Ian Bowles, group CSR manager, Premier Foods: Social responsibility is a rewarding experience

Today’s employees, customers, suppliers and consumers are all concerned about companies’ ethical and environmental credentials. They want to know not only about the quality and value of the products themselves, but also whether the materials used have been sourced responsibly and transported in a way that has the least impact on the environment.

A company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy can improve its reputation, as well as engage its employees with the brand. An effective CSR strategy also has a positive impact on staff morale because it reassures them that they are working for a socially-conscious employer, while also getting them involved with a host of fun CSR initiatives.

At Premier Foods, CSR is one of our key strategic priorities. The principles supporting this are to treat business benefits as a bonus, but not always as the primary goal, and to directly align a responsible approach with overall business objectives.

In 2008, we further improved our performance across a range of CSR-related issues and I was recruited as a CSR manager. This year, we are working towards new, challenging targets to further improve our performance across a range of environmental and social performance indicators.

Our 16,000 staff are keen to support worthy charitable causes and last year we asked them to help us choose Premier Foods’ corporate charity. After a fantastic response, Cancer Research UK was chosen and the firm has committed to raising £250,000 for the charity by 2010.

In March this year, Premier Foods joined the Geared for Giving campaign and launched a workplace giving scheme. This gave staff the chance to make tax-efficient donations to charities of their choice directly out of their salaries.

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We have what we call local community champions at our head office, distribution and manufacturing sites whose role it is to identify worthy local causes in which their site can get involved. These employees also co-ordinate fundraising activities to raise cash for Cancer Research UK. We feel confident that, with the launch of our workplace giving scheme coupled with the fundraising support of our community champions, we will succeed in raising the challenging figure of £250,000 for Cancer Research UK.

n Ian Bowles, group CSR manager, Premier Foods