that an effective approach to any business’s CSR responsibilities has to go much further than charitable donations. She said: “Both as a leading player in the regional business community, and as a mutual organisation, we aim to set an example by ensuring we operate in a socially responsible fashion, and are mindful of the impact we have on society and the environment - but to do this properly, we, and all businesses, have to fully integrate the principles of CSR into our mainstream business practices. “Our new policy helps to dictate how we act towards our customers, employees, suppliers, CSR head: Gillian Tiplady communities and the natural environment.

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original artefacts and new items which have been manufactured to be as close to the originals as possible. “Part of this project will involve creating a new exhibition space in which many of the items that we’ve previously just not had the room to display can be shown. “The grant we’ve received from Banks will enable us to conserve, clean and exhibit what are important items of industrial and social history, ensuring that they are displayed in the best possible conditions and allowing us to use existing funds to move other parts of the lamp cabin project forwards.” The Banks Group was established as a surface mining company in Tow Law more than 30 years ago, but has since diversified to undertake property, waste management and renewable energy schemes. Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at Banks, said: “As a company with its long history in the North East mining industry, we are pleased that we have been able to support the delivery of such an interesting and important project. “Beamish is a highly valuable educational and historical resource which attracts a huge amount of visitors and interest from both within and outside our region, and provides a fascinating window on a period of history which had a massive influence on shaping North East England in the 21st century.” The Banks Community Fund is administered by the County Durham Foundation. The Beamish lamp cabin project has also received financial support from the European Regional Development Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund, DCMS Wolfson Foundation, County Durham Economic Partnership, One NorthEast, The Charles Hayward Foundation and The Friends of Beamish.

The grant will enable us to exhibit important items

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NEWS

>> HRH The Prince of Wales names Sage boss as his 2009 Ambassador for responsible business in the North East Prince Charles has named Paul Walker, chief executive of The Sage Group plc, as his 2009 Prince’s Ambassador for his leadership and commitment to responsible business in the North East. The Prince’s Ambassador Award is part of Business in the Community’s Awards for Excellence 2009, which recognise businesses for the positive impact they have on society. Karen Wilkinson-Bell, BITC’s regional director said: “In the current climate it’s never been more important for businesses to show their leadership when it comes to responsible business issues. I am delighted that Paul has been recognised by our president, The Prince of Wales, for his personal commitment to this agenda here in the North East”. HRH The Prince of Wales said in a pre-recorded message that was shown at the North East awards dinner at NewcastleGateshead Hilton: “As I reflect on the challenges and successes as president of Business in the Community, it strikes me that unlocking talent and potential is the underpinning theme of everything I’ve been committed to over the past 26 years. “We are nearly always dependent on the talents of individual business leaders to find a way to make things happen. My Ambassador Award recognises the contribution of those individuals whose unwavering dedication and commitment has made a real difference in the organisations and communities in which they work. “It is a testament to Paul’s commitment that in just three short years, Sage has gained a reputation for making a real difference to the communities it serves around the UK, both through its volunteering programmes, and its support for local voluntary and community groups, as well as its work with local schools”. The Prince’s Ambassador Award is for individuals whose leadership and commitment to responsible business has resulted in changes and improvements inside their own company and who have also inspired other organisations to take action. At the same awards ceremony Stephen Bell, chief executive of Tyneside Cyrenians, was awarded the Marks & Spencer Sieff Award, one of the most prestigious categories in Business in the Community’s (BITC’s) 2009 Awards for Excellence. Mr Bell was recognised for his organisation’s work in helping break down the barriers and stigma associated with homelessness by developing programmes to support homeless people into employment, including an award-winning collaboration with North East-based construction company, Lumsden & Carroll, part of the Esh Group. The Marks & Spencer Sieff Award was introduced in 2002 to coincide with Business in the Community’s 20th anniversary, and the retirement of pioneering corporate leader and founder member, Sir David Sieff of Marks & Spencer. This Award pays tribute to the long history of corporate community involvement which the Sieff family promoted. The award is the benchmark standard for successful communitybusiness collaborations, recognising individuals whose contributions to society - by bringing businesses and communities together - have left a lasting, replicable legacy in the region. Karen Wilkinson-Bell said: “I would like to applaud Stephen for the work which has led to him being recognised in this way. Particularly at this time of recession and social unease, it is vital that businesses Paul Walker and community organisations work with one another to find solutions to their particular challenges”

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OVERVIEW

SUMMER 09

BE RESPONSIBLE, BE SUCCESSFUL Corporate social responsibility means businesses should do good and not do bad, and, by the way, should also make a profit, argues Peter Jackson

It is by no means a truth universally acknowledged that CSR is a good thing or even that it has a single meaning. It is, as Dr David Campbell, senior lecturer in accounting and business ethics at Newcastle University Business School, says, “a contested area’ and people have widely differing perceptions as to what it is. It means, whatever people want it to mean and there are no standards, as with accountancy, to which businesses must adhere. Dr Campbell identifies four broad levels of CSR, representing a spectrum, across which businesses might operate: the economic, legal, ethical and philanthropic. On the economic level a business might argue that it provides

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goods and services people want, it also provides jobs and gives investors a return – it is not a charity and what more do we have a right to expect of it? On the legal level this is taken slightly further, where a business does all of the above and complies with the necessary laws and regulations on governance, and in some parts of the world businesses would be amazed at the idea that their responsibilities should extend beyond this. Then, on the ethical level, a company will go further again and do things voluntarily, such as not making harmful products or monitoring the proportion of ethnic minorities or women it employs. Finally, the philanthropic company will want to actively do good, ‘give >>

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INTERVIEW

Karen Wilkinson-Bell

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something back’ and support the communities in which it operates. Those who take a traditional hard-nosed approach, who argue that businesses are not charities, that the legal and economic positions are the only ones necessary, or even desirable, could argue that anything more is a kind of theft, taking money which really belongs to shareholders and giving it to causes which just happen to appeal to the management. But, there is an equally hard-nosed response to this, which is to point out that a CSR policy can be good for business and, if properly done, will have a beneficial impact on the bottom line. Indeed, all proponents of a strong CSR approach for business make the point that it has to be good for the company. As Karen Wilkinson-Bell, regional director of Business in the Community North East, says: “Make sure it benefits the business. If an individual wants to justify it to the shareholders or his manager, he has got to have a really strong case for saying it’s good for the business.’’ So a shrewd business will, as Dr Campbell puts it, adopt strategic CSR, rather than a CSR strategy, that is to say it will carefully target its activities at key stakeholders or customers, so that, for instance, a drugs company might financially support the training of doctors, who may go on to be life-long customers of, and advocates for, the company. He also points to the political cost hypothesis, which means, in layman’s terms, that the bigger a company is, the higher its profile and the higher the cost of maintaining a positive profile. In other words, companies above a certain size had better have a CSR strategy, or strategic CSR, otherwise they will eventually suffer. But, even without being cynical, it is not difficult to see how CSR might benefit a business. It is, for instance, becoming increasingly important when it comes to recruitment. Wilkinson-Bell says: “Particularly in professional services where you are after the top talent and competing for the best minds you know people coming out of university now, even in a recession, are asking questions of companies they might work for. Young people really are incredibly interested in a

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If an individual wants to justify it to the shareholders or his manager, he has got to have a really strong case for saying it’s good for the business company’s social credentials.’’ And Hugh Welch, chairman of the Tyne and Wear Community Foundation and senior partner of commercial law firm Muckle LLP, agrees, saying his firm is acutely conscious of this in recruiting a generation more interested in ethical business than any previously. So, there’s a good sound business case to be made for CSR but the debate by no means ends there. There is even contention over whether it should be called corporate social responsibility, and this is more than semantics, more than the business world’s love of constantly juggling acronyms and changing jargon. The issue is with the `social’ in corporate social responsibility, with the possible implication that the social side is something extra to business. Of course, it is not and never can be; business and society are inseparable and having a concern for the society in which it operates cannot be regarded as a sort of

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optional bolt-on for business. Business in the Community, for instance, talks of ‘responsible business’ and Northumbrian Water refers to ‘corporate responsibility’, believing a sense of responsibility must inform everything a company does. When, for example, Northern Rock set up the Northern Rock Foundation it was undeniably a good thing to do and it has benefited the region enormously. But, it could be argued, that in so doing the bank divorced itself from a broader sense of responsibility in those heady days before the crash. Whatever it’s called – and for the sake of convenience we’ll stick with CSR – it is not just about doing good things, it is also about refraining from doing bad things, and increasingly that goes further than not dumping toxic waste or discriminating against staff on the grounds of sex or race. Hugh Welch describes how the debate is developing at Muckle LLP.

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“It’s something we have debated at partner level: should we act for a client involved in the arms trade? Should we act for a property developer that wishes to open a lap dancing club? There are some difficult ethical issues there about what is right to do. It’s not illegal, it’s not unusual, but is it morally right? We are not through that debate at all, but there is an important point there. You have got to stand up for what you believe in and I think there are some bits of work where we should say no, we don’t do that.’’ The CSR agenda has undoubtedly broadened and nowhere is that more obvious than with the issue of climate change. As Dr Campbell says, “climate change is massive’’. Companies which do not keep up with the green agenda, or even stay ahead of the curve, will be punished, either by legislation or consumer pressure. Or will they? Will perhaps recession make us worry less about climate change or even the whole CSR agenda? Happily, the evidence is we will not. The FTSE 100 companies give more than £1bn a year to charity. According to Dr Campbell’s research, in 1985 companies on average gave 0.17% of pre-tax profits to charity and that is now more than 0.5% for the entire FTSE. In the recession of the early 1990s businesses did not reduce their giving, but maintained the same levels in the face of falling profits, which meant a percentage increase. There is no reason to believe that will be any different this time. Not only that, the spirit of the age favours CSR. The internet has made the public more informed and the pressure group more powerful. The next government, whatever its colour, will have to cut public spending and will want to work in co-operation with charities to deliver social good and the government and those charities will depend on the continued support of business. There is every reason to be optimistic business will step up to the plate. As Karen Wilkinson-Bell says: “The purpose of a business is wider than purely making money; it’s there for a wider purpose and that should be creating a healthier society which itself creates a healthy economy which sustains businesses.’’ ■

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OVERVIEW

NOW MORE THAN EVER, WE NEED A COMMUNITY SPIRIT Paul Woolston, senior partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in Newcastle Against the backdrop of record unemployment figures, and a difficult outlook for our economy not least in the North East, it can seem counter-intuitive to suggest CSR’s time has come. The reality is that now, more than ever, the opportunity for companies to integrate CSR into their business and training strategy has arrived, with vital pay back for communities in need of practical help and support. A business needs to consider how environmental and community issues will help it survive and grow out of recession. The two have to be considered in tandem. Focusing on the community opportunity, for a strategy to be successful it needs two aspects; long term relationships and community partners that reflect mutual intent. Get it right, and it will open low cost, high value development opportunities and experiences to your employees and business that ultimately return a more rounded employee to your business. You will measure their return in years rather than the few days or hours they missed in the office, because the experiences you have in a real life situation bring training that a classroom will never provide. More importantly, your community partner, rather than relying on a crutch that bound them to continuous short term planning and reliance on goodwill or financial donations from multiple supporters, will have built the capability to stand on its own two feet. Discussions at the recent Building Stronger Communities taskforce meetings held nationwide brought together business and the Third Sector to help communities affected by the downturn. It confirmed that corporate responsibility, long seen on the periphery of business, now needs to play a very real role in the recovery of our communities. Take for example the recent unemployment figures. Sobering reading, not least for their impact on young people, and the North East. The unemployment rate in the 18-24 age group is now reaching 16.6%, the highest since 1993. CSR can play a critical role in ensuring a generation is not lost through simple skills and facilities exchange with community groups. Skills and facilities that business takes for granted, can be shared at a practical level with young people, helping them write CVs, providing work experience, career or interview coaching. A recent PwC event sought to encourage homeless people back into workplace training, by meeting them in the office, and offering advice on writing CVs and interview techniques. This was about building their skills in a sustainable way so that they could take a step forward, rather than merely providing cash handouts. Increasingly, the health of a business’s prospects is reflected by the health of the community around it. Research conducted by MORI and BITC showed that companies participating in the annual BITC Companies that count outperformed the FTSE 350 on total shareholder return between 2002 – 2007 by between 3.3% and 7.7% per annum. Will we see a correlation between those who come out of the recession strongest and those who continue to invest in CSR as part of their overall sustainability strategy? We believe so, but it won’t only be because of their sustainability performance: it’s the recognition of where risks and costs are in the business, and where value can be created to build a sustainable environment for business.

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COMPANY VIEW

SUMMER 09

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Julie Lowther, BT North East Regional board member champions Corporate Social Responsibility in the region

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COMPANY VIEW

As a global communications services company BT aims to help its customers make best use of communications to meet their needs. This, together with a desire to be a responsible and sustainable company, drives us to try to have as positive an impact on society as we can. Our vision is to help customers thrive in a changing world and we believe that better communications can help create a better, more sustainable world for everyone. Communications is a key enabler for this; opening up opportunities for everyone in the region, as well as, the rest of the UK to participate, benefit and contribute. Our communications expertise can make a positive difference in tackling climate change, helping create a more inclusive society and enabling sustainable economic growth. I believe that BT has the responsibility to champion the role of improved communications for all sections of society and our social investment is firmly based around areas where we can use our expertise and technology to make the biggest impact possible. We live in a digital age and communication skills and technology are essential to happy and successful lives, opening doors to education, jobs, entertainment and improving social contact. Through digital inclusion, individuals’ lives, communities and society in general can all be improved. Sadly some people cannot - or are unwilling, or feel unable - to gain access to technology that the rest of us take for granted. I believe digital exclusion is a business issue, as well as a social problem as it affects the ability of businesses to recruit and train people, improve productivity and so better compete nationally and globally. BT plays a major part here with schemes running in conjunction with other organisations to encourage and support people getting connected. BT supports a range of activities including, community award schemes, volunteering, communications skills in schools, and digital inclusion projects to name but a few. BT’s work with community groups and its

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environmental initiatives have led to two major business awards. For the fifth year running, the company has been awarded a Big Tick from Business in the Community for the BT Community Connections award scheme and a second Big Tick for its environmental campaigns relating to climate change. The Big Ticks scheme recognises programmes that have a positive impact on both society and on the business. BT has supported various volunteering activities for many years, and is now embarking on a new employee volunteering programme encouraging everyone to take part. We would like to see an increase in the number of BT volunteers and the range of good causes they support. According to internal research about 36% of BT people currently volunteer with a charity or community group in their own time, and a further 30% would like to volunteer and haven’t done so yet. At BT, we believe that volunteering creates opportunities to support our people to do the things they are passionate about in their local communities. We believe that the skills developed and transferred help people and communities to grow and make BT a better, stronger and more relevant business. Volunteering is an activity that involves spending time doing something that aims to benefit the environment, communities, individuals or groups. It involves the development or transfer of skills and enhances the motivation and commitment of BT people. The BT regional board have been actively supporting and promoting BT’s CSR strategy across the North East for the benefit of local communities for a long time. The benefits to the individuals, society and business are considerable and I would encourage other businesses – large and small to look at ways of adopting a robust CSR strategy. It can and will make a difference. ■ Further information on BT go to www.btplc.com

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INTERVIEW

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INTERVIEW

RESPONSIBILITY ON TAP For Northumbrian Water, corporate social responsibility is central to its business. Louise Hunter tells Peter Jackson how and why >>

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Louise Hunter’s manner is bright, not to say chipper. As well it might be, for Northumbrian Water has recently won a string of awards for its corporate social responsibility. In December it was named Utility of the Year by Utility Weekly, being commended on all aspects of its business, including its excellent customer service and corporate social responsibility, and in April it was awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the category of sustainable development. In June Northumbrian Water was named as a Platinum Plus company in Business in the Community’s CSR Index. And, as the company’s head of corporate

social responsibility, she clearly takes a justifiable pride in those achievements. She says: “Winning the Queen’s Award was like winning the Oscars, it’s the best the company can do in that area to have that level of recognition externally is just fantastic.’’ She explains that there are five themes to Northumbrian Water’s CSR: people, competitiveness, customers, environment and, over-arching all these, reputation. She says: “For us, it’s about being a responsible business in all of those ways: how we train, develop and look after our people, it’s about how we protect the environment, it’s about excellent customer service and it’s also

about how we support the communities that we serve, while maintaining a balance, because obviously we are a company that needs to operate in a very challenging economic environment. So, it’s quite a broad definition, that’s how we interpret corporate responsibility.’’ By customers, Northumbrian Water does not only mean the customers it supplies but its whole supply chain; how it can support the regional economy through its supply chain and encourage suppliers themselves to adapt some of Northumbrian Water’s own CSR policies. The company has a five-year plan for the training and development of its staff, running

Below left: Lamesley Reedbeds Below right: Skills Awards for employee achievements in learning

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skills awards for the last two years which celebrate achievements ranging from the achievement of Level One and Two NVQs, to tailored management development programmes with Northumbria University Business School. I put it to her that competitiveness is not an obvious category to come under the CSR banner. “Competitiveness is different for us because we are a monopoly supplier,’’ she says. “We don’t compete in traditional terms like other businesses do because we don’t have a competitor, so it’s very much around how we support others using our economic power.’’

One of the central planks of the company’s CSR activity is its eight-year-old Just an Hour programme whereby the company commits to giving every employee a minimum of 15 hours a year of paid time to do volunteer work in the community. Last year this totalled 6,500 hours of time given to community projects, from tending climate change gardens to reading with young children or teaching salsa dancing in the community. This is not to say that Northumbrian Water does not also fulfil its social responsibilities in a traditional way, namely by giving money away. It holds funds with each of the region’s community foundations and has an employee

INTERVIEW

committee which approve grants to good causes. “But we try to follow those grants up with other support: so is there potential in there, is there need for bottled water, if it’s a garden does it need water butts? We try to give in-kind support and expertise as well. We don’t tend to give money and then walk away, we have a conversation about what else we can do to help,’’ says Hunter. Northumbrian Water estimates that, at any one time, it is working with between 50 and 100 community organisations on a daily basis and this community activity concentrates on six areas: education, environment, >>

Below left: Advanced thermal anaerobic digestion at Bran Sands Below right: The vibrant wildlife of the Kielder area is well known and now an iconic bird has bred in Northumberland for first time in over two centuries

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community support, regional support, Water Aid and health. Water Aid, which Northumbrian Water has supported for 20 years, is an exception to its concentration on supporting local good causes. It is an international charity dedicated to the provision of safe domestic water, sanitation and hygiene education to the developing world. Over the last five years the company’s annual contribution to community investment, in cash and in-kind, has been between 1.1 -1.3% of pre-tax profit and this amounted to £1.9m in 2007/2008. Northumbrian Water does not talk about

corporate social responsibility but prefers the shorter version `corporate responsibility’. Hunter describes how this commitment to corporate responsibility is embedded in the company, from board level downwards. “I found it amusing when I joined Northumbrian Water, if you’ve been here less than about 10 years, you’re a newcomer. A lot of people have been here for a long time and I think that says something really positive about the company, in that people do think it’s a good employer, they do believe in its values.’’ However, she insists that there is, and has to be, hard-headed business reasons behind the company’s commitment.

“There has to be a business benefit, because sustainable development is about balancing economy, society and environment, so there has to be an economic aspect to it. It would be great for me to sit here and say I think we should give all our employees half their time off to go and volunteer, but it’s not economically sustainable. A large part of my role in the business and externally is about making that case and saying this makes good business sense, because this is the economic factor.’’ An obvious example is waste and recycling to which the company devotes a great deal of time and effort. Yes, it is good for the

Below left: John Cuthbert (back) (MD) and Ceri Jones (Regulation and scientific services director) with players from the Eagles basketball team (l-r Darius Defoe, Lynard Stewart and Reggie Jackson), raising money for Children in Need Below right: Employees volunteering under our Just an Hour volunteering programme where each employee can give at least 15 hours a year to support their community

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environment, but it also means Northumbrian Water paying less landfill tax. Much of its corporate responsibility work is about building the trust and respect of the community, which is essential to it as it is a monopoly supplier of that community’s water and waste water. Nor should it be forgotten that Northumbrian Water is a publicly listed company and, with the increasing credibility of ethical investment portfolios, a robust and respected corporate responsibility strategy can have real business benefits in the City. Northumbrian Water is listed on the FTSE for Good index of companies

considered to be ethical investments. The company’s approach is developing all the time and, over the past two years, has tended to move more towards long term projects. It has, for example, been heavily involved in Health Works, the conversion of a disused pumping station in Easington Colliery into a health centre. Working with the local primary care trust and community, they have created a centre which also houses advice and support organisations. “It’s unique in that it includes primary care services, but also alongside that it houses organisations like Citizen’s Advice and Age Concern, so it does a lot of cross referral, so

INTERVIEW

it’s a pilot enabling us to look at people’s health holistically,’’ says Hunter. The company has also become the lead sponsor of the new Castle View Enterprise Academy in Sunderland, which will open in September. She says: “From the board’s point of view, that’s a huge commitment and an ongoing commitment and we are not going to see results from being lead sponsor this year or next year; it’s very much a five, ten, fifteenyear project and we will look at how that community then develops.’’ If it develops as they hope, the company could well be in for some more awards. n

Muckle’s Law states:

Become a part of the community, not just one of the community.

We care passionately about our region and about having a positive impact in the community where we live and work. Making a difference is central to who we are. To experience first hand what we are like to work with, call us today on 0191 211 7777.

Muckle

LLP

www.muckle-llp.com

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CASE STUDY

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CASE STUDY

IN SARA’S NAME Businesses working for charities can make a real difference. Peter Jackson looks at one good cause for which such support was crucial >>

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CASE STUDY

Sara Hoburn was only 16 when she died of a rare form of colon cancer. But in her tragically short life she inspired so many people with her indomitable spirit, her cheerfulness and her concern for others. Two years before her death she wrote: "When I was first diagnosed with cancer I was very shocked as you never expect anything major to happen to yourself. You see issues very similar to your own and we feel sorry for people who are in ill health. The thing is we never think that anything serious can happen to ourselves. When I first found out that I had cancer I was really stunned and shocked but my first thought was I am going to get through this and prove not only to myself but also to the doctors and nurses I can. So will you, if you have a positive attitude all the way through your journey." And she added: "As well as being stunned and shocked I was happy not because I had cancer but it was me that had cancer and not my Mum, Dad or Mark (her younger brother)." When she died in 2001, her parents Ged and Julie, of Whitley Bay, were determined to do something in her name to help other children with life-threatening illnesses. They were only too painfully aware that in such circumstances parents often face financial difficulties, having to take time off work – or give up work altogether – to stay with a child in hospital. The Hoburns also knew that parents and children in such cases need a break from the

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long hospital stays, traumatic medical procedures and cancer related treatments. And they remembered how much Sara had enjoyed her family holidays in the Greek Islands. “She loved Greece and the Greek Islands and the Greek people,’’ says Ged. “We went to Crete and fell in love with the place and people, it’s so family oriented and they love their children and have a relaxed and laid back life-style so we thought it would be an ideal holiday location with a way of life, environment and culture to allow families to chill out.’’ They decided they would raise funds to buy a plot of land and build a holiday retreat on Crete for young cancer patients in the UK and their families. Then, Ged and Julie would relocate to the island to provide 24-hour care for the children and their families. But, it was one thing to have a plan, quite another to be able to put it into action. “The way it started was that we met with a bunch of friends in a pub and we all said this is what we want to do,’’ recalls Ged. “But none of us had ever had anything to do with charity, other than a bit of fund raising and no-one in the room had any idea how it works, just lots of enthusiasm and dedication.’’ However, one of them had a relative who worked for Newcastle commercial law firm Muckle LLP, a business which does more than £100,000 worth of free legal work every year for charities and good causes.

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The firm agreed to help Ged and Julie as part of its CSR programme and associate Joanne Davison worked with them to set up Sara’s Hope Foundation as a company limited by guarantee and as a registered charity, work which would normally have cost £5,000 to £7,000. “They were fantastic,’’ says Ged. “They helped us through the whole process of setting up and there was a lot to do but they did it very quickly. Joanne was absolutely fantastic, helping us with things we knew nothing about. I don’t think we would have been able to get through that without their help.’’ Muckle LLP also organised the launch of Sara’s Hope Foundation at its offices in Gallowgate in Newcastle and its marketing department helped to publicise the event. “They have also offered us advice whenever we have needed it,’’ says Ged. “We had a big problem trying to open a bank account in Crete as no English charity had ever done that before, but Joanne helped with organising the documentation for that.’’ Since the launch in March 2008, the charity has gone from strength to strength. It has raised more than £80,000 towards its target of £350,000 and has also attracted the support

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of other businesses, including Halifax Bank, Eldon Square and Newcastle United. It has identified a plot of land in Crete on which to build a retreat villa, which will be able to accommodate one or two families at a time. Its plans also include: a swimming pool and a small pool; a play and park area; a barbecue and outdoor eating area; an outdoor covered sports area with a pool and table tennis tables; internet access and play stations, a TV room and video and toys and books. The villa will be surrounded by gardens with grapevines, olive, lemon and orange trees. Thanks to help from businesses, that dream is much closer to reality. Joanne Davison said: “The firm recognises the importance of giving back to the local community and we see our pro bono work, in giving free advice to charities, as being absolutely integral to our CSR policy. We have lots of experience in charity law and there are

They were fantastic, they helped us through the whole process of setting up. I don’t think we would have been able to get through that without their help

CASE STUDY some causes who would not be able to pay for advice, but it is important they do not lose out because of that. “For me personally, it’s very rewarding to help local groups like Sara’s Hope Foundation and it’s also extremely interesting working with people who are not coming at things from the normal commercial angle. I think that the pro bono assistance we offer makes a real difference to the local community. I think it’s so important that businesses do give such support because it is invaluable to these charities which add so much value to the region.’’ Ged says: “The people who set up the charity had lots of enthusiasm and dedication but without Muckle’s help it would have taken us a lot longer. Even now Joanne is there for us at the end of the phone, if we have a problem we can ring her up and it was all done for free, which is absolutely phenomenal.’’ ■

Supporting the Region

Esh House, Bowburn North Industrial Estate, Bowburn, Durham, DH6 5PF

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0191 377 4570

www.eshgroup.uk.com

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INTERVIEW

A fund of goodwill In 2008 the Community Foundation celebrated its first successful 20 years, but what does the future hold? Chairman Hugh Welch talks to Peter Jackson

Set up in the region in 1988, as one of the first in the UK, the Community Foundation has given support to 17,000 projects with grants totalling £65m. It is still one of the largest community foundations in the country by a wide margin, with £34m worth of funds under management for more than 200 individuals, businesses and other organisations. Companies, as well as individuals and families, can set up a charitable fund at the Foundation and such a fund can be dedicated to the support of issues and causes that are particularly dear to the heart of the donor’s business or personal interests. As well as managing funds, the Foundation also advises on charitable giving, researches suitable projects for individual funds to support, looks after all the administration involved in making donations and ensures donations are made in the most tax effective way. Hugh Welch says: “We will help you find suitable projects to support; we will make sure that your charitable donations are effective. If you don’t make effective donations, you can

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give away a lot of money without it really doing very much good. “Whatever your particular concerns are, the Foundation will match you up with projects or smaller charities that are doing good work in that area. So if we come to you with a list of suggested projects, you’ll know that essentially we have vetted them, that they are well run and that they will make great use of your money. “You could set up your own charitable foundation, but, if you do that, you’ve then got all the problems about investment, legal

structure, returns to the Charity Commission, returns to the Registrar of Companies, and all that mass of bureaucracy associated with your own charitable trust.’’ Predominantly, the Community Foundation supports organisations operating in Tyne and Wear and Northumberland, where it helps hundreds of smaller voluntary groups which could never hope to rival the profile and fund raising abilities of some of the household name national charities. The Foundation also takes a stand on certain social issues and, over the last two years, >>

There’s a sense of identity and people care about the region and they care about the people with whom they share this region

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has done a lot of work on what it describes as `social capital’, which it defines as `the glue that holds communities together’: such things as community activities and social networks that create strong communities. The Foundation has also done much work on men’s health and on homelessness. It is not a campaigning organisation, but does try to raise awareness of what it sees as important social issues. Like most other organisations, the Community Foundation has been hit by the recession. As markets have fallen, so has the value of funds managed and cash held on deposit now earns much less in interest than it did. However, Hugh Welch is optimistic businesses will continue to show their generosity. He says: “There is evidence that in the last recession corporate giving held up well and certainly it has continued to do so over the last six months as far as the Community Foundation is concerned. We have had a donation of £100,000 from Margaret Barbour towards the Women’s Fund, so it is holding up and there are reasons to be reasonably optimistic that it will continue to do so. “Why do people give to the Community Foundation? At the end of the day, they do it because they care about the community and want to help other people and, if that’s your mindset, you don’t change just because things are tougher.’’ Particularly not, he points out, as the very people you seek to help are most vulnerable to tougher times. “I think that’s why the Foundation here has been so successful, there’s a sense of identity and people care about the region and they care about the people with whom they share this region.’’ Why is that? “I’ve no idea.’’ He laughs, but ventures on a theory: “This is not my area, but you can go back to the Victorian social philanthropists and, if you look at the North East, the landowners looked after the people who worked there, the ship owners and the colliery owners looked after their people. Why does the football club generate such passion? It’s part of this caring about the region.’’ Even without the recession, times are changing in the field of CSR in general and

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Firm foundation: Chairman Hugh Welch is optimistic about giving even at the Community Foundation, where chief executive George Hepburn is retiring at the end of this month. “The contribution he has made to the Community Foundation is immeasurable, he is the Community Foundation,’’ says Welch. “We have recruited, Rob Williamson, acting chief executive of the Northern Rock Foundation, which is very good news, he will be very good indeed at the job.’’ And he will, according to his chairman, be facing a changing CSR scene. “If you take CSR generally, yes, you are seeing a change of approach and businesses are taking their whole CSR programmes much more seriously and I think you are seeing customers and suppliers and clients expecting businesses to have a more thought-through CSR programme. “I would like to see it continue to develop the way it has developed over the last few years and see all businesses voluntarily develop their own CSR programmes.’’ But he is clear that CSR is not something that can be forced on a business – it has to be

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voluntary and it has to be bought into. “It’s something that businesses need to want to do. You can’t successfully impose an obligation on businesses to adopt a CSR policy. You can do some stuff, you can impose on them a recycling obligation or emission constraints for manufacturers, but, to me, it goes broader than that and it involves a shift where businesses do continue to have a much broader responsibility for what they do and how they do it in their various communities. It really has got to be a cultural thing and those leading the businesses have got to want to do it.’’ And this means they have to do it in their own way, there is no CSR template which they can take from the shelf and which will be appropriate for their particular business. “Each business has to develop its own CSR programme which matches what it does, what its people want to do and how it interacts with the community in which it operates. Each business out there needs to look at the things that can comprise CSR and choose the bits that work for them and fit for them.’’ n

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INTERVIEW

Partnership is true art For 18 years the Sponsors’ Club for Arts & Business has been encouraging links between the worlds of business and culture as director Adam Lopardo explains to Peter Jackson

Into Africa: How Tyhume Valley amphitheatre will look Deep in the remote countryside of South Africa, in the Tyhume valley, an amphitheatre is being built for the Gqumahashe primary school – with the help of a North East business. To provide a permanent legacy of their highly successful production Elephant, Newcastlebased theatre company Dodgy Clutch have teamed up with Ryder Architecture’s Newcastle office to build the amphitheatre as a place where the children can create their own performances and develop their skills. Ryder worked with engineers Cundall to develop the initial proposals and Cundall’s support was match funded by the Sponsor’s Club, of which Ryder is a business member. The match funding supported workshops by Dodgy Clutch in schools in the North East, allowing the sharing ideas across business and the Arts, as well as across the globe. This is typically how the Sponsor’s Club operates. Its 27 business members pay annual

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subscriptions which are paid into a Community Foundation fund and are used to make grants to award other businesses to support arts and cultural projects through matched funding. Last year these grants totalled some £30,000. Members range from corporate giants such as Northern Rock to businesses with just two or

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three employees. But, whatever the size, these partnerships between business and the Arts benefit both, according to Adam Lopardo. He says: “We believe business has a lot to offer the cultural sector other than cash and the cultural sector can bring huge benefits to business. Firms have a number of business and social goals such as training, networking, advertising, corporate social responsibility, all of which will have a line in the budget and with all of which the Arts can help. “Businesses which partner with the Arts tend to be more creative and stand out from the crowd. Also, the Arts can help in so many practical ways: if you are looking at team building, you could go and try to build a raft together in a very 1980s way, or you could bring everyone together for a singing workshop or a cartoon drawing workshop.’’ Newcastle Building Society is also a Sponsors’ Club member and has had a three-year partnership with Seven Stories, the Centre for Children’s Books, based in the Ouseburn Valley in Newcastle. The Voyages project has been aimed at promoting creativity in children through storytelling and included the design and production of a magical floating boat sculpture, storytelling workshops and arts activities, engaging the building society and Seven Stories with more than 300 children, teachers, artists, parents and families. The first phase of the project saw artist Andy Comely create a boat sculpture from the imaginations of school children, which is now moored outside Seven Stories on the Ouseburn. The second phase involved storytellers visiting children in primary schools and with the boat as a starting point to encourage and develop their literary skills. n

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PUTTING PEOPLE FIRST Corporate social responsibility applies to local government as well as business, as Sunderland City Council chief executive Dave Smith explains

For Sunderland City Council, according to Dave Smith, CSR is a matter of developing “real relationships’’ with residents and the wider community. He sees consultation as being the key to this and so the council puts the city’s residents at the forefront of its driving forward the vision for the city. He says: “Sunderland’s continuing success depends on partnership working. Last year the City Council and partners launched the new Sunderland Strategy after extensive consultation across the city. People told us what issues were most important to them and we also found out what matters most to businesses, partners and many other organisations.” The aim is to enhance the quality of life for everyone in Sunderland by concentrating on five main priorities. The first of these is to create a prosperous city and increasing employment is a vital part of this. Through the free Job Linkage service the

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council links local people to local jobs, Modern Apprenticeships are offered, along with a range of other learning options. As Smith says: “We want to create an enterprising and productive global city with a strong and diverse economy. “The story of Sunderland‘s economy is one of continuous and sometimes very rapid change. Inward investment has delivered 3,100 jobs since 2005 and we have an enviable track record of attracting the best companies including Nissan, Lloyds TSB and EDF. But we’re not complacent: we are investing in our workforce and want to ensure that our activities are most relevant to those sectors that are most likely to generate significant numbers of appropriate job opportunities for local people.” Another priority is to make Sunderland an even safer city. Crime in Sunderland is below the national average and is falling but, with Newcastle City Council, the Council has set up a Neighbourhood Helpline to allow residents to report a range of issues affecting their

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neighbourhoods and quality of life. This is a 24-hour service on which residents can report issues such as noise nuisance, rubbish, litter or fly-tipping, smoking in enclosed public spaces, street lighting, vandalism, graffiti, intimidation and harassment. Sunderland is also aiming to be a learning city and the Digital Challenge programme is setting the vision for a digitally enabled Sunderland, transforming the lives of people in the city, particularly those who are disadvantaged or disengaged. “Technology continues to play a central role in our development as a city and as a community, with Sunderland Software City leading the way in inspiring and encouraging the growth of the software industry in the North East and our own £3m digital challenge programme benefiting some of the most vulnerable and socially excluded people in the area,’’ says Smith. The council also aims to make Sunderland a healthy city and, to help achieve that, Wellness facilities are located throughout the city in

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conventional sports centres, as well as various community venues. These provide not just opportunities for improving health and fitness but also for improving general well-being and social opportunities. Sunderland City Council’s Community Wellness Programme is made available to all those who want to lose weight and improve health by means of regular exercise but who are intimidated by a traditional gym. Not only has Sunderland got its impressive new Aquatic Centre, but, over the past 12 months, construction has begun on the Silksworth and Hetton 25-metre pools, a £10.5m investment which will see the Silksworth Pool open its doors to the public in late 2009 and the Hetton pool by early 2010. Facilities will include a learner pool, Wellness Centre, sauna and steam room. The final priority is to make Sunderland an attractive and inclusive city, so there are inclusive community spaces in many locations across the city. Sunderland’s 20 libraries offer a range of services and are increasing knowledge access and learning opportunities for all in Sunderland. The newly redeveloped Library and Customer Service Centre in Washington is one such location. Reopened in the heart of Washington, the updated library gives access to: thousands of books; free computer and internet access at one of 40 PCs; courses; study groups and reading groups. Details of adult learning courses and information on what’s happening in the local community are given by staff who are also trained to give information, advice and guidance on job interviews, writing CV’s or completing job applications. Volunteering is also supported and invested in by the council as it can have a significant

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INTERVIEW

Left to right, Cllr Paul Watson, Leader of the Council, Dave Smith, chief executive, Dr. Stephanie Scott, Secretary of District Columbia, Washington DC impact on the people involved, whether this includes promoting their independence, building, self-esteem, extending social networks, gaining new skills and reducing social isolation. The council supports volunteers and organisations with volunteers. In addition to driving forward these five priorities, Sunderland City Council can point to a number of other achievements in the past 12 months which have demonstrated its commitment to CSR. It has made a successful bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for £2.4m to redevelop Barnes Park as part of a £3.6m project. The announcement coincided with the park’s centenary and the proposals for redevelopment will bring it into the 21st century, while also restoring its precious heritage. It has also recognised that a commitment to

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CSR must extend way beyond the city’s boundaries by launching a Climate Change Action Plan which aims to reduce carbon emissions from council operations by 10% by 2012. It offset the carbon emissions from all aircraft flown in the Sunderland International Airshow, and from all visitors traveling to the event, by insulating the cavity walls of 23 homes in the Roker area. It achieved Fairtrade City Status, and jointly celebrated being the 100th town or city to achieve this along with the City of London. There are now over 150 shops, organisations and workplaces in Sunderland which sell or serve Fairtrade goods. In conclusion, Smith says: “Sunderland City Council will continue to deliver quality services and listen to the needs of all residents to become a truly sustainable city and a place where people will flourish. ■

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IN THE HEART OF THE COMMUNITY Esh Group, with its £150m annual turnover, is one of the region’s biggest companies and, as chief executive Brian Manning explains to Peter Jackson, its CSR policy makes business sense

Bowburn-based construction giant the Esh Group is a stalwart of corporate social responsibility in the North East. It has been helping good causes for many years and four years ago set up a charitable trust into which it has paid £800,000 to help good causes in the community, particularly those involving the disadvantaged or young people. The trust is held by the Durham Community

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Foundation which researches and vets potential recipients of grants and the company has its own trustees board and an operations board made up of members of staff. Brian Manning explains: “On many occasions we go out and see the charities and check for ourselves, we’ve sent people out to Washington Fencing Club, Sunderland Foundation that we have given money to an organisation in Hartlepool which takes disadvantaged kids out sailing. “So, there’s that staff involvement and then it has to go to the trustees board for them to okay it as well. I suppose it’s our money and we want to go out there and make sure it’s being used wisely.’’ As the name implies, the company began in Esh Winning and, as a result, community involvement was written into its corporate DNA. “In Esh Winning we have come from a pit village where the community has been everything. We built up links with our local school because we relied on the local school for bringing people into the business and as

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we’ve moved here to Bowburn it has just moved on from there,’’ says Manning. The company still supports Esh Winning Football Club, donating about £5,000 a year and is proud that the club has just won promotion to Northern League Division One. But the Esh Group supports causes from the Tees to Berwick and, now that it has an operation in Leeds, is considering extending some CSR activity to Yorkshire. The staff sit on the operations board, enjoy getting involved and are encouraged to do so, although, as Manning concedes they sometimes suggest causes which are more about individuals than the communities on which the company likes to concentrate its charitable efforts. One of the projects of which Manning is proudest is the Grow with Esh competition, now in its fourth year, which every primary school in the North East is invited to enter. Its aim is to involve the schools in gardening or other horticultural projects. The best 20 entries each receive £1,000 which they use to set up and develop their projects.

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SUMMER 09

“What we are looking for is the quality of the submissions, community involvement, teacher involvement and pupil involvement, we are looking for an all round effort from the school and the community,’’ says Manning. The idea is that each project will be a catalyst for interaction with the community – perhaps as a school fundraiser or a local enterprise – as well as supporting classroom learning and highlighting such issues as healthy eating and entrepreneurship. Seven of the 20 are invited to the Botanical Gardens in Durham for an awards ceremony in which the winning school receives £3,000, the second £1,500 and the third £500. “We like this project because it’s influencing young people at an early age. I have this big belief that we (as a society) concentrate on 14 to 19-year-olds but by then it’s often too late and we really need to raise the aspirations of younger people,’’ he says. The company is also an enthusiastic supporter of the Future Business Magnates competition which sees schools from around the region taking part in six challenges around setting up a business and dealing with all aspects, including location, advertising and finance. Each school teams up with a business and this year Esh Group member Mechplant will be taking part. “We have been looking for a flagship scheme for a number of years and we are going to support Durham County Cricket Club

Foundation, which they have set up and we are going to go alongside them.’’ This foundation will deliver programmes falling into five categories: grassroots sport, club development, health, education and social cohesion, which Esh sees as ideal for its support. However, times are hard and they are particularly hard in the construction sector. The company has made some redundancies and has had to adjust its giving to its charitable trust. Manning explains: “We made a commitment that we would give £200,000 a year to the trust for five years, which would have been £1m, but we have put £800,000 in and we have suspended our £200,000 last payment. We will be reviewing it again this year when we see what this year’s profits are like. “The original idea was we would give 2% of our profits, but then we were making £10m, but it’s difficult and there’s no dividend this year. It’s difficult to go back to your shareholders to say we’re putting £200,000 into a charitable trust and you’re not getting any dividend. There’s a balance there, we need to be profitable as a business to put the money in, it doesn’t come from fresh air. ’’ But, as he points out, there’s no reason why causes in the North East should suffer, as the trust still has £250,000 in the bank. This does underline a fundamental belief of Brian Manning’s – that there has to be strong

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INTERVIEW

business case underpinning any CSR strategy. “You have to convince people that this will be healthy for business and there are good business reasons for doing it.’’ It is, for example, becoming increasingly important in procurement and some element of CSR is a common requirement in putting together tenders for public sector contracts. “It’s what we call a `win win situation’. If you look at procurement, it’s not just about price, it’s about the quality of your bid and a lot of people are looking for CSR as part of the tender process and want to know what you are doing for the local community and we have to demonstrate that we are strong as far as corporate social responsibility is concerned.’’ And he is not only convinced that CSR is good for his business, but will be good for other businesses, including small businesses. “It’s very difficult for smaller businesses or one-man-bands to tell them what they should be doing and what they shouldn’t be doing. The first thing is to point them in the direction that this will be healthy for business and to badge it as CSR can sometimes make it seem complicated. “What they have got to do is just break it down and not get carried away with the idea that it’s only for bigger companies, they have to realise that it’s for smaller companies and also recognise that they are probably doing it anyway, but they don’t take any credit for what they are doing.’’ n

Community support: Grow with Esh and Newcastle Eagles Wheelchair basketball team

CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

SPECIAL REPORT | SUMMER 09


INTERVIEW

SPECIAL REPORT | SUMMER 09

SUMMER JULY 09 09

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CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY


SUMMER 09

INTERVIEW

FOUNDATION FOR THE FUTURE Northern Rock Foundation is one of the outstanding examples of corporate social responsibility in the UK, but what is its future now? Peter Jackson asks chairman Alistair Balls Northern Rock Bank, of all our banks, has been through the mill, brought to the verge of collapse, and then taken into public ownership. But Alastair Balls, CB, is confident for the future of the Northern Rock Foundation, the charitable foundation which it established and supported. “I’m optimistic about the future of the Foundation and I think the Bank will find a new future and we will find a new future with the bank,’’ he says. It is to be fervently hoped that he is right: Northern Rock Foundation received, by covenant, a massive 5% of the bank’s annual pre-tax profits and, up to December 2007, this amounted to no less than £190m, representing a huge resource for good causes in the North East and Cumbria. As a building society, Northern Rock had long-established itself as a community based and widely respected financial group and, when it demutualised in 1997 to become a

CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

plc, it set up the Foundation to ensure its support for good causes continued. The Foundation devoted its considerable resources to supporting disadvantaged groups, primarily in the Bank’s traditional heartlands in the North and developed a series of programmes which it felt would have a real impact on those groups. It gave grants to help with causes which included the rehabilitation of prisoners, victims of domestic violence, Alzheimers sufferers and homeless young people. The significance of the Bank’s philanthropy should not be underestimated. As Balls says: “It’s difficult to grasp now the fact that what Northern Rock did when they set up the Foundation was a very generous act. To commit themselves to 5% of profits was undoubtedly a very generous act and there are not many plcs in the UK willing to do anything remotely like that. It’s almost impossible to sit here and say to a business ‘put your hands in your pockets to the same degree’. Expecting

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other businesses to measure up to that degree of generosity is improbable.’’ All this really did look too good to be true - or at least to last - in the autumn of 2007, when the credit crunch began to bite with a vengeance and Northern Rock, suffering from its exposure to wholesale credit markets, saw a collapse in its share price and queues outside its branches. “The result was that the level of profits we were receiving 5% of almost disappeared overnight and so, from a body that was distributing £35m a year to such good causes, we had to rethink our future,’’ says Balls. But the Foundation had built up such a store of gratitude and goodwill for its work that there was an enormous groundswell of public - and then political – support for its work to continue. As a result, when the Chancellor Alistair Darling took the Bank into public ownership in February 2008, he announced that he >>

SPECIAL REPORT | SUMMER 09


INTERVIEW

SUMMER 09

I’m optimistic about the future of the Foundation and I think the Bank will find a new future and we will find a new future with the bank

would ensure the Bank gave the Foundation £15m a year for three years and that he would also take steps to ensure the Foundation’s long-term viability. Apart from one or two rumblings, this position is shared by the other main political parties. And after that? Here Alistair Balls picks his words carefully and emphasises that he is expressing a personal opinion. “The Bank is obviously itself going through quite a transformation. First of all, there was the period in which it was desperately trying to repay the Treasury loan and they have gone a very long way towards that. The Government is now saying they would like the Bank to consider a fresh programme of lending, so it’s on the upward path again and there’s talk also of the Bank perhaps being split into one that’s more proactive in a business sense and the other more concerned with looking after those assets which may be higher risk; there’s a possibility that the good bank may be resold to the private sector, but we don’t know what the future is. We are now beginning to re-engage with them to see how their corporate responsibility interests and ours can work together.’’ So the future of the Foundation will still be bound up with that of the Bank? “I think that’s inevitable.’’ He points out that the Bank enjoyed considerable benefits from its association with the Foundation. “The Foundation has significantly benefited

SPECIAL REPORT | SUMMER 09

the Bank in the past and it has the potential to do so again in the future. The fact that we have got the same name as they have meant a very wide group of people and hundreds of charities have received support from the Foundation, so they see us as synonymous with the Bank so when the Bank got into difficulties there was a great public desire to see Northern Rock survive.’’ Alistair Darling’s arrangement still meant a substantial cut in income for the Foundation – from £37m a year to £15m - and it had to lay off staff, cutting numbers from 30 to 12. The Foundation’s policy is to offer support to causes over the long term. It therefore only plans to spend £11m a year, which, given its reserves of about £25m, will allow it to continue to give that commitment to causes. “As a minimum, we want to see ourselves extending over a life of five or six years,’’ says Balls. The Foundation will also continue its policy of giving grants to charities to help them to grow. “What we try to do when we hand out grants, is not merely to hand out cash, but we also seek to work with the charity to build its management capacity,’’ says Balls. “We are always very concerned about governance (of charities) we are always very concerned about the quality of the chief executives and, if we feel that they could be helped to strengthen, then we give them specific grants for training purposes.’’ The Foundation will also give grants to fund a

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specific post to help a charity grow, the principle being that a charity should not become dependent on the Foundation for funds. It also helps charities with research and in contracting to do work for public sector bodies. Alistair Balls came to the region 25 years ago as regional director for the departments of the environment and transport and went on to become chief executive of the Tyne and Wear Development Corporation, which was responsible for such flagship regeneration programmes as Newcastle’s Quayside, North Shields Royal Quays and St Peter’s in Sunderland. But, despite his civil service background, he is convinced that corporate social responsibility in general and the Foundation in particular, has a vital role to play. “This is me talking, I personally don’t believe that the public sector is the only party which should be providing public welfare. I’m a great believer in civil society providing for disadvantaged groups. There’s always going to be areas where the public sector, with all its grand regimes and all its bureaucracy isn’t going to reach. Also, no matter how well intentioned the public sector might be, it always ends up providing its assistance in a somewhat mechanical and not terribly humane way in some cases. Charities often provide a more human interface with people who need help.’’ And long may the Foundation continue to do just that. n

CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY


SUMMER 09

COMPANY PROFILE

Spark Response provides customer contact and order fulfilment services to local, national and international businesses, from start-ups to household names

HELPING BUSINESSES TO GROW IN TIMES OF ECONOMIC DOWNTURN

T

OUGH times call for tough decisions, and outsourcing any element of business that could have an effect on your customer service and reputation can be just that. And with big names like Cancer Research UK and Ateronon outsourcing to North East service provider Spark Response, things are looking up. Gateshead-based Spark has been handling inbound and outbound customer contacts and despatching eCommerce, home shopping and trade orders from its premises on Follingsby Park since 1996. Its inbound contact centre services cover customer service, order taking, catalogue requests, information requests, charity donations and tourist information among others, whilst its outbound division boasts a thriving and successful sales and telemarketing team. In its fulfilment centres, the company handles orders via a number of different channels such as eCommerce, DRTV and catalogue home shopping as well as business to business trade ordering and retail store replenishment. Spark’s varied client base features a host of names from across multiple sectors, such as eCommerce, charity, public sector and utilities to name a few. Sunderland-born Managing Director, Peter Slee, says: “Typically, companies come to Spark looking for a partner who can support their existing fulfilment and/or contact centre requirement, whilst helping the business to grow, developing efficiencies and cost-effectiveness along the way. This then allows those businesses to concentrate on their own goals and targets which, in the case of Cancer Research UK, is on events, fundraising and the development of its Shop to Beat Cancer online store.” As well as working with industry giants like E.ON,

CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

Toys R Us and regional development agency One North East, Spark sees one of its critical success factors as its ability to support fledgling companies and help start-up campaigns to take off. Peter adds: “When the Ateronon ‘tomato pill’ broke the front page in early June, the promoter of the product needed what they described as the ‘perfect organisation to handle its needs’. Here is a company massively successful in self-promotion and attracting media interest, but with little knowledge or understanding of the fulfilment and contact centre industry. Spark was ready and able to handle the demand for Ateronon, had it been a handful of orders, or the reality – massive demand for the product seen on the day it hit the worldwide news.”

Above: Contact Centre Manager Susan Metcalf at Spark’s inbound contact centre on Follingsby Park

THE PROMOTER OF THE PRODUCT NEEDED WHAT THEY DESCRIBED AS THE ‘PERFECT ORGANISATION TO HANDLE ITS NEEDS’. SPARK WAS READY AND ABLE TO HANDLE THE DEMAND

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Find out what Spark can do for your business, visit Spark online at sparkresponse.com or call Business Development Manager Natalie Sehnal on 0191 418 6014

SPECIAL REPORT | SUMMER 09


CASE STUDY

SUMMER 09

Every little helps

Big companies get noticed, but much of the CSR effort in this country comes from the unsung heroes in smaller businesses. Peter Jackson looks at two IT consultancies making a difference in their communities

Charlotte – Charlie - Pepper, 15, from Norton, near Stockton, is one of the region’s most promising young athletes. She has twice competed at Wimbledon in the under 14s tennis tournament and has recently represented her school in athletics at the Wigan ISA Northern Event, where she won the 100m and 200m, won a trophy as best girl athlete, and will now go on to the national final in Birmingham. And she has been helped every step of the way by Andy Reid, owner of Darlington-based IT consultancy Resilient Business Systems. The firm, set up in 2004, which offers businesses remote IT support, has just three employees, including Andy but it still feels it has a vital role to play in the community. As Andy says: “When I first started my career, I was working for a local company and I’ve always remained around Darlington and the North East. I’ve always felt that doing stuff for the community was worthwhile. That’s always been important to me and I believe the more benefit you give out, the more you get back.’’ He had known Charlie’s mother Gillian from a previous job, she and husband Chris had >>

SPECIAL REPORT | SUMMER 09

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Up and running: Charlie Pepper has a promising future and Andy Reid has been happy to help

CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY


CASE INTERVIEW STUDY

SUMMER SUMMER 09 09

CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

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SPECIAL REPORT | SUMMER 09


CASE STUDY always been good friends and, one evening, after he had helped them to set up a home computer, they invited him to stay for dinner. The conversation turned to Charlie and her precocious tennis talent and also the astronomical costs of training a budding tennis star: up to £20,000 in one year alone, in 10 hours coaching every week, travel and equipment. As a result of that dinner party Andy made his initial donation ‘of about £2,000’. He says: “I like to keep in touch with Charlie’s progress and I try to contribute something at least once a year.’’ He estimates that these contributions have been worth about £3,500 over the past three-and-a-half years. For Charlie, Andy’s help has been invaluable. Gillian says: “He has made a huge difference, he has helped with equipment and he has done anything he can to help. When we told him tennis was taking a back seat for Charlie so she could concentrate on her running he just said, ‘Let me know how I can help’.’’ In return for his sponsorship Andy doesn’t just get his logo on Charlie’s sports bag, he feels he gets much more than that. “Helping Charlie gives me a great sense of achievement that you feel that in small way you have contributed – that gives me great enjoyment. You never know, for a child of 15 to have got to that level, if she did do really well, it would be nice to think I had helped. I don’t get much out of it in advertising terms, it’s more a sense of having helped somebody.’’ Similarly, another IT consultancy, Perfect Image, based in Newcastle, feels it is important to put something back into the community. The company, which specialises in integrating systems, has been established for about 18 years, making it one of the oldest in the region, has about 35 employees and turns over about £3m a year. In common with many small to medium sized businesses engaging in corporate social responsibility, Perfect Image has no CSR strategy and supports causes in many ways without always putting a value on what it does. Recently joined marketing executive Sarah Maluila explains: “We think we gave about

SPECIAL REPORT | SUMMER 09

SUMMER 09

He has made a huge difference, he has helped with equipment and he has done anything he can to help. When we told him tennis was taking a back seat for Charlie so she could concentrate on her running he just said, ‘Let me know how I can help’

£2,000 last year, but we can’t be sure. Now I’m trying to record everything the company does because we tend to do charity events and then forget about them, we don’t tend to keep a tally, so, at the moment, I’m trying to bring a bit of order to it.’’ At Christmas, the firm not only substitutes electronics greeting cards for the traditional, as part of its green agenda, but it also donates the money it saves to St Oswald’s Hospice and the Morpeth Mother and Baby Unit. Again, making its recycling benefit the community, when Perfect Image rebranded, it donated all its old T shirts to Gibside School, a local special needs school, for use as smocks and aprons. One charity it particularly favours, and to which it donated its old mobile phones is Fairbridge. Fairbridge works with young people aged 13-25 to give them the self-confidence and skills they need to change their lives and tackle issues ranging from school exclusion and homelessness to anti-social behaviour, crime and substance misuse. It offers a wide range of courses and projects and gives support in the form of a tailor-made action plan for each young person. Fairbridge centres are based in 16 of the most disadvantaged areas of the UK including Tyne and Wear and Teesside. Every year it works with more than 3,700 young people, giving many their first step back into education, training or work. Perfect Image also believes CSR is about

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placing great emphasis on reducing its carbon footprint and encourages its employees to avoid taking the car to work. “We have a number of our employees who cycle to work,’’ says Sarah. “We also have others who live in the same areas who have a car-sharing scheme and many choose to leave their cars at home and come in by Metro. We have a number of different points all around the office where we have various recycling bins for various types of material.’’ There is clearly a concern for the planet, but, as with Andy, the motive behind the charitable giving is concern for the community and a desire to give something back. Sarah says: “We don’t have a CSR strategy, we are just trying to ensure that the company, having been here so long, helps its surrounding community, because that’s where we are from and where the staff are from. The community gives you your licence to operate and you need it to keep you going. “I think it helps staff morale by showing them the company is willing to do something like this and it is not all about making money. Our sector is business-to-business, so we don’t interact with ordinary consumers and in a purely commercial sector it’s too easy to get carried away with the idea that you’re about nothing more than making money.’’ Or, in the words of Andy Reid: “You have to remember, there’s always someone else worse off than you, and I like to think that if I’m doing well, then other people are also doing well.’ n

CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY


SUMMER 09

SURVEY

Businesses in the North East, both large and small, are active in helping their communities, as a BQ survey indicates A healthly mix of businesses in the region have robust CSR strategies and are active in their communities. To get a flavour of this activity, BQ Magazine surveyed businesses throughout the North East to gauge the nature and level of activity and we set out in the table opposite some of the results we obtained. We make no claims that this table is in any way exhaustive, or that it is statistically significant, but it does give an indication of the kinds and range of businesses that are active and the levels of support they provide. It should be noted that in some cases figures provided will be national groups rather than regional branches. They range from giants such as Northumbrian Water or Greggs to a florist who is active on the local business forum. The organisations include private companies and public bodies, which, by their nature, cannot make grants, but do give help in kind and encourage staff to work within their communities. For example, the University of Sunderland told us: “As a University we are acutely aware of our social responsibilities and we are confident in stating that we already go well beyond what is expected of an organisation. Although Corporate Social Responsibility is a relatively new concept, the University of Sunderland has embraced CSR principles for several decades, particularly at a local and regional level. “To highlight our commitment to CSR we have produced a Corporate Social Responsibility statement - only the second such statement in the Higher Education sector.’’ They added: “Our range of activities include: being the leading university in widening access to students from all backgrounds; winning Fairtrade status and influencing the city in becoming Fairtrade too; and installing our first water wheel in Lesotho, Southern Africa, funded from the sales of bottled water.’’ It is also noteworthy that lawyers – not generally perhaps the most popular professionals – are well represented in the table of CSR activity, with Muckle LLP, Eversheds, Watson Burton and Mincoff Jacksons all featuring. It is particularly heartening to read some of the comments which came with the submissions. For example Greggs said:“Greggs cares passionately about being a responsible business. We want to make a positive difference in the communities where we operate; give our customers food they can trust; look after our people who work for us and treat them well; and minimise our impact on the environment around us. “We take our Corporate Social Responsibilities very seriously and even in tough times of recession, we think it is important that we continue to help our local communities and to be a responsible business. Greggs values and our history as a caring family business inform much of what we do for our local communities. ‘’ And the proprietor of Prima Training NE said simply: “Having what I have built means nothing if I can't give anything back.’’ n

CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

ORGANISATION

CONTRIBUTION

AECOM Ltd

£2,372

Alan Atkinson Associates

£500

Bridge Club Ltd

£25,000

Durham County Cricket Club

£200,000

Eversheds LLP

£286,000

Fentimans Ltd.

£10,000

Ford Aerospace Ltd

£5,000

Gentoo Group

£132,486

Ford Component Manufacturing

£150,000

Greggs

£1,800,000

Hotel du Vin and Bistro Newcastle

£4,000

JAG Productions Limited

£400,000

Jan Watters Florist

£600

John Lewis

£115,807

Mincoff jacksons LLP

£30,000

Muckle LLP

£300,000

Northumbrian Water Ltd

£1,900,000

onebestway and angelfysh

£10,000

People Boutique

£3,000

Perfect Image

£2,000

Port of Tyne

£1,387,500

Prima Training NE Ltd

£5,000

Python Properties

£120,000

Ryder Architecture Limited

£80,000

Serco International Fire Training Centre

£4,573

Shared Interest

£30,000

space group

£150,000

The Creation Group

£12,000

University of Sunderland

£10,000

Watson Burton LLP

£50,000

Zenith People Ltd

£10,000

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SPECIAL REPORT | SUMMER 09


INTERVIEW

SUMMER 09

Music man: Anthony Sargent, general director of The Sage Gateshead, is proud of regional support

SPECIAL REPORT | SUMMER 09

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CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY


SUMMER 09

INTERVIEW

a cultured approach to CSR Businesses support community life in all manner of ways and that includes the artistic life, as Peter Jackson reports

Culture, in the sense of the arts, doesn’t generally make profits: that’s certainly the case now, and probably always has been. So, the arts, to a greater or lesser degree have to rely on subsidies, and that includes business subsidies. Newcastle’s Theatre Royal, for example, offers a range of corporate partnerships and with 20 members, it has what it believes to be the biggest corporate membership scheme of any arts organisation in the region, and these partnerships are important to it. The theatre will not disclose how much revenue the scheme generates but says it is “very important’’ and, when asked what would be the effect if the theatre lost it, development officer Katherine Leadbeter says: “It would have an effect, it does provide a significant income stream and without it, we would not close, but there would be a curtailment of our activities.’’ Easily one of the greatest examples of corporate support for the Arts in recent years, not only in the North East, but internationally, has been the support of Gosforth-based computer software giant Sage for The Sage Gateshead music centre. As to the nature of that support, the clue’s in

CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

the name. The iconic building was paid for with an Arts Council grant of £47m but to provide itself with a source of income, the centre has also raised, largely from business, £12m for an endowment fund - £6m of which came from the Sage plc, in return for which its name is associated with the centre in perpetuity. Now the centre shares with London’s Royal Opera House the distinction of having one the largest endowment funds of any arts organisation in the country, and it is a matter of pride to The Sage Gateshead’s general director Anthony Sargent, that 92% of the money raised – which is held in trust by the Community Foundation - came from the region. “All our large scale endowments are associated with naming parts of the building, so we have the Barbour Room, Northern Rock Foundation Hall and the name of the building as a whole comes from Sage plc,’’ says Sargent. And he is keen to point out that there are still significant rooms available for naming. Even for Sage plc, the donation to the endowment fund was a significant grant, but also a great opportunity. Director of group HR and corporate

communications Karen Geary explains: “We wanted to demonstrate our support for the arts in the local community and our commitment to the North East, despite being an international business with a presence in 26 countries. We were also looking to use the sponsorship to help build the brand and give us a more enhanced profile and exposure, not just to a local audience, but to an international audience. “While we might not have realised The Sage Gateshead was going to be as extraordinarily successful as it has been, we did think it was going to be a major player in international arts and it has certainly lived up to that.’’ Sage plc also gives ongoing support to the centre as one of its corporate partners, having signed up for a platinum partnership. As a corporate partner, it joins other businesses such as UBS, Northumbrian Water, Nexus, Lloyds TSB as well as many smaller companies. Membership packages, which start from £2,500 for 12 months, allow partners to entertain clients, guests or staff before and after concerts. They are credited on the centre’s website, events diaries and programmes and in the building. There are also staff benefits, including private tours >>

We might not have realised The Sage Gateshead was going to be as extraordinarily successful as it has been, we did think it was going to be a major player in international arts and it has certainly lived up to that

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SPECIAL REPORT | SUMMER 09


INTERVIEW

SUMMER 09

of the building, discount tickets on selected events and discounts on the Music in the Workplace programme. The Theatre Royal’s membership scheme ranges from £1,750 to £6,500 and this also brings benefits such as logos in brochures, tickets, use of rooms and back stage tours. “Members tend to be Newcastle based and we have a wide range, from small businesses such as Savannah Hairdressing Salon through to more medium sized companies such as Total Maintenance Engineering of Ryton up to companies such as Arup,’’ says Leadbeter. But, don’t they know there’s a recession on: isn’t that having an effect on business sponsorship for the arts? “Not yet,’’ says Leadbeter. “But we have found people using membership in a slightly different way. In previous years it was very much entertainment, but now people are using the other benefits of membership more such as making use of our meeting spaces during the day. They might hold board meetings here, or meet clients if they haven’t got a city centre base.’’ The Sage Gateshead has been affected by the recession and Sargent says: “Some of our

corporate relationships are under pressure. Some of our partners say they really value their relationship with us, but, can they trade down, can they spend less money for a year or two? Of course, we are happy to accommodate that. These are real relationships we have, not just buying and selling transactions, some of our corporate partners are working hard in adverse circumstances and are being affected badly by the recession and we recognise that for a year or two they may be have to contribute less.’’ There might also be an expectation that in a recession, when their own resources are limited and when there are more cases of hardship, businesses would feel more inclined to limit their giving to good causes such as helping the homeless rather than supporting concerts or theatre. This, insist The Sage Gateshead and Theatre Royal, is a false distinction. The Theatre Royal has an education programme which relies on support from business, particularly Grainger Trust. Last year this involved some 14,000 learning visits – a significant proportion by disadvantaged groups - to the Theatre for workshops on how plays are put together or

how sound and lighting works. In the words of director of development Richard Berg Rust, it teaches children how “to explore the text and discover how we get from the page to the stage’’. The Sage Gateshead also points to its huge educational programme, which takes in half a million learners in the region every year. “That makes it the largest musical education programme in the world delivered by a single institution,’’ says Sargent. “And it really benefits people who need it most. We have a programme for helping adults with learning difficulties and we do a programme for under-fives. “These programmes don’t just teach music, they impart social skills and self-confidence that stay with these children throughout their adult lives. “We have an over 50s programme that has more than 1,000 people on it and often these are people who may have lost a partner, or suffered some other serious life crisis and this can give them a sense of purpose, a sense of community and friendship. Very often, this programme is literally something that has kept them going.’’ n

Some of our corporate relationships are under pressure. Some of our partners say they really value their relationship with us, but, can they trade down

SPECIAL REPORT | SUMMER 09

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