Future 50: Why doing good is good for business

Unrecognizable female volunteer packing food in donation box while working at charity foundation.

There are many ways a company can support its community - and they're all good for business - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Increasing numbers of businesses go out of their way to support their local communities. Joe Cooksey of Barclays explains why it’s so important.

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The Future 50 programme is supported by the partner businesses - Credit: Archant

Sometimes, the world of business can seem to be awash in acronyms – and while the mention of VAT, GDPR or half a dozen others can provoke a shudder one that should get the opposite reaction is CSR. Corporate Social Responsibility reflects a company’s work in its local community.  

Future 50 partner Barclays does a lot of this kind of work. “There are so many benefits to putting something back into the community, which makes you a more-rounded business,” says Joe Cooksey, head of digital for specialist client solutions in Barclays business.  

Joseph Cooksey of Barclays

Joe Cooksey of Barclays says CSR is increasingly important in a post-pandemic world - Credit: Barclays

“It provides valuable support to others and is a great way for people to grow their skills. Often it’s good for the wellbeing of the colleagues too, who know they're working together on something worthwhile,” he explains.  

During the pandemic, as part of Barclays’ £100m COVID-19 Community Aid Package, the bank launched its 100x100 Programme where charities were invited to apply for one of 100 donations of £100,000. One of those that benefited was Norwich-based Break, which supports children in care, on the edge of care and leaving care across East Anglia. 

Young person being trained in how to use an espresso machine

Break helps young people across East Anglia build confidence and life skills - including training them for work - Credit: Break

Barclays also empowers its people to support causes they are passionate about, by allowing them to volunteer their time and skills and by matching their financial charitable contributions and fundraising efforts. "For example, a member of my team has a son who's disabled and he helped raise funds that mean his son’s nursery - that was going to have to close - can now can stay open,” Mr Cooksey explains. 

Investing in communities is not just about raising money – often the most valuable donations can be time and skills. “We have an Ethical Angels scheme where people give up their time to do things like website assessments, plan social media campaigns, assist with a funding application and so on,” says Mr Cooksey.  

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“All of our colleagues also have the opportunity to volunteer their time and skills to support our Citizenship programmes which focus on helping create jobs and enabling people to develop the skills and confidence for work. One example is our LifeSkills programme, where colleagues can go into schools and colleges to help people with their CV writing, job-application and other skills,” he adds. 

Future 50 member Cheddar Creative is heavily involved in this kind of skill-based volunteering. “As Enterprise Advisers for the New Anglia LEP and patrons of Inspire Suffolk, we’re really keen to show learners that work isn’t just this boring thing you have to do when you’re older,” says Cheddar co-founder Rich Wood.  

Cheddar Creative founders Rich Wood and Cassie Bendall

Rich Wood and Cassie Bendall of Cheddar Creative find creative benefits to working with young people - Credit: Pagepix/Cheddar Creative

“The business advantages of educating young people about careers in the creative industries and giving them an entry point via work placements and internships are manifold, but the biggest benefit is that we get a regular injection of new, fearless ideas and fresh perspectives, which helps us keep our work fresh, vibrant and exciting,” he concludes. 

So how does a company decide where to focus its commitments to society? “It doesn't have to come from the leadership, but if the leader has got a real passion and can get everyone to buy into it, they will see the benefits,” says Mr Cooksey says. “But it could just be one passionate individual everyone gets behind and helps raise funds together. 

“There’s a benefit to understanding what your people already do,” he adds. “This is really key because there's a balance between work and life.” 

While giving back can bring a team together, it shouldn’t distract from the day job. “If it's managed properly and discussed properly, if the time is positioned well and it’s very clear then what the expectation is based around business as usual, there should be no problems,” says Mr Cooksey.  

“When you look at the direction of travel, with home working and the challenges that the post-pandemic world will bring to every company, I feel that local communities working closer together will benefit everybody - and there's a role for every size of business in that,” Mr Cooksey concludes.  

For more information about Barclays CSR work, click here