Chambers Ireland held their annual CSR Awards in Dublin last week, and CSR Central thought this would be a good opportunity to look at some of the winning projects in greater depth.
Now in their eleventh year, the Chambers Ireland Corporate Social Responsibility Awards were set up to recognise the Irish businesses (from SMEs up to Multi-nationals) who are making a real difference to their local communities, improving the lives of their employees, and fully integrating environmental sustainability into their day-to-day operations. The award ceremony is an opportunity for Chambers Ireland (the Irish network for regional Chambers of Commerce) to showcase the very best examples of CSR from across the country. The annual awards are run in conjunction with Business in the Community Ireland and the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government.
The Chambers Ireland CSR Awards are divided into a range of categories, among them ‘Excellence in CSR Communication’, the best Company-Charity Partnership, the best use of CSR by an SME, and the strongest commitment to ‘International CSR’. All shortlisted companies are also entered into the overall prize for ‘Outstanding Achievement in CSR’, which this year was scooped by Marks and Spencer Ireland.
So, who took home the top awards on the night? And what CSR projects had they implemented in order to win these accolades?
The electricity supplier ESB secured the Chambers Ireland award for best workplace-based CSR initiative. ESB achieved this through their development of a ‘Positive Mental Health’ programme for their employees. This involved ESB teaming up with the mental health charity Pieta House to create an initiative called “Mind Ur Buddy” that aimed to raise awareness regarding suicide prevention across the company. ESB staff volunteered to undergo mentoring training with Pieta House, after which they took on the role of ‘Buddy Support Person’ back in their workplace so as to support any colleagues experiencing severe stress or emotional distress. This was supported by a 24/7 confidential counselling service available to all staff. ESB also took home an ‘Excellence in Environment’ award (large indigenous company category) for their Sustainable Generation Initiative that dramatically cut CO2 emissions at their Ardnacrusha Station.
Carambola is a company who provide healthy bespoke meals to disadvantaged schools throughout Ireland. They scooped the “Excellence in CSR by an SME Award” for their work with St Thomas’ Junior School Jobstown in Co. Dublin. Through their charitable wing – Carambola Kidz Foundation – they helped transform a previously disused computer room in the school into a state-of-the-art library. According to Colm O’Brien, founder and MD of Carambola Kidz Foundation, this project has given pupils in an area with high levels of social deprivation “the opportunity to be part of an innovative approach to learning in the digital age”.
Excellence in Community/ Partnership with Charity – Vodafone Ireland & Young Social Innovators ‘Go Do’ Partnership:
Vodafone Ireland took home this award for their collaboration with Young Social Innovators. The partnership was launched in 2012 with the target of “engaging 100,000 young innovators by 2015” so that these young people then become a force for positive change within their own communities. The ‘Go Do’ initiative is poised to hit this ambitious target, and the programme has so far been implemented in over 200 schools around Ireland. The Chambers Ireland judging panel considered the partnership to be an excellent fit between Vodafone’s technical and marketing expertise, and Young Social Innovators’ experience at developing social enterprise programmes.
This project addresses two different social issues – the apparent wastefulness of many large retailers, and rising levels of food poverty in Ireland. These are the issues that motivated Lidl Ireland and Crosscare Food Bank to forge a partnership in 2013.
The concept behind the partnership is simple: every day Crosscare collect surplus food and other household necessities from local Lidl stores, and then distribute these items to over 70 charities across Ireland. Any remaining food is then brought to Crosscare’s Community Cafes and Meals-on-Wheels services. The partnership has so far resulted in over 300 tonnes of food being diverted away from landfill, and instead redistributed to families in need (creating over 120,000 meals for them in the process).
The Dublin and Belfast-based law firm Arthur Cox has been extremely active in recent years in developing overseas volunteering and charitable initiatives. Their Zambia Project formed the keystone of these activities and won the firm the ‘Excellence in International CSR’ prize at the Chambers Ireland awards.
The Arthur Cox Zambia Project is a “trainee pioneered initiative designed to raise standards of living in rural regions of Zambia” and, since the project was established in 2008, over 100 solicitors from Arthur Cox have travelled to work in the African republic. The accomplishments of the initiative include the complete renovation of a medical clinic and the creation of a new maternity ward serving a population of 6,000 people, the development of an agricultural project educating Zambian communities on the latest rice-farming practises, and the building of ‘radio schools’ to serve Zambian children who for geographical and financial reasons cannot attend formal schools .
Marks & Spencer Ireland triumphed in the overall category thanks to what Chambers Ireland describe as “the sustained excellence of their CSR programmes”. The retailer received recognition for their highly ambitious “Plan A” CSR programme that commits the company to radically reduce carbon emissions and the levels of waste their business generates, and to ensure fair working conditions for their suppliers. Marks & Spencer Ireland were also commended for their charity partnerships with organisations such as the Marie Keating Foundation and Oxfam.