Corporate social responsibility is more than just giving money to charity. Big firms are increasingly looking at innovative new ways of giving back to their communities.
One scheme piloted in Sussex by a major employer was so successful it is being exported elsewhere for its second year. The leading insurer and major Brighton and Hove employer is pioneering a new scheme which goes beyond the usual expectations of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
Rather than simply handing money out the firm is looking to support social enterprises through their ‘teenage years’ with unique interest-free loans, mentoring and support from its experienced workforce.Last year Sussex pilot project SE-Assist helped three enterprises off the ground, the most notable being ethical supermarket hiSbe.The scheme was considered so successful Legal and General have given it a wider roll out and are encouraging social entrepreneurs to apply for funding. Social enterprises will receive a £10,000 to £30,000 interest-free loan. Successful applicants will also get mentoring from a Legal and General employee and access to a bank of experts.
Bids to the £330,000 fund will be decided by a Social Investment Committee, which includes the Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex Peter Field, editor of The Argus Michael Beard and chief executive of Brighton and Hove Economic Partnership Tony Mernagh.
SE Assist Programme Summary
SE Assist Case Studies
One social enterprise to win a loan last year was Brighton-based ParentSkool which provides antenatal classes for firsttime parents.Founder Sarah Watkins, pictured right, created the course after her own experience of antenatal classes was unsatisfactory.The idea is to make the parent-to-parent classes assessable to all, particularly those on low incomes.Just nine months on the business has gone from a one-woman pipe-dream to award-winning enterprise with eight-staff and high approval ratings.
hiSbe – how it Should be
Another success story is ethical supermarket hiSbe.The enterprise received a £5,000 grant to spend on consulting, a £10,000 interest-free loan and mentoring by L&G on financial issues.SE-Assist was the first financial backing hiSbe secured, giving the business investment credibility and personal validation for founder sisters Ruth and Amy Anslow. The £5,000 consultation grant was spent on research on a fresh produce consultant who specialises in linking small-scale producers to retailers.