Creating value through volunteering

Centrica & British Gas - Creating value through volunteering

I believe that volunteering creates real value – it can help change lives for the better by strengthening the social, economic and environmental development of local communities.

The obvious beneficiaries of volunteering are the charity or community recipients where the support of employee volunteers can make a big difference. In the current economic climate, more and more charitable organisations are under increasing pressure to support a growing number of people needing assistance, but their resources have become squeezed with reduced levels of public funding - so it’s a real challenge for them at the moment.

As a top FTSE company employing over 36,000 people, we can make a significant contribution to society through volunteering. By sharing the expertise and skills of our talented people where it’s needed most, we can work together and provide organisations with the people power needed to tackle some of societies biggest problems such as fuel poverty, climate change as well as skills development for young people – areas where we have a wealth of knowledge.

And it’s also good for us because volunteering benefits our employees too - developing their skills, confidence and morale - all of which helps us improve retention through increased levels of employee engagement. Recent research shows that 70% of employee volunteers benefit from new skills such as time management, decision-making and leadership (note 1), while happiness and wellbeing can also be gained (note 2).

In recognition of all of this, we’ve committed to get more of our people volunteering. Direct Energy aims to achieve 14,000 hours during 2014 while British Gas’ ambition is to have one in three employees volunteering by 2018.

So how active are we in volunteering as a business? In 2013, I’m happy to say that our employee volunteering rose by 12% to nearly 48,700 hours. This equates to around a £640,000 contribution from our business for the time spent volunteering during work hours, which goes towards our total community investment of £392.4m (note 3). Despite the improvement in volunteering hours, we remain below our 2011 record-high of over 84,000 hours which was boosted by a big campaign run by our Direct Energy business during the National Week of Volunteering. As I mentioned earlier, we’ll aim to increase our volunteering during the year and in the future.

Employee volunteering hours





48,6973 (note 3)

43,4884 (note 4)

84,0564 (note 4)

But what are we doing to get our people volunteering and giving back to the communities in which we live and work? To encourage employee volunteering, we provide two days paid time off work each year to pursue either personal volunteering on an issue close to their hearts, or, to take up opportunities we’ve arranged – be it active team building days, or, working closely with our strategic charity partners and local schools.

For example, in British Gas, employees have volunteered over 3,200 hours and raised nearly £260,000 under the Shelter partnership, which aims to improve the standard of 1m homes in the private rented sector through energy efficiency as well as electrical and gas safety. A number of social enterprises including the Social Business Trust are also supported – here, our employee’s expertise is playing a vital role growing their community impact and has helped them reach 100,000 beneficiaries. Social enterprises are also supported through Ignite, the UK’s first impact investment fund with a focus on energy, which was created by Centrica and enables employees to volunteer and nurture entrepreneurial development to build a better society.

Organised by Centrica Energy, employees from across the business are making a real difference in tackling loneliness in the lives of older people through weekly phone calls as part of Age UK’s Call in Time initiative. Centrica Storage takes part in localised volunteering initiatives such as beach cleans to help sites stay clean and safe, while Direct Energy is active in supporting those in need by volunteering at local food banks and incentivises volunteering through matched-funding to deliver additional benefit to supported organisations. As an extension of this, Direct Energy is also encouraging other companies to enrich their communities through volunteering and recently launched the Small Business Community Heroes award programme to do just that.

We’re big supporters of volunteering and will endeavour to continue to make a positive social, economic and environmental impact in communities where we live, work and serve our customers. 



1Business in the Community

2 Department of Work and Pensions, Wellbeing and civil society: Estimating the value of volunteering using subjective wellbeing data (WP112)

3 Assured by Deloitte LLP for 2013 reporting. See to view Deloitte's 2013 assurance statement and the 2013 Basis of Reporting

4 Restated following subsequent review of historical data.