Philippa Cornish: How can reward and CSR strategies contribute to the levelling-up agenda?

With an authentic social purpose, businesses can contribute to levelling up communities, which also furthers their organisation’s aims.

Social purpose should be aligned with the overall business strategy to truly achieve social impact.

The Edelman Trust Barometer, published in January 2022, found that businesses and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are seen as competent and effective drivers of change. Charities can, therefore, be natural partners to businesses to help them demonstrate their purpose.

A corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy that looks at collaboration within and across sectors can combine capacity, expertise and innovation to maximise social impact. These can encourage local networks and initiatives focused on improving communities and addressing inequalities.

The Charities Aid Foundation’s (CAF) Resilience Fund, for instance, is using donations from organisations across the insurance and long-term savings sector and government to help communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

Keep it local: many areas of the UK have suffered economically and levelling up is largely about empowering local communities. Like charities, many businesses are at the centre of their communities. Therefore, linking a CSR strategy to the needs of the community in which [an organisation] operates can help to meet collective aims.

Through place-based giving schemes, businesses can match with a community-led project to increase investment in local communities and support the development of local places. Local enterprise partnerships are also a way to bring public and private sector players together, linking business with education and governmental voices.

At CAF, for example, we support major retailers in establishing community investment and engagement programmes, including distributing the funds generated by the plastic bag levy.

Through their reward offerings, businesses can involve employees in their CSR agenda, and in turn contribute to levelling up. By offering volunteering days, fundraising opportunities, and payroll giving, employees can give back to communities that are important to them personally and their employer.

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The offer of payroll giving facilitates regular employee donations to charitable causes they feel passionately about. Donations are tax-effective because they are taken from gross pay, which means the charity get more of employees’ donations and it costs the donor less.

Philippa Cornish is head of corporate clients at the Charities Aid Foundation