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Social responsibility: meet the bosses who have made volunteering a part of the job


Increasingly, businesses are embracing social responsibility, providing team members with the opportunity to volunteer and work with charitable causes in their local and wider communities. 

Along with the obvious benefits of giving back, many charitable and forward-thinking employers are now also seeing a whole host of other positive outcomes for both individuals and the company.

From boosted morale and a greater sense of pride in their work, to wide-ranging new skills that can be applied in the workplace, it seems volunteering is a two-way street when it comes to reaping rewards.

Here, three bosses explain why they are advocates of giving back and how they encourage their teams to do so.

Zoe Scorer

Zoë Scorer is head of client teams at Conscious Communications. She says that allowing team members to take paid volunteer days helps make a real difference to charity projects.

Since the company’s formation in 2012, we have developed our approach to charitable and community work commitments on a national and local basis.

Each year, we identify charities that we would like to be involved with as a team. In 2014, one of the chosen charities was Headway, Cambridge. The team took part in the ‘Mind Your Head’ event, using its public relations and marketing expertise to advise on how to promote a new board game for people recovering from head injuries.

The charity’s board was very grateful for our advice and, in consultation with head injury sufferers at its Cambridgeshire day centre, decided to take the production of the game forward as a result.

Following the leadership team’s example – Alison Taylor, managing director of Conscious Communications, dedicates considerable time to voluntary and pro-bono work – each member of the Conscious Communications team receives two paid days each year (although in 2015 the team clocked up a lot more hours of their free time too!) to spend with a charity of their choice, providing them with an opportunity for personal development outside of their day-to-day work routine.

Charities that benefitted from the team’s work last year included Dementia UK, RSPB, Age UK, St Nicholas Hospice Care and the PCA Benevolent Fund. Activities the team members were involved with ranged from advising on social-media techniques, writing press releases and organising fundraising events, to creating foam beards for a viral Christmas campaign, and a 65-mile bike ride.

Conscious Communications is built on the principles of a conscious business, meaning that it’s not just what we do that’s important, but how we do it. Helping individuals and businesses is at the core of the company and our culture and values.

The objectives of the company’s volunteer days are to offer our public relations and marketing expertise and business acumen to charities that may not have the resources in-house, as well as raising money for worthy causes in our spare time.

It is so important that companies give back to the community and further afield. We have had a great time implementing our charity policy over the last two years, having the opportunity to work with such a huge range of truly worthy causes and the team is now busy using its 2016 allocation with new charities.

The fact that team members have these two days given to them to use with a charity of their choice means they can dedicate chunks of time rather than an evening here and there, and really make a difference. There are many worthy causes and we are thrilled we can enable our team in helping some of them year on year.

Liz Hogan

Liz Hogan is the manager of the John Lewis Partnership Golden Jubilee Trust, which aims to give UK registered charities the opportunity to benefit from the skills of its workforce. She says the benefits of the scheme are a two-way street for both the charities and team members who participate.

The Golden Jubilee Trust scheme is open to all partners [the 91,500 permanent staff], and we award around 50 secondments every year. On average, partners are given three days a week for 20 weeks to help their chosen charity with a specific project or ambition.

The Golden Jubilee Trust was established in April 2000 to celebrate the John Lewis Partnership’s Golden Jubilee, and since then, over 747 partners have been seconded to charities. In 2015, over 16,880 hours of volunteering were completed as a result.

We encourage our partners to volunteer for their chosen charities by advertising secondment opportunities on our internal website, and local branches can also skills-match partners and projects directly too. We receive a large number of applications every year – it is a competitive scheme!

The John Lewis Partnership has a strong culture of making a positive difference in the community and this is one of the many ways our team members can get involved.

I have personally managed the Golden Jubilee Trust for almost three years. Prior to that, I was a trustee for the charity whilst working in a John Lewis regional branch. Part of my role there was to encourage partners to apply for secondments.

Monetary donations to charities are incredibly valuable, however, I believe that the two-way flow of skills and insights is something that money can’t buy, which is why we support our partners to work with local charities in their area to help to meet community needs.

It makes me really proud to work for a retailer that respects, values, and plays a meaningful part in the communities in which it operates.

It’s important to note that it’s not just charities that benefit from our secondments. We find that it gives our team members a connection to the community and increases confidence, too.

From interviewing past participants, 83% have said they were more able to progress in their career as a result of skills and experience gained during their secondments, and 75% said they developed new networks and contacts.

When a new partner joins the John Lewis Partnership, the Golden Jubilee Trust provides a real opportunity for them to give back to causes they care about in a meaningful way. We see in our application rates that partners want to get involved and contribute, which is great!

Kelly Healey

Kelly Healey is customer and client account services manager at Simplyhealth. She says the whole team are encouraged to volunteer in order to give back to the community and also develop their own skills too.

We encourage our team to volunteer and give back in lots of different ways. One of my managers is very passionate about the environmental impact on her local area, and frequently takes part in the annual town tidy, as well as volunteering for a charity which plants trees to create woodland spaces. She has also been a school governor for the past 14 years which as an organisation, we encourage and support.

I also encourage my staff to take part in team builds. Recently, my team and I volunteered at James’s Place, a unique country home which opens its doors three days a week to offer day care to those in the community who need or want it with physical and learning disabilities.

It is such a treat and honour to be allowed to take time away from our normal working day to make a difference to people living in our community. It allows us to forge links with these organisations with the hope of helping them in future events.

Having this time out also allows us to reflect on our contributions, the difference we can make, and reflect on our own lives. I always encourage managers and team leaders to arrange days such as these to build on the links with the community and forge good working relationships within their own teams, utilising the new skills they have learnt.

Volunteering for causes that are personal to them holds huge benefits for individual team members. It helps with motivation and gives people a sense of pride, knowing that they have made a difference. It’s also an opportunity to take time away from their day-to-day role and gain new skills which can be brought back into the office.

I think the fact that our people have the choice of where they would like to volunteer, should they wish to, is a big draw for new employees too. It’s a reflection of our company culture.



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