Lesley Avinou: How businesses can reap benefit from volunteering

Lesley Avinou, head of customer service at Scottish Gas. Picture: Contributed

Lesley Avinou, head of customer service at Scottish Gas. Picture: Contributed

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Volunteering plays a significant role in Scotland’s economic and social prosperity. It helps to transform people and places and contributes to healthy and vibrant communities.

Last year alone, an estimated £2.6 billion was added to the Scottish economy through social action, yet volunteering rates across Scotland have been in decline for over five years.

We believe that businesses can play a huge part in driving volunteer opportunities in Scotland. As a major employer in Scotland, Scottish Gas values the power of social action. Our “Summer of Volunteering”, which launched this week, underlines our commitment to the local communities we work in.

Our plan is to provide 7,000 hours of employee time during the next 100 days. This will be done in many ways – from spending time in local schools to working with local community groups.

We actively encourage all of our employees to take part in several volunteering schemes. We have found it allows people to develop skills that can be transferred back to the workplace. These findings are further backed by a report from YouGov which showed that employees actively engaged in community programmes are more satisfied in their work.

Young people across Scotland will shape the future of volunteering and businesses can play a vital role in engaging them. The Step Up To Serve campaign offers a great framework for companies. With UK government backing, its goal is to expand existing opportunities for young people, encourage new ones and help overcome the barriers that stop them getting involved.

The business community in Scotland has the opportunity to play a starring role in promoting social responsibility. It may seem like a big ask; but if appropriately executed it can be a “triple win” – a win for communities, for employees and for businesses.

What’s more, every action taken, no matter how big or small, will help turn the tide on declining volunteering numbers and establish a strong foundation for the future, fuelling Scotland’s economic and social prosperity.

• Lesley Avinou, head of customer service Scottish Gas

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