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Embracing change: Unpacking the significance of CSRD and its impact on businesses

22 February 2024
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On 24 January 2024, the European Parliament announced the approval of a proposal to delay key aspects of the Corporate Sustainable Reporting Directive (CSRD) by 2 years, including the adoption of standards for companies to provide sector-specific sustainability disclosures and for sustainability reporting from companies outside of the EU.

This news was welcomed by many, as CSRD heralds a new era for businesses, compelling them to delve deeper into the social and environmental consequences of their actions. This blog explores the transformative implications of CSRD for in-scope businesses, shedding light on the enforcement mechanisms and the fundamental shift towards evaluating systemic impacts. Additionally, we examine how Neighbourly envisions the impact of CSRD on UK businesses not yet in scope, offering insights into the potential tiered landscape and the accelerated societal expectations it may bring. 


Why is CSRD, and the introduction of reporting on social impact and the impact of their business models, such a significant change for in-scope businesses?

The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive requires companies to report on the impact of corporate activities on the environment and society, and requires the audit (assurance) of reported information. The introduction of CSRD marks a major shift for in-scope businesses by mandating expanded reporting. The directive has also extended criteria of in-scope businesses, significantly increasing the number of companies required to report on topics like environment, social issues, governance and more. Unlike previous voluntary and fragmented sustainability reporting, it introduces EU-wide standards that aim to consolidate and provide consistency around disclosures. This common framework increases clarity and cross-organisational comparability and most importantly, shared knowledge. 

CSRD shifts focus to evaluating how companies address systemic impacts inherent in their daily activities. Double materiality is fundamental to the new rules; companies must report both on how their business is impacted by sustainability issues “outside-in” and how their activities impact society and the environment “inside-out”.

Also significant is the enforcement element - there will be enforceable repercussions, tied to bottom line, for non-compliant companies which will drive more urgent action from in-scope business leaders. 


What does Neighbourly see as being the impact of CSRD on UK businesses who are not yet in scope?

Even for UK businesses not yet subject to CSRD mandates, the regulation is likely to begin to impact operations, or the business community will become two tiered, giving CSRD qualifying businesses a competitive advantage through robust and transparent sustainability credentials. As a consequence, companies will feel heightened stakeholder pressure as investors increasingly require validated proof of social and environmental consciousness and positive impact as a factor in their decisions. We may also see smaller UK firms preemptively adopt new industry standards to gain advantage and compete.

We’ve seen a real shift in talent acquisition towards purpose-driven brands in the past decade and CSRD could also accelerate this as employees continue to prioritise responsibility in their career choices. We are likely to see more stringent supply chain commitments as large corporations obligated under CSRD establish codes of conduct on issues like human rights that trickle down to their entire business ecosystem. 

Sustainability is increasingly required for competitiveness, so a byproduct of CSRD will be accelerating societal expectations in this country, and encouraging businesses to start future-proofing.


The social requirements place a particular focus on reporting not only on workforce, workers in the value chain and end-users, but also ‘affected communities’. How might this be interpreted? How much of a shift does this represent from approaches of the past?

In the past, reporting on community considerations has tended to be limited in scope. CSRD mandates a deeper evaluation of systemic harms that business models indirectly impose on surrounding populations and environments.

To report on ‘affected communities’ companies will need to understand issues like health impacts from operational pollution/contamination, how policies affect things like inequality and human rights and where gains can be made through redistribution and circular economy practices. Leaders of in-scope companies will need to consider if their strategic choices and outputs are undermining or strengthening social support structures. 

This assessment will go beyond suppliers, customers and traditional CSR initiatives to encapsulate risks and opportunities connected with corporate activity which marks a definite departure from past practice.


Given the companies in scope are the largest businesses, with multiple sites, could these requirements encourage a more place-based, community-focused approach?

Given CSRD's strong focus on understanding impacts on local communities, we do expect that large businesses will increasingly adopt place-based sustainability strategies because of the need to tailor approaches to the individual circumstances where they operate.

Getting it right will mean localising environmental, social and governance initiatives that take on distinct forms from one site or region to another, based on unique community insights and needs, versus a centralised, broad-brush approach.

In this way, we see the potential for CSRD to act as a catalyst for large corporates to embrace community-centred models that ultimately benefit regional economic inclusion, restoration and living standards.


Is there a risk of a ‘backlash’ against the burden of this expanded reporting?

There is certainly potential for some corporate backlash and criticism related to the reporting “burden” imposed by CSRD amongst newly in-scope companies. Executives may cite cost, resourcing and even confidentiality concerns. 

However, the tide toward mandated sustainability accounting seems irreversible, so whilst expanded regulations inevitably impose some resource challenges and costs, businesses will want to view this as a strategic opportunity over the longer term. Factors including the phased timeline, consistency and standardisation of frameworks and reputational incentives should all help mitigate criticism. Proactive companies that develop rigorous impact reporting and disclosure processes will no doubt gain advantages.


How does Neighbourly’s impact reporting provide clients with the auditable data they’d need for CSRD?

As well as advisory services to help clients embed community investment and redistribution initiatives, Neighbourly offers comprehensive impact tracking and analytics that provide validated data required for CSRD disclosure across relevant areas. Importantly the platform captures individual transactions (not logged data) so it is a “data source of truth”:

Community investment metrics:
  • Charitable contributions
  • Volunteer hours donated
  • Beneficiary numbers
  • Impact themes supported
  • Impact value 
Local community impacts:
  • Populations served
  • Social need areas addressed
  • UN Sustainable Development Goal alignment
Workforce engagement:
  • % participation
  • Per-capita hours
  • Department/team breakdowns
  • Wellbeing indicators 
Environmental Impact:
  • CO2 impact of surplus items redistributed

Key features like granular quantifiable metrics, customisable reports for multiple stakeholder needs, verified good cause partners, data transparency and exportability empower clients to produce robust, compliant disclosures.

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Finally, any advice for businesses looking ahead to CSRD reporting, and possibly tackling social impact reporting (to this extent) for the first time?

Preparing to credibly disclose more robust details on social impacts can seem a daunting proposition for companies tackling these requirements for the first time. We’d recommend starting with laying the foundational building blocks:

  • Audit the systems in place already and construct strong data gathering protocols employing digital tools to ease quantification. Leverage credible external partners and platforms where there’s opportunity to do so.
  • Build cross-functional coordination around collating inputs - CSR should not be siloed
  • Formalise community/stakeholder engagement mechanisms and solicit transparent feedback channels on your impacts.

Expanded social impact transparency can be viewed as an opportunity to enact purpose, accountability and resilience while meeting rising stakeholder demands. Absolute completeness from the outset matters less than showing momentum, and the path promises advantageous culture shifts and greater outcomes for people and planet.

Neighbourly Joins the Microsoft Positive Accelerator Programme

14 February 2024
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There are many exciting things that have happened at Neighbourly over the years and at the end of 2023, we were delighted to be invited to join Microsoft’s Entrepreneurs for Positive Impact (EfPI) Accelerator programme for 2024. The Programme is part of the company's broader efforts to support entrepreneurs, start-ups and scale-ups focused on creating positive social and environmental impact. 


Our proposition of helping companies do more to support the communities they serve, socially and environmentally aligns closely with the programme’s goals, and with Neighbourly’s tech stack and impact dashboards, there is an excellent fit. 


The programme provides dedicated mentorship, guidance, resources, and networking opportunities. As well as tapping into the extensive resources at Microsoft’s disposal it’s also an opportunity for like-minded businesses and individuals to come together and share knowledge and resources. 


Last week, our COO Zoë Colosimo was invited to Microsoft's London HQ along with other leading change makers from the programme: Granular Energy, Hello Lamp Post, and MeVitae to talk about AI for Social and Environmental Innovation.


It was an inspiring and insightful day, packed with positive conversations on how AI can be harnessed as a force for good, and the potential for private and public sector to collaborate and learn from each other in this field.


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The EfPI Accelerator program forms part of Microsoft’s #BuildFor2030 Initiative, which aims to progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.Microsoft also became a signatory to the Rise Ahead Pledge. Signatories commit to take action in time for 2030, aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and pledge to create collective, quantitative targets for their activities in time for the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting 2025.


A landmark report, the Corporate Social Innovation Compass, complements the pledge, covering more than 10 mechanisms for companies to partner with social innovators, the benefits and the journey that companies take when engaging with social enterprises. 


As signatories to initiatives like Rise Ahead, Microsoft is demonstrating a long-term commitment to enabling positive change, and we are excited to contribute to that vision.


Watch this space for further updates on our involvement in the Positive Accelerator programme.

Meet the Neighbours - Operations and Optimisation Lead

1 February 2024
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We’re kicking off the 2024 series of ‘Meet the Neighbours’ by introducing Val Litja, our Operations and Optimisation Lead, responsible for ensuring that everything is running smoothly, from day-to-day functions to long-term service improvements and projects.


Starting her career in operations management with some of the biggest household brand names and working across Asia, North America, Canada and New Zealand, Val’s experience in this area is vast. She has brought many of these skills to her role at Neighbourly in the last 20 months, in particular implementing operational frameworks that maximise efficiency throughout the business. 


Your role covers so many areas of the business, what does a typical day look like as an Operations Lead?

I always start the day by monitoring KPIs, before leading a stand-up with the service desk team to discuss status. I also conduct 1-2-1s and stand-ups with the other teams where we review project progress. Then, I shift focus towards long-term projects and risk mitigation planning. 


“Neighbourly's commitment to uniting communities and strengthening local connections mirrors my core values and purpose.”


What attracted you to working at Neighbourly?

Neighbourly's commitment to uniting communities and strengthening local connections mirrors my core values and purpose. Becoming a mother made it clear to me what I care about most - bringing people together to make meaningful change happen. The prospect of enabling businesses and causes to positively impact our neighbourhoods echoes deeply of my own personal experience. An environment facilitating professional and personal growth, around a start-up on a scalable mission also excites me. Most importantly, Neighbourly genuinely walks the walk on culture - supporting employees, fostering community and flexibility. 


What would you say is your proudest moment/biggest achievement from your time working at Neighbourly?

Since joining Neighbourly, my greatest and most fulfilling achievement has been spearheading back-to-back ISO 27001:2013 certifications. Guiding the team's collaborative efforts to meet rigorous international standards will always be a career highlight. Our determination, commitment and detailed planning paid off by satisfying all ISO requirements for two consecutive years. 


Are there any projects you’re especially looking forward to in 2024?

We’re currently in the process of optimising our community engagement approach, to a leaner, more centralised system. This strategy allows for better tracking of communications and services provided to our network. As a result, our workflows will become even more efficient and transparent.


“Embrace operations as a lifelong pursuit of innovative solutions rather than a checklist of tasks.”


What advice would you give to other operations professionals who aspire to make a positive impact through their work?

Find your purpose within operational excellence. Whilst often perceived as more of a mechanical function, operations done right will empower companies to better serve people. Approach your responsibilities through that lens, creating value for stakeholders through continual improvements and embrace operations as a lifelong pursuit of innovative solutions, rather than a checklist of tasks

My advice is to see operations as the heartbeat powering organisations to deliver on ambitions. Allow that big-picture view to drive your leadership. Focus on progress over perfection and have the courage to question the status quo when you spot chances to create positive impact. 

Most importantly, believe in your ability to make a difference through operational excellence - as that self-confidence unlocks your greatest contributions.


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Delivering Growth for Good: Our 2023 Community Impact

21 December 2023
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As the year draws to a close, and as tradition dictates, we reflect on collective achievements over the past 12 months...


Of note, the 30,000-strong Neighbourly Good Cause network has shown phenomenal resilience, agility and compassion despite the immense challenges being faced, and in what has been a difficult economic period for everyone, we are extremely proud of the positive impact we have been able to make, in partnership with our clients.

 

In 2023 we’ve facilitated £100M in impact into communities across the UK and Ireland


This includes more than 55 million meals’ worth of vital surplus food (17 million more than 2022), over 63,800 hours of volunteering, and £5.8 million in grants and direct donations, facilitated by the Neighbourly Foundation.


Overall, the efforts of Neighbourly corporate partners and employees this year have aided charities and community causes in EVERY postcode region across the UK supporting over 6 million people nationwide each week. Since our founding, and with your support, we’ve facilitated a total of £336 million in community investment and this growing impact affirms our collective power to connect responsible business with grassroots change. 


For Neighbourly, 2023 saw some pivotal moments in helping to drive community impact. In March we launched new platform features to allow businesses to self-serve their own giving programmes - a solution that is attracting a growing number of new organisations and expediting our mission to deliver £1 billion in impact by 2025.


We were delighted to see our progress recognised in May in the Management Today Business Awards where we were announced as the winner in the ‘Best use of Technology' category. These awards were created to recognise and celebrate organisations who are defined by a clarity of purpose and dedication to doing business the right way.


Over the summer, Hays UK&I launched their ambitious volunteer campaign ‘Hays Gets Neighbourly’ which delivered over 9,200 hours of volunteer time into the community within just two weeks - an outstanding and market-defining undertaking.


In the busy weeks of November, in the lead-up to the festive peak, the team has been able to celebrate Neighbourly programmes being featured in various Christmas TV ad campaigns. Lidl and Aldi both made it into the list of 2023’s most effective festive ads,, and it has been fantastic to be part of the iconic Coca-Cola UK truck tour making its way down the country and supporting local communities through the Neighbourly Foundation along the way.


Our deepest thanks to our network


As we carry this momentum into 2024, all of us at Neighbourly would like to express our deepest thanks to our network for your support in creating a path toward a more just, sustainable and resilient future for our communities and neighbourhoods.


From us all - we wish you a very Merry Christmas and an impactful new year ahead.

Meet Merryn - Community Manager Team Lead at Neighbourly | #MeetTheNeighbours

20 December 2023
Meet Merryn - Community Managers Team Lead, Volunteering

For our final Meet the Neighbours of 2023, we’re very pleased to introduce Merryn Jones, our Community Manager Team Lead for Volunteering. Having begun her Neighbourly career as a Community Manager, Merryn’s hard work, determination and passion over the last year and a half have seen her progress to Team Lead, taking the volunteering proposition from strength to strength.


Where does your role fit in the Neighbourly machine, helping businesses support good causes in their local communities?

In my role as a community manager, I work with good causes, supporting them with using the Neighbourly platform and getting the most out of the opportunities available. In particular, I help them benefit from the employee volunteering on offer from our clients. This includes helping them to communicate volunteering events particularly for large scale campaigns involving thousands of employees in a short period of time, as part of an activation to create great impact quickly.


What do you enjoy the most about working on the volunteering team within community management? 

I love speaking to good causes. They’re always very happy and thankful that there’s a team of volunteers able to support them. It's even more rewarding when they send an email afterwards or post something on social media letting us know the difference the team made to their organisation and beneficiaries.


I was particularly attracted to the opportunity to make a positive impact in the community


What attracted you to working at Neighbourly?

I was previously working in retail doing long hours with very few benefits so when I was approached about the community manager position at Neighbourly I thought it looked great. I was particularly attracted to the opportunity to make a positive impact in the community and to see firsthand the difference our work has on people in need. I had volunteered in my personal life a number of times before joining Neighbourly and was drawn to the idea of being able to support others to do this every day. 


Can you share some of your personal highlights from your time working for Neighbourly?

In the last 2 years I’ve been lucky enough to support two significant volunteering campaigns  for our clients Hays and B&Q. With over 3,500 employee volunteers between them, working on both of these campaigns involved a lot of hard work, but also a lot of fun. In total the two programmes supported more than 450 good causes, and seeing the impact delivered into communities by the end of it was absolutely phenomenal. 

 

Seeing the impact delivered into communities is absolutely phenomenal


Is there a Neighbourly good cause whose work particularly inspires you? Can you tell us why?

There are so many brilliant good causes in the Neighbourly network that it's hard to choose! One that I have communicated with regularly and I find particularly inspiring is Freely Fruity. They are a charity based in Reading, set up to grow fruit and vegetables that can then be distributed for free to vulnerable people in their local community while also reducing carbon emissions through tree planting.


If you could positively change one thing about the world of business, and spread it across the globe, what would it be and why?

It would be to increase the focus on long-term sustainability and societal impact. At Neighbourly we’re lucky to see the difference that can be made by donating time, surplus products and money to a small good cause. If all businesses were to adopt one local good cause each in the future, they could help make a kinder, more positive world and create a more sustainable future for everyone.  


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Neighbourly X Coca-Cola | The World Needs More Santas

23 November 2023
coca-cola neighbourly christmas truck fund

This year we’re excited to be working with Coca-Cola on their campaign “The World Needs More Santas”, bringing the magic of Christmas to life by encouraging the embodiment of Santa’s spirit of generosity, goodwill and kindness.


The Coca-Cola Truck Tour is well known for capturing the attention of the nation, and this year they will be continuing their mission of giving with a host of interactive activities for visitors to the Truck to immerse themselves in. As well as gifting areas, gamified experiences, prizes and photo opportunities, visitors will be invited to take part in the ‘Discover Your Inner Santa’ quiz, inspired by Coca-Cola’s TV advert, to find out whether they are a Jolly-Giving Santa, a Merry-Making Santa, the Neighbourly Santa, or the Heart Warming Santa and inspire individuals to embrace this archetype and the spirit of giving this Christmas.


£100,000 fund to be donated to Neighbourly good causes across the 17 cities that the Coca-Cola Christmas Truck Tour will be visiting


As part of our ongoing partnership with Coca-Cola, they will be further supporting the work of local charities with a volunteering scheme and £100,000 fund, to be donated via the Neighbourly Foundation to social-impact focused volunteering partners and good causes across the 17 cities that the Coca-Cola Christmas Truck Tour will be visiting. 


The first stop is Glasgow, on Friday 24th November, where the Neighbourly hero cause is REFUWEEGEE, a charity that has been warmly welcoming refugees and asylum seekers to Glasgow, and Scotland since 2015. At the heart of the organisation is a desire to treat displaced people with dignity and care. The charity does this through providing a safe space for drop-in, emergency food and toiletry packs, a free clothes and household shop, English classes, art-therapy and free haircuts, amongst other activities.


Here at Neighbourly, we’re looking forward to visiting the Truck when it stops in Bristol, supporting SENSE FAMILY CENTRE WOODSIDE, a national disability charity that has been helping people with complex communication needs to be understood, connected and valued for over 60 years. With a simple mission to make sure no one with complex communication needs is isolated, left out or unable to fulfil their potential, Sense supports children, young people and adults in their home, the community and at its centres, from education to transitioning to adulthood through holidays, arts, sport and wellbeing programmes. 


If you would like to help Coca-Cola and Neighbourly deliver acts of kindness to those that need it most in the local community, you can donate to the fund using the link below or visit one of the Truck Tour stops to donate via the QR codes available. Stay tuned for the full Truck schedule on their socials, @CocaColaEU (Instagram) and @CocaCola_GB (Twitter).

The Procurement Act 2023: What Your Business Needs to Know

8 November 2023



New build homes on a building site

In this blog, we take a look at the latest procurement law to have passed in the UK and the effect it’s likely to have on the delivery of social value by private businesses.

On 26 October, The Procurement Act 2023 attained Royal Assent, overturning the current public procurement regime in the UK. The bill regulates how the UK Government and public sector entities purchase goods, services and public infrastructure from private sector suppliers and signifies fundamental structural changes to the current procurement landscape, combining the overarching regimes currently regulating procurement.

The Act brings greater flexibility to contracting authorities, with the aim of making bidding for contracts easier for smaller and more locally focused businesses. It also introduces several new requirements aimed at adding a greater level of transparency to the procurement lifecycle, from planning through to contract expiry.

Looking specifically at social value, what impact will the bill have?

Despite efforts to the contrary, the bill itself does not employ the term “social value”; instead, the government is employing the term “public benefit” as the threshold for the most beneficial tender.

Regardless of this omission, the bill is intended to promote social value in procurement decision-making, requiring contracting authorities to factor environmental sustainability, impact on the local community and the fair treatment of workers into their planning.

The method in which this social value-based criterion is being promoted is through bids being ranked according to the “most advantageous tender” (MAT) approach rather than the “most economically advantageous tender” (MEAT). Under this evaluation method, contracting authorities will be expected to consider social value and wider “public benefit” considerations alongside value for money.

However, the bill does not go further in setting out a clear framework for assessing bids that align with specific social value goals.

For more specific guidance on embedding social value criteria into public tenders, the government’s Procurement Policy Notes published in 2020 and 2021 provide a clearer directive, building directly upon the instrumental Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012. This was the first legislation passed in the UK that requires public sector bodies to consider how the services they commission and procure might improve the economic, social, and environmental well-being of an area.

Under the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012, how much weight actually afforded to this consideration was left to the discretion of the government body, which only had to consider the ‘social value’ where it was proportionate, taking all considerations into account. In practice, this meant that social value considerations were often disregarded in favour of other priorities, in particular where there was a short deadline for the procurement.

Procurement Policy Note 06/20 changed this by making social value a mandatory consideration - it must now be ‘explicitly evaluated’ instead of simply ‘considered’. In fact, a minimum weighting of 10% is provided. Alongside the note, the government published a framework of over 50 metrics that all organisations hoping to enter a bid for a public contract, referred to as the “social value model”; these are split into five key groups.

  • Covid-19 Recovery
  • Tackling economic inequality
  • Fighting climate change
  • Driving equal opportunity
  • Wellbeing

The note and extensive detail on all related metrics can be found here.

This note was followed by a National Procurement Policy Statement in June 2021 which included the following directive. “All contracting authorities should consider the following national priority outcomes alongside any additional local priorities in their procurement activities:”

  • creating new businesses, new jobs and new skills;
  • tackling climate change and reducing waste, and
  • improving supplier diversity, innovation and resilience.

Whilst policy notes and statements are in themselves not legally binding like legislation, their function is to provide background information and context to help interpret and apply new laws, offering guidance to stakeholders and clarifying the scope and limits of legislation.

Therefore, whilst The Procurement Act 2023 does not explicitly reference social value, these proceedings statements and the 2012 Social Value Act clearly signpost an increasing need for these considerations to be at the forefront when considering the “most advantageous tender.”

Whilst much remains open to interpretation, the trend line is clear: social value is increasing in importance, and organisations bidding for public work that are not primed to respond appropriately will increasingly put themselves at a disadvantage when trying to win work.



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How can Neighbourly support your organisation in delivering social value?    

At Neighbourly, we have extensive experience supporting organisations in delivering social value at a local level. Our capabilities include;

  • Expert consultation on developing a holistic community strategy tied to ESG commitments
  • Volunteer matching with local charities and causes based on skills, interests, and availability to meet community needs
  • Tools and resources to make volunteering easy to manage, engage employees, and track participation
  • Curated volunteering opportunities tailored to contribute to key social impact goals like environment, education, health, and inclusion
  • Reporting on social value contributions through volunteering such as skills gained, beneficiaries reached, etc.
  • Options to donate funds locally and directly support charity operations and programming
  • Solutions to involve business partners like suppliers and customers in shared social initiatives
  • Support with storytelling and communications to bring community engagement to life across stakeholders

If you’re interested in having a conversation with a member of our team about how we can support your organisation's social value objectives, get in touch today.

Lidl brings back Toy Banks for Christmas 2023, in partnership with Neighbourly

2 November 2023
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Christmas is all about sharing and bringing people together. To help make the magic happen, Lidl has once again brought back their in-store toy banks, in partnership with Neighbourly, where customers can make donations of unopened toys and gifts. From stocking fillers to something bigger, the toy donations from Lidl customers will be provided to families through our store partnerships with charities, foodbanks and community groups. In-store donation points are open until 16th December.


In a new addition for this year, Lidl plush friends Racoon and Monkey will be available to buy in-store, with all proceeds going to the toy bank charity partners. 


Head down to a local Lidl to support this amazing scheme, until 16th December.

Hays Gets Neighbourly!

1 November 2023
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In the summer of 2023, Hays UK&I launched their ambitious volunteer campaign ‘Hays Gets Neighbourly’ with an aim of delivering 10,000+ hours of volunteer time to local good causes. This exciting and never-before attempted goal aimed to support local communities and good causes during tough economic times when volunteer numbers are declining.


Every year Hays’ employees are given a paid volunteer day as part of their ‘Helping for your tomorrow’ initiative – and this year Hays provided each employee with a second day, between the 3rd and 14th July, to take part in the campaign.


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The Neighbourly team was able to source hundreds of opportunities up and down the country and worked with Hays to engage their entire workforce with the campaign so that employees could connect with meaningful causes and deliver unprecedented impact.


Neighbourly’s in-depth reporting shows that the volunteers’ efforts supported 82,000 people across 176 good causes across the UK and Ireland.


"Working with Neighbourly enabled us to build a volunteering campaign that mobilised our workforce at an incredible scale. It has been very rewarding to see so many colleagues across the UK&I volunteer in their local communities and quantify the real change created."

- Karen Young, Director at Hays


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One good cause that received volunteer help from a team of Hays employees was Hotwells Primary School, a small, nurturing primary school, nestled in the centre of Bristol. The volunteers supported by redecorating the staff room and a bathroom, as a small school with tight funds this was massively appreciated by staff.


The Chorley in Bloom Group also received a team of Hays colleagues who spent their day weeding, planting and tidying several garden areas. This work was important as the area has become a focal point for the local community and was recently used by Chorley in Bloom in their bid for North West in Bloom.

How younger generations are redefining corporate purpose

11 October 2023
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Generation Z is entering the workforce with a different mindset from its predecessors. Not only have today’s graduates been raised in a digital world, making them far more tech-savvy than earlier cohorts, but their lives have also been shaped by constant disruption.


From government-imposed austerity programmes that have decimated community services to a global pandemic that was immediately followed by a fresh cost-of-living crisis, gen Z is entering the workforce with a stronger sense of social duty than many of their older peers. And with that, employers are being asked to raise their social responsibility game.  


“Gen Z is far more connected and much more resilient because of the experiences they’ve had in early life that have changed how people feel about their communities,” says Zoe Colosimo, chief operating officer at Neighbourly, a platform that connects businesses with small charities and community causes. “They have ingrained values around diversity and inclusion, and are very aware of climate breakdown, human rights and social inequalities because they’re so connected through their digital networks.”


The more you contribute, the more trust is generated, and many studies show that high-trust societies have much better economic outcomes

Giving locally builds trust

As a result, these values now feed into how young people vet potential employers. Companies need to have a clearly defined purpose to connect with this generation, according to Colosimo. While businesses know that consumers and employees are more inclined to support brands that display strong environmental, social and governance performance, scepticism around corporate altruism is rife. Often, the key for organisations to establish a purpose that people can get behind is to start by looking at how they can help the communities in which they operate.


An annual study by Neighbourly and YouGov shows that by investing in local communities and prioritising local charitable giving over national or international causes, companies can generate greater trust. About two-thirds of adults in the UK consistently say they are more trusting of a company which contributes to the community where they live and work.


“There is significant evidence that points to the fact that people prefer to shop with, spend money with, and favour brands that can prove they are purposeful and are contributing,” says Colosimo. “Our research shows that the extent to which businesses contribute locally is index-linked to how much we trust that business.”


For example, 63% of respondents in the most recent Neighbourly survey said they were more likely to trust a company that gave to a smaller local charity compared to 47% for a national charity. That figure drops to 31% for an international cause. 


There’s evidence to suggest that engaging with local charities also boosts employee wellbeing. Colosimo explains: “It helps employees feel connected to their community because they’re able to nominate and volunteer for charities that are meaningful to them, and they can see they are making an impact.”

Make conscious contributions that genuinely help

There are also potential negative consequences for businesses that don’t take their social obligations seriously.


“Companies that aren’t able to show that they are acting in a purposeful way risk not being able to attract younger talent who want to work for businesses that can prove they’re doing the right thing,” says Colosimo. “It will also have an impact on talent retention. Companies have to make sure the business is a place where people feel proud to work.”


While it doesn’t matter if companies are giving support through donations or volunteering, what is important is that companies listen to their communities and are genuine in their motives.


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“What is essential is that it’s needs-led. This isn't about throwing stuff into the community; this is saying to the community, ‘What do you need?’ and making sure that your contribution is driven by what is being asked for,” says Colosimo. “It is also about the employee having a voice and being able to nominate causes that they care about as opposed to the old top-down corporate CSR tick-box approach.”

‘Businesses cannot survive in societies that fail’

As focus on ESG changes perceptions about the importance of creating socially sustainable businesses, even among shareholders and investors, and as gen Z advance in their careers as the corporate leaders of tomorrow, how companies think about profits in the future may look very different from today.


“It will be about community for profit,” Colosimo continues. “Companies will see the economic benefit of building trust, and the way to build it is to collaborate in a way that gives back so that the community can be self-sustaining. The more you contribute, the more trust is generated, and many studies show that high-trust societies have much better economic outcomes.”


For companies that are just starting on this journey, Colosimo says it is important to recognise that not all charitable giving is equal.


“We’re not saying you should switch off your national charitable programmes. We’re saying businesses should think consciously about how they’re contributing. If you’re able to help build sustainable communities, your business can have a material benefit on the society that it operates in,” she says. “As former Unilever CEO Paul Polman said, ‘Businesses cannot survive in societies that fail.’ So if businesses can give back in a way that is meaningful and that helps sustain those communities, then it’s good for business.”


An excerpt from: Responsible business 2.0: Foundations for the Future