At Almond Tree Strategic Consulting we are passionate about public and voluntary service. We believe it is the bedrock of a well-functioning society and should be the glue that binds us together despite our differences (and differences of opinion). In what feels like an ever more unstable world, practicing care and compassion at personal and community levels seems to us to be all the more important to avoid society fracturing in ways that could lead to who knows what.
That’s why we choose to work mostly with small and medium sized not-for-profit organisations who are making a difference in their community (no matter how large or small that community is). It is also why we believe that all businesses, whatever their size or sector, should practice Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
There are many facets to CSR and how a business does it can take many forms. It can (and arguably should) encompass environmental responsibility, ethical practice, effective and efficient use of all kinds of resources and behaving with honesty and integrity.
In our view, it should also include businesses engaging with their community (local, national, global or community of interest), and voluntary sector organisations within that community, to help grow and maintain that all-important a spirit of compassionate voluntary service and care for vulnerable people within those communities.
We believe there are three important principles that should underpin such CSR engagement with the voluntary and community sector.
First and foremost such partnerships should be based on shared interests and objectives. That could be because the business’ products and services relate directly to the work or beneficiaries of the partner charity or it could be because the charity’s cause is one that is important to the business owners, senior managers and/or staff. What form the partnership takes (financial and/or in-kind support) can then reflect those shared interests and, hopefully, the impact of partnership will be magnified as a result.
Secondly, and almost as important in our view, is that CSR engagement should be long term. For us, Charity of the Year is a gimmick; a short term “look at how caring we are” publicity stunt by the business that often leaves the charity wondering why they ever bothered. In our view, CSR partnerships should last at least 3-5 years and leave a lasting legacy of mutual benefit for the business, charity and the communities they serve.
Thirdly, CSR engagement by both the business and the charity should be based on the highest ethical principals and conducted with transparency, honesty and integrity. Friends are honest with each other and should be able to call each other out where necessary without fear of losing funding or other support/benefits.
At Almond Tree Strategic Consulting, despite being “only” a micro-business, we have developed a significant (for our scale) CSR programme that uses the expertise and resources available to us to benefit our partners and focusses on the key social interests of our Directors - young people, people affected by dementia and international humanitarian causes.
Our programme comprises the following:
A long-standing partnership (over 5 years to date) with The Eikon Charity, an awarding winning Surrey-based charity that has been providing long-term support to vulnerable young people for over two decades. Our Director, Julian Lomas, is a Trustee and Company Secretary of Eikon and we provide both pro-bono consultancy and funding to support Eikon.
Making time for Julian to play a full role as a school governor at Bishop Stopford School in Kettering as well as providing pro bono consultancy support to the school.
A commitment to donating at least 10% (and often significantly more) of our pre-tax profits to charities working in the priority areas identified above.
Occasional pro-bono support for charities or social enterprises working within those priority areas, particularly those with whom we have long standing relationships either through our CSR programme or as clients. This concludes taking up non-executive Director roles in charity trading subsidiaries as well as pro bono consultancy services.
We find that structuring our CSR in this way brings benefits both for our partners and to us as a business, by sharpening our values and interests and ensuring we maintain a breadth of experience of the not-for-profit sector (both as consultants and from within as a Trustee/Director).
We wholeheartedly encourage all business, whatever their size, to get involved in their community and to support voluntary and community organisations through CSR engagement.