We recognise that the same talent and skills that make our business a success can also be used to make an invaluable contribution in the communities where we live and work. We encourage all of our 37,500 people to take part in volunteering - whether it’s lending a hand in local communities, supporting our strategic charity partners or strengthening the social enterprises we invest in. And through collaboration, we can help target resource and expertise to where it’s needed most and help erode some of society’s biggest issues.
But it’s not only communities that benefit from volunteering; our people and business do too. Research shows that 70% of employee volunteers gain business-related skills such as communication and leadership qualities, while 82% feel more committed to their employer1. Benefits like these help develop our people and enable us to retain our skilled and talented workforce.
We therefore encourage all of our people to take up to two days paid time away from work to volunteer each year. And in 2014, we contributed 66,729 hours in communities, which is an increase of 37% from 48,697 hours in 2013. This equates to an investment totalling £781,000 for time spent volunteering during work hours, which goes towards our total community investment of £406.5min 2014.
In British Gas, employee volunteering increased from 28,852 hours in 2013 to 37,720 hours and they remain on track to achieve one in three volunteers by the end of 2018. One of the big volunteering events of 2014 was with charity partner Shelter, where more than 4,000 employees and their families trekked across Britain to raise money for ending bad housing and homelessness.
Similarly, Direct Energy increased their volunteering by 48% to 21,260 hours in 2014. This performance exceeded their 2014 volunteering target of 14,000 hours. Many of our people in North America volunteered at their local food banks and homeless shelters to support vulnerable people who needed our help.
During 2014, our people from Centrica Energy gave up their time to safeguard the environment in the 'Big Clean'. As a result, we were able to restore the natural beauty of areas around our oil and gas sites in Barrow and Morecambe Bay, helping increase pride in the local community.
At the same time, people from across the business use their expertise to help Energy Entrepreneurs grow their impact in society through Ignite, the UK’s first corporate impact investment fund focussed on energy and backed by Centrica. We are also helping end loneliness in later life through Age UK’s Call in Time telephone befriending programmewhich matches employees with an older person for regular weekly catch-ups.
For example, Amanda Waller, Operations Manager at Ignite and her Call in Time partner Doris, have been matched on the programme for nearly two years.Amanda said, “Doris always cheers up during the course of our calls. Even if the conversation gets a bit sad if we’re talking about her late husband or her health problems. Knowing you brighten someone’s day is the best part, and the personal positives are just a bonus really”.
In 2015, we are making volunteering easier with the introduction of a Volunteering portal, where employees can search and sign-up for opportunities they are interested in.