Looking for ways to give back? Take inspiration from some of these companies’ CSR initiatives.
Earlier this year, we asked a number of companies in our community how they were giving back to society during the pandemic. As 2020 comes to a close, we wanted to revisit this important topic and find out what could be on the cards for corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives in 2021.
CSR has been a priority for Avanade Ireland since it launched in 2018, financial services lead Colin O’Brien told us. Typically, employees get one day a year to volunteer. In response to Covid-19, however, staff now get an unlimited amount of time off to give back in their local communities.
One of Avanade’s biggest CSR projects is a partnership with Junior Achievement and Microsoft. It gives fifth-class students in disadvantaged areas of Dublin opportunities to learn about STEM, technology and business. Drawing on Microsoft DreamSpace, for example, has allowed students to get hands-on experience with tech and coding.
The 2021 programme is due to launch in January and will involve virtual rather than in-classroom events. The silver lining of this online pivot, O’Brien said, is that it will reach more schools and students around the country.
“This year we will also be asking our staff to consider donating their final-hours pay to a charity chosen by our team – the Capuchin Day Centre for Homeless People,” he added. “All proceeds raised will be matched by Avanade and donated to this fantastic charity.”
Another company committed to CSR is BT Ireland, which is accredited with the Business Working Responsibly Mark. The company’s best-known initiative is perhaps the annual BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition. Due to the pandemic, the decision has been made to move next year’s event online.
BT Ireland’s managing director, Shay Walsh, told us: “As one of the leading school STEM exhibitions in Europe, we knew it would give young people a much-needed opportunity to showcase their STEM ideas for creating a better future and place STEM on the national agenda. We’re delighted with the response from everyone involved and look forward to going beyond limits together to have a brilliant exhibition in January 2021.”
The company has also delivered virtual IT training classes for the Employment for People from Immigrant Communities programme, held a virtual activity day to fundraise for Bumbleance and DeterMND, and donated to ISPCC, BeLong To, Immigrant Council of Ireland, Sightsavers, Focus Ireland and the Irish Cancer Society.
According to Citi’s Cecilia Ronan, “there has never been a more important time to support our communities”. Ronan, who is CEO of Citibank Europe and the Citi country officer for Ireland, believes we must support both charities and workforces alike this year.
Citi has chosen to support Irish charities that experienced significant drops in fundraising but increased demand for services during the pandemic. It has donated €27,000 each to Women’s Aid, AsIAm and Pieta House, as well as €20,000 to Barnardo’s. Citi employees raised €67,000 for Children’s Health Foundation Crumlin this year, too.
“Citi has also adapted its volunteering programmes by introducing virtual opportunities with Business in the Community Ireland to support employment programmes for immigrants,” Ronan added.
“Next year, Citi is planning to launch further initiatives to address challenges our society is facing today, with a particular focus on women and minorities.”
Intel expanded its Solar for Schools programme this year. The initiative helps schools and community organisations in North Kildare to generate their own energy supply directly from the sun.
The expansion saw five schools across Maynooth and Leixlip receive a total of 48 monocrystalline solar modules as well as monitoring systems and TVs to display the live output. These modules generate a combined output of 12,800 kWhs each year. Intel said: “By generating this green energy in the schools and reducing CO2 emissions, the combined systems will offset the equivalent of 1.2m smartphone charges annually.”
Since the programme was launched in 2017, 178 panels have been installed in schools. According to Intel, the energy generated by these panels could power 4.4m smartphone charges, 540,000 boils of a kettle, 82,500 hours of running a washing machine, 900,000 hours of laptop use and 1,350 charges of an electric vehicle.
Liberty IT engineer Andy O’Sullivan wants to support both employees and external communities this year. “Our mantra is ‘family first, work second’, and 2020 has brought personal challenges like no other,” he said. “That’s why in addition to supporting our employees, we continue to support our community partners.”
Tech for Good has been a Liberty IT partner for a number of years. While the company would sponsor its events and speak at its meet-ups in the past, Liberty IT paid for the group’s Zoom licence for the next year to cover the operational costs of going virtual.
“Homeless charity ICHH work tirelessly to support and house homeless people across Dublin,” O’Sullivan added. “We heard their CEO speak at a Tech for Good meet-up about a quote for an app that they couldn’t afford, so we offered our services for free.
“Using our assigned community time within Liberty IT, we created a mobile app for the volunteers to use each night, replacing paper and pens, and a website using serverless technology to give the charity a digital analytics capability that they didn’t have before.”
According to Rachel Power, senior manager for people experience at PwC Ireland, Covid-19 has brought corporate responsibility “even more into the fore”.
She explained that PwC focuses its CSR efforts in three main areas: community, environment and the workplace. It donated to Pieta House and Focus Ireland for the festive season. “This included working with 49 families to help them exit homelessness,” Power said.
“The PwC Santa Scheme, now running for over 10 years, is a key part of PwC’s festive work and ongoing commitment to the communities in which we live. Many of our people donate to this, bringing joy to the schools and much needed support to St Vincent de Paul.”
Next year, the company will continue fundraising and offer pro-bono professional services to charity partners, keep working towards its 2030 goal of net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions, and provide flexibility and wellness support for its employees.
At Verizon Media, CSR activities are centred around three core pillars: digital inclusion, climate action and human prosperity.
Its CSR lead for Ireland, Edel Murphy, told us that nearly 500 Verizon Media employees volunteered more than 3,000 hours throughout 2020. This included a partnership with Generation to help train disadvantaged young people, volunteering with CoderDojo and Wells for Zoe, skills training for clients of Dress for Success, and building birdhouses for BirdWatch Ireland.
For Christmas, Murphy said that the company has partnered with Making Connections to write letters and send gifts to senior citizens living alone in the community.
“For 2021, we hope to continue working with many of these charities and organisations,” she said. “We awarded a grant to Age Action Ireland and will be volunteering with their Keep in Touch programme, which is a digital literacy programme delivered remotely, providing lessons on keeping older people connected to their loved ones.”
While fundraising activities continued at William Fry throughout the year, including bake sales, quizzes and sports challenges, planning for corporate responsibility in 2021 has been a priority.
The law firm’s CSR manager, Bethany Fiore, told us that 2020 initiatives ranged from taking part in the Calcutta Run and donating more than €7,500 to the Peter McVerry Trust and The Hope Foundation, to helping The Jack and Jill Children’s Foundation by moving its Incognito art sale online.
In addition, William Fry’s Impact+ pro-bono programme supported more than 30 social enterprises through online workshops. “While 2021 is still a bit uncertain in terms of a return to normal, at William Fry we are moving ahead with plans to launch two new community partnerships and to continue to grow our pro-bono support of social enterprises,” Fiore said.
“Now more than ever we recognise our responsibility to work together to make a positive and lasting difference in our communities.”