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Corporate conscience

CN finds out that, for many companies, charity begins in the meetings home

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an established factor of corporate life and only becoming more important.

According to one recent survey 75% of millennials would take a pay cut to work for a responsible company, while almost two-thirds said they would not accept a job from a company that did not have strong CSR practices.

In the UK there are a number of venues that operate as charities and so booking events with them can be one way to satisfy a company’s CSR needs, while serving the event needs of the planner and not being any more expensive than using a traditional venue.

Gethin Roberts is MD of Drivers Direct, the national driving recruitment agency. He runs events at Victory Services Club (VSC), a members club and restaurant in Marble Arch, London. The Club is a registered charity and provides free membership for serving members of the UK Armed Forces, offering Recognition and Respite and Welfare Breaks to members.

“I’m ex-RAF, so I have been a club member for some time and was aware of the amazing work they do,” says Roberts. “The venue is the perfect setting for our annual Black Tie awards and for bi-annual smaller training events, too. We reap the rewards of having a centrally located venue with the bonus of knowing that we are contributing to a worthwhile cause. It’s a win-win for us.”

Mercedes-Benz Financial Services UK (MBFS) has its UK head office in Milton Keynes and regularly uses York House Centre, a nearby youth, community and arts centre for its meetings. “We’re an international company, with colleagues from all around the world, but at our heart, we are a local employer with a keen interest in making a positive difference to our community,” says Graham Mitter, GM wholesale and fleet finance. “York House is at the heart of that local community, and that is why it makes sense for us to use the facilities there, rather than at an anonymous hotel or venue.”

Horizon Leeds, owned by the NHS, is the venue of choice for Denise Rodgers, PA to Claire Swithenbank, regional head of Learning Disabilities Programme (NHS England North). Her rationale is that, in choosing Horizon Leeds for her events, the organisation is putting back into the NHS, and she doesn’t have to compromise on space quality or professional atmosphere.

Surely choosing a charity venue can mean cutting quality? Mitter doesn’t think so. “While York House might not be the polished meeting venue that we have used in times gone by, we appreciate its quirkiness,” he says. “The team is accommodating, and always able to provide what we need. We have a wider CSR relationship with York House, so our colleagues are all familiar with the community centre’s facilities and we try to steer them there for meetings”.

For Drivers Direct, however, there is no compromise. “We never put CSR above the quality of our events; they are too important to us. You can very easily have both quality and CSR values at VSC,” says Roberts.

Swithenbank agrees the CSR benefits are important but secondary to ensuring the meeting is as good as it can be. “We choose Horizon Leeds for its great location, attentive staff and conference facilities.”

What of the softer benefits of choosing a venue with charity status? “Around 10% of our staff is ex-forces so they are always keen to support VSC,” says Roberts. “In fact, VSC was our charity of the year last year and the team helped to raise over £2,500 for them.”

Mitter believes the “vibrant atmosphere” of York House takes colleagues out of the corporate environment of their offices, helping to give them a new perspective. “Hopefully this will help them to develop new ideas gain inspiration from the some of the other users of York House,” he says.

Bringing CSR into your business may not be as tricky as it seems and it may just help a business become the employer of choice for those socially conscience millennials.