Steph Hagan, Head of Community Investment, Business in the Community, gives her reflections on the successful entries to this year's Experian Building Stronger Communities Award, in recognition of Sir John Peace.
Dementia, debt and hunger – three thorny, complex issues with one feature in common – they’re the last thing that you want to admit to if you’re having to deal with them on a day-to-day basis and they’re not easy to talk about.
They’re also not typical of the charitable causes you’d expect household name businesses to be tackling or raising funds for or to think mattered to them. Yet the finalists stand out for their commitment to tackling issues that matter – to society and to their business. From Wakefield District Housing focusing on financial inclusion skills of residents to Lloyds Banking Group facing head on the fact that financial services is one of the most challenging areas for dementia sufferers and their carers to navigate and Tesco simultaneously addressing food poverty and food waste.
“We have all got vulnerable customers, if we think we don’t have them then we’re not looking.” Stephen Uden, Head of Corporate Citizenship, Nationwide, Building Stronger Communities Judge
Another theme emerging from this year’s shortlisted companies has been how businesses have moved support for charitable causes beyond community affairs departments to make the agenda their own; engaging product development teams, marketing and commercial teams and senior leaders in the process. Tesco’s partnership with Fareshare and annual food collection campaigns has enabled the business to have wider conversations about food poverty and food waste, and created an opportunity to engage its supply chain. Lloyds Banking Group’s partnership with Alzheimer’s Society and its work on creating a dementia friendly bank means that all new products and services are screened for dementia friendliness. Others can demonstrate their recognition that the difference they make is generated by the whole of their operations with both British Land and Veolia able to map and track the contribution they make to the UK economy through their approaches to hiring, buying, product and service delivery and community engagement in Camden and Southwark respectively.
One relatively new trend, but noticeable in several shortlisted entries is an element of policy development alongside practical support for partners for example in Hogan Lovell’s support for the Bite the Ballot campaign alongside pro bono policy input into the proposed Voter Registration Bill in order to drive legislative change that would make it easier for Electoral Registration Officers to take active steps to increase the number of young voters.
Encouragingly, the trend that we have seen in recent years amongst shortlisted programmes being designed in ways that improve the chances of long-term and sustainable changes long after the original activity or intervention has continued. An increasing number of initiatives focus on root causes and take a flexible, needs-led approach – tailoring activity to the specific needs of either individuals or organisations rather than offering ‘fixed’ programmes – and are demonstrating that they can outperform similar programmes as a result