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South West

Every well governed business should have a consciousness about the community in which it operates

Sarah Roberts 26 Apr 2018

You and the people who work for you, and with you, are an integral part of the community and you have a responsibility to leave a positive footprint.

It’s well documented that, given a choice of buying the same thing from different companies, consumers - especially younger ones – will favour those with a clear philanthropic policy. But with around 168,000 charities in England and Wales and around 3,500 good causes in our region alone, how do you decide who gets the cash?

The South West provides a charity income of around £3.5bn a year with around 3% from the private sector (c £105m). If we take a geographical snapshot of the South West - Bath and North East Somerset, South Gloucestershire, North Somerset and Bristol - this adds up to around £28m based on number of businesses.

The Institute of Directors has recently been working  with Quartet Community Foundation, which covers Bristol and Bath. They are one of a number of community foundations across the country who help people and organisations invest in local communities where it is most needed and where it will make most impact. In the South West, small (under 100k) and micro (under 10k) good causes account for 87% of the sector (source: NCVO) but Quartet says they receive only 3% of the annual charitable income. In December 2017, the Charity Commission reported that 90% of all income is received by the largest 6.8% of charities.

It’s an interesting imbalance and made me examine how I think about corporate philanthropy.  Personally, I believe all good business should be thinking locally first, then regionally and nationally about everything it does. We operate in the same way with our support of charities. We’re a food business so naturally we drift in that direction. Our Crab Apple project has been run with and raised money for local schools for over 10 years. Plant a Tree, Save the Bee is now in its fifth year. It's a national charity but supports trees being donated and planted locally. We also support two national charities a year chosen in-house by staff members and supported by innovative fundraising. Over the years we have supported the likes of Walking with the Wounded, Macmillan and this year Cystic Fibrosis & Ataxia. We also support small, local fundraising from schools to volunteer groups. But our local thinking is obviously not the average way of thinking. To help organisations focus more on the smaller charity, Quartet is suggesting that businesses think in terms of themes, not individual charities, which enables greater buy-in from across the organisation and flexibility about the mix of charities you could support. So that could be the elderly, mental  health, young people and so on. I like that approach and believe it could reboot more organisations into thinking locally as well as nationally. Our staff, customers and suppliers come from a range of backgrounds, are big and small and regional and national. I beIieve our philanthropic strategy should reflect that.

Contact IoD South West

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0117 370 7785

South West

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IoD South West
The Innovation Centre
Bristol and Bath
Science Park
Emersons Green
BS16 7FR