Holly Firmin, Senior Community Partnerships Manager GB at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP): As we hurtle towards the end of 2021 and look back across the year, many will remember the summer of 2021 as the summer of sport, which saw England and Scotland compete in the Euros and Team GB winning medals at the belated Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. For others, it was a long-awaited summer of socialising, filled with music festivals and staycations. But for our colleagues at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP), the world’s largest independent Coca-Cola bottler, summer 2021 was a Summer of Volunteering.

CCEP volunteers delivering an educational session to young people in a supermarket in London, as part of the Reach Up employability programme with UK Youth.

Since May this year, more than 700 CCEP volunteers have taken part in almost 6,000 total volunteering hours across 90 events up and down the country. From litter picks and conservation work, to working with young people and building bird hides in partnership with our customers and suppliers, it’s our responsibility to work to support all the communities we’re part of.

This incredible work has shown me some simple, but effective ways to keep community at the very heart of your business.

Local focus

Whether you’re a global grocery chain or a small independent retailer, your business is part of a local community.

Keeping a local focus is something that Amrit Singh, owner of Nisa Local High Heath in Walsall, prioritises when looking at how his store can give back. “My store truly is the hub of the local neighbourhood. We hear from the people who live here on a day-to-day basis, which gives us a unique insight into the most significant local issues and the people who might be struggling and need our help.”

Amrit’s tireless community work has seen him get involved in litter picks, distribute hand sanitiser free of charge to schools, charities and foodbanks during the pandemic, and host Citizens Advice for confidential drop-in sessions for residents.

If you want to get your business more involved in the local community but aren’t sure where to start, Neighbourly is a fantastic platform which helps connect businesses with local good causes. Through our partnership with Neighbourly, as well as our other local giving and volunteering programmes, we’ve already donated £130k this year, with more to come.

Purpose

With so many deserving causes, it can be hard to know where to focus your efforts. Start by thinking about what’s important to your business, or the most significant challenges facing your sector, and how helping to tackle this can benefit your local communities.

At CCEP, it’s so important for us to make sure our cans and bottles are collected and recycled, and we don’t want to see any of our packaging end up where it shouldn’t. This ambition is reflected in our community work, through our support of the Treasure Your River campaign with Hubbub, and work with Keep Scotland Beautiful, which saw CCEP colleagues take part in litter picks up and down the UK, from the River Tay to Bristol Harbourside.

] Similarly, Reach Up, our employability programme with UK Youth, has been inspired by our belief that every young person, regardless of circumstance, should be empowered with the confidence, skills and experience to help them feel workplace ready.

To keep your business grounded in the local community, think about the values that sit at its heart and craft your activities around them.

CCEP’s graduate intake volunteer their time at UK Youth’s Avon Tyrell Activity Centre.

Everyone’s welcome

At CCEP we have a philosophy that everyone’s welcome, and it underpins everything we do, including our community programme.

Everyone is encouraged to take part in volunteering activity, at every level of seniority and across all job functions. From CCEP’s VP of Finance, Nick Halpern, fishing litter from the Thames, to our graduates volunteering their time to maintain UK Youth’s outdoor activity centre in the New Forest, everyone in the business should have a role to play.

Creating advocates is a great way to encourage everyone to get involved. To help foster this culture, every CCEP site has a Community Champion, who helps proactively identify volunteering opportunities for colleagues that they are passionate about. Can you create an advocate in your business to encourage colleagues and even customers to get involved?

Our philosophy also extends to the way we choose the causes to support. Through the Support My Cause initiative, everyone has a voice. Employees can nominate a charity and tell us why they are passionate about it and an employee vote then decides which charities receive donations.

For example, this year, Gary McNair, a process engineer at our East Kilbride site, nominated Homeless Project Scotland, a charity he has worked with for several years, and was able to see first-hand the impact of the donation he had made possible.

By getting colleagues involved, you can ensure that the money is going where it can have the most impact and encourage people across your business to play an active role in outreach.

Shining a light

Giving back doesn’t just help communities – it has huge benefits for your business too.

Amrit has found that his store’s good work has driven shopper loyalty and that customers prefer to spend their money at a retailer they know cares about their community.

Doing good also feels good. “Community engagement is contagious,” says Amrit. “Once you start you can’t stop, continuing to add more to your efforts each year and expanding your partnerships.”

Volunteering also helps you attract and retain staff, who enjoy helping causes close to their heart. It offers them the opportunity to try new things, develop skills and connect with other colleagues. CCEP employees have helped install beaver cams at Ham Fen in Kent, gone stand up paddle boarding to clear plastic waste from Regent’s Canal in London, and had a huge amount of fun dressing up as pirates to take part in a silent disco litter pick in Bristol.

Don’t be afraid to shout about the good work your business and colleagues are doing. Call out your successes and make sure customers and staff alike know about the good work you’re doing.

Over the past few months, I have been blown away by the volunteering efforts of CCEP colleagues and our partners, and I have seen first-hand the vital impact they have had, not only on the communities we’ve helped, but on our business.

Supporting our communities has never been so important, and by keeping them right at the heart of your business you will reap the rewards.

 

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