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CSR: The role of businesses in the wider community

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In this guest article, Lewis Allett, chief executive at Cavell, discusses the role of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and businesses’ support of charities in 2023.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – what is it?

Since the phrase was first coined in the 1950s by American economist Howard Bowen, ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ has meant different things at different points in time. At its most basic level though, CSR is the outward indication of an organisation’s recognition of its duty to the wider community and the potential to be a power for good.

In Howard Bowen’s 1953 book Social Responsibilities of the Businessman, he identified the huge power of corporations and highlighted their impact on society. He concluded that businesses and business people have an obligation to ensure their economic policies are ultimately beneficial for the common good.

Why CSR matters more than ever in 2023

UK charities are in the middle of a perfect storm of rising operating costs and a widely predicted drop in fundraising income, but also a relentless uptick in demand from those struggling the most.

Charity Excellence, the research, data and resource hub, warns funding is the charity sector’s most critical challenge this year and at the same time, nine out of ten charities expect greater calls on their services.

At Cavell, the charity supporting the nursing and midwifery family through tough times, the Support team has seen a 200% rise in those seeking help at the end of 2022 (compared to the previous year) with a further 35% increase in applications for support in the first half of 2023. These are unprecedented numbers for us, a small charity of thirteen dedicated staff on course to help more than 1,200 nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants this year.

Case study: Cavell

Cavell has launched a new website Support hub, allowing the Cavell Support team to provide support every day to more people than ever before. This aims to provide a tailored package of support to help everyone with a variety of resources to empower those seeking help with the tools needed for a more manageable future, both financially and emotionally.

Over the past eighteen months, many things have contributed to the huge increase in the number of nurses, midwives, and healthcare assistants seeking Cavell’s help. However, our Support Team noted that a significant contributory factor, particularly in the last year, was the cost-of-living crisis.

This crisis comes at a precarious time for many. In 2022, we spoke to 2,500 nursing and midwifery staff about how prepared they were for a financial emergency and 69% said they were unprepared, with 41% saying they currently had £500 or less in savings to face a financial emergency.

The team also asked people about things they were struggling to pay for with 30% of people saying they struggled with the cost of food and 14% saying that they had resorted to using a foodbank to feed themselves and their family.

Undoubtedly there are great and ongoing challenges faced by those seeking help from Cavell, but the households receiving support say the impact has been life-changing.

In 2022 and 2023, 92% of nurses, midwives, and healthcare assistants supported said help from Cavell positively affected their mental health. And of those working, 81% said the support helped them to get back to, or stay in, work.

So you can see that a small charity like Cavell can have an immediate positive impact on the lives of such an important workforce like nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants. But imagine how that impact could grow with greater funding support from generous and socially conscious corporations and business leaders.

How your business can support charities

  • Fundraise: Your teams can come together with sponsored events like runs, hikes, cycles, swims, quizzes, walks, or whatever your colleagues can think up
  • Become a sponsor: You can find a charitable cause to sponsor and become an integral part of the programme
  • Donate: This can be through payroll-giving, corporate donates, or other ways you can think of, to support the cause you and your company are more passionate about

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