Our voluntary CSR work pays dividends

Encouraging employees to give back to the community can bring business benefits

By Rosa Doherty, November 4, 2013
Jonathan Crocker of Accurist

Jonathan Crocker of Accurist

Amy Woolf neatly places her heels under her desk. She is leaving the office to volunteer at Jewish Care’s resident Rubens House for people with dementia.

Her employer, corporate auditor KPMG, is one of many UK companies encouraging employees to set aside working hours to volunteer at charities of their choice as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility drive (CSR).

Thousands of British Jews, from stockbrokers to lawyers, dedicate their time and donate money to Jewish charities as part of their CSR drive. While the motives are primarily philanthropic, such efforts also bring in business benefits from networking to securing new clients.

“It is valuable to foster relations with a range of people,” says Woolf, who works in human resources at KPMG.

“The skills we pick up volunteering for charities are permanently transferable in business.

“Using what we know in practical settings makes us feel like what we are giving back is useful. My background is in recruitment so going through interview techniques with people in trying to get into employment is perfect.

“We may give a lot financially to Jewish Care but it is more about the time we give and the difference we make.”

Amy Woolf of KPMG

Amy Woolf of KPMG

For Jonathan Crocker, the chief executive of watch manufacturer Accurist, which was founded by the Loftus family in 1946, the company’s CSR drive is about doing the “right thing”.

Accurist is one of 30 companies that have signed up to a Mitzvah Day scheme. As part of the UK Jewish charity’s social action drive, every employee will give one lunch to a homeless shelter.

Crocker says: “Our involvement in Mitzvah Day is not about generating business or credibility; it is about our wish to be responsible.

“I do though feel that doing the ‘right thing’ benefits us as individuals, it is part of a positive cycle of good emotion and as such benefits our business.”

In the face of government cuts and minimal funds, companies are now offering charities, including Norwood, their services on a pro bono basis.

“A lot of our CSR covers pro bono legal work for people who wouldn’t be able to access it normally,” explains Alison Klarfeld, head of CSR at law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP, which is also part of the Mitzvah Day food donation initiative.

Klarfeld, a qualified solicitor, believes that a company’s commitment to the community impacts how it’s perceived by business associates. “Most clients will ask about our CSR while considering potential business,” she says. “If one of the banks wants to do something with BLP, they will ask us about our CSR policy.”

Gillian Gold, who facilitates employee volunteering at Jewish Care, says that just as the charity benefits from voluntary manpower, companies benefit “from the impact that these new experiences have on their staff”.

CSR initiatives have also led to emotional experiences for Jewish patrons. Woolf, whose employer this month won a Wizo award for its CSR work, says a tour of the East End with Jewish Care residents was an “eye opening experience” as it divulged “a chance to learn more about their history”.

Property giant Telereal Trillium, whose preference shares are held by The William Pears Group and the William Pears Group EBT, has also signed up to the Mitzvah Day campaign. CSR head Susan Cain says: “We believe that if we act responsibly, we will make a strong social contribution, as well as deliver a sustainable financial performance.”

Last updated: 5:39pm, November 4 2013