Corporate social responsibility is vital, writes Chris West
As a firm, we donate one per cent of profits to good causes – and, along with time to community investment-related activities, we give every member of the firm the opportunity to volunteer to support good causes.
We have fundraising partnerships with two children’s charities and provide others with a free legal helpline. In addition, we organise regular update sessions to ensure the charities have access to the legal guidance they require. Our involvement in corporate social responsibility (CSR) is an important part of Gillespie Macandrew’s culture, supporting our values and our approach to how we do we do business.
The reality, of course, is that we could operate commercially without committing to a CSR programme, but these initiatives help ensure we maintain some sense of perspective. It helps to define us as a business and shape the way we approach our working lives.
All businesses owe society more than simply the economic benefits generated as a result of paying staff and remunerating partners. We are mindful that not everyone has the same opportunities or benefits which we have been lucky enough to be afforded.
Many of our staff have an expectation that it is morally correct and very positive to be making a broader contribution to society – many do this in their daily lives and expect the business to make some effort too.
As a consequence, over recent years we have seen the importance of CSR increase to the firm and our staff, both due to greater general public awareness but also because of positive staff experiences. With a CSR Committee chaired jointly by two of our bright young members of staff willing to broaden their skills and expertise, the success of our various initiatives is down to the personal time and commitment the committee and other industrious members of staff have been prepared to give.
As an example, we allow everyone to take one paid day off work per year to volunteer with one of our chosen charities. The majority of staff take that up each year and look forward to the opportunity coming around again. Through our CSR partnership with Children in Scotland, we give specific support to Rossie Young People’s Trust, near Montrose, and have just started working with The Rock Trust.
We also have a monthly dress down day on the final Friday of the month and a Christmas Fayre where stalls are set up in our boardrooms to sell items contributed, and in a number of cases hand-made or baked, by staff. Last year, this raised approximately £1,000. This was followed by a summer version, themed around Wimbledon. In the past year, we have bought fruit for staff from Edinburgh Community Food (ECF) to encourage healthy eating, and we ask our team to provide donation for the fruit they eat which goes back to ECF.
We also recently held a blood donation day and more than one-third of the staff in our Edinburgh office took part. We hope to make this a regular event
We know that banks and insurance companies and many other larger firms have very well-developed programmes offering a number of opportunities for all involved. What I would say about ours, in a smaller firm with less in the way of resources is that we choose to focus on volunteering opportunities where we can work hand-in-hand with the charities, rather than focusing our attention heavily on fundraising activities. Those of us who have taken up these opportunities have also gained markedly from the experiences we have had.
It is easy in the busy 21st-century business world to become lost in the here and now and not be able to maintain a broader perspective on what is going on around us. CSR helps us to keep some of that perspective.
Chris West is CEO of Gillespie Macandrew: www.gillespiemacandrew.co.uk