agendaNi looks at how Northern Ireland companies and public sector organisations are engaging with communities through their CSR programmes.
The Craigavon firm’s corporate social responsibility activity is underpinned by its strategic vision “to be the leader in the generation of superior solutions for the advancement of human health”. It reflects the company’s commitment to diversity and equality in the workplace and the health and well-being of its staff. This work also aims to enrich and support the local community through a range of outreach and community initiatives, including charity fundraising and a proactive outreach to schools and universities. This includes visits for A-level students as part of the Pathway outreach programme (pictured above). Almac also seeks to reduce the impact of its operations on the environment and implement policies to minimise waste and maximise efficiency.
Fundraising for charities and hospice services benefits the local people who use their services and there is also a ‘feel-good factor’ for staff as they find they are able to help. Staff directly benefit from the company’s health and well-being initiatives and the education programmes encourage pupils to study STEM subjects, which should ultimately benefit the local economy.
Corporate responsibility has been a real focus at Moy Park for many years and is framed under five main pillars of activity: environment; community; workplace; supply chain; and customers. This work goes right across the company and supports customers, consumers, colleagues, farmers and the community. Moy Park, for example, works with the Prince’s Trust, Young Enterprise, and the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster and with the Institute of Grocery Distribution on the Feeding Britain’s Future initiative. Many of these partnerships provide valuable skills training for young people.
The company focuses on helping to create opportunities for youth employment in rural areas e.g. through the Prince’s Trust and Young Enterprise programmes. Colleagues can benefit from ‘well-being weeks’ which offer advice on general health and fitness across all of its sites. As a business, Moy Park is also benefiting from continual training and improved practices which supports its environmental performance. For example, last year the company achieved the ambitious goal of zero waste-to-landfill status.
As the Housing Executive works at the heart of communities, many of its core activities have a corporate social responsibility impact. Staff regularly take part in fundraising events and volunteer for an extensive range of charities – both locally and internationally. This includes hosting and promoting events such as coffee mornings, team quizzes, eco-days, gardening, painting and decorating projects through individual volunteering and team-building days. A CSR working group has been developing and raising the profile of employee volunteering since 2006. The programme is led by a dedicated CSR co-ordinator with support from senior managers and staff at all levels. During 2013-2014, staff contributed approximately 152 days of volunteering matched by CSR leave and raised over £92,000 for a wide range of charities through both fundraising activities and the give-as-you-earn scheme. Volunteering has provided excellent opportunities for staff to contribute to the community while developing individual and team skills. It has also helped the Housing Executive to develop partnerships, share knowledge and gain recognition within the community. The communities and charities involved also receive an injection of expertise or assistance that otherwise could not be afforded.
The trust covers the districts of North Down, Ards, Castlereagh, Down and Lisburn and has a commitment to help its local community, as well as keeping it healthy. As part of this commitment, it offers employees the chance to participate in the ‘Time to Read’ initiative. Staff are released to go into primary schools across the trust’s area to work with P5, P6 and P7 children for one hour each week, on a one-to-one basis. The volunteers help children to develop their literacy and communication skills and their enjoyment of books through fun reading activities while also developing their confidence and skills in interacting with an adult. Trust staff also benefit from the contact with the children while increasing their experience and skills base, and say that the project has been positive and rewarding. The project was recognised by the Minister of Education who welcomed trust staff and pupils to Stormont for a question-and-answer session.
CSR has always been part of the culture within Belfast law firm Carson McDowell and it has been involved in numerous initiatives over the years. Each year, the firm partners with a nominated charity and organises events to raise funds for them. Carson McDowell has forged a valued partnership with Business in the Community, through which it carries out pro bono work for local charities e.g. helping them to acquire premises, take on employees, apply for grant funding, establish governance structures and enter into partnering arrangements.
Its Work Inspiration initiative (pictured) is also run through Business in the Community and brings students into the city centre office to meet solicitors and take part in interactive exercises. The aim is to provide an insight into legal practice and impart useful advice. These sessions are run four times a year and the response is always positive. CSR activities contribute greatly to staff morale and enhance Carson McDowell’s reputation amongst the local business community.
NI Water’s corporate social responsibility strategy defines how, as a business, it is committed to behaving ethically, contributing to Northern Ireland’s economic development, and producing a cleaner environment while improving the quality of life of its workforce and the local community. This approach supports NI Water’s vision and strategic objectives. A CSR committee chooses four key objectives to focus on for the coming year which are linked to delivering the corporate strategy. For 2015-2016, these are customer-focused events, employee well-being, the blockage reduction campaign, and liaison with schools, colleges and universities. One of the most successful CSR programmes is the Cares Challenge employee volunteering scheme which to date has given over 3,000 volunteering hours to 36 local charities, schools and community groups in a variety of physical tasks such as gardening and painting. Pictured above is a volunteer project team which helped to restore gardens and outdoor areas following a fire at Arvalee School, Omagh. As an organisation that provides a vital service throughout Northern Ireland, NI Water sees itself as embracing the opportunity to engage with the community which it serves.