Firms mark Responsible Business Week

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Responsible Business Week takes place this week.

It provides a great opportunity to celebrate UK business and demonstrate their role as a force for good in society in 2013.

Companies across the UK are opening their doors and sharing their stories of how responsible business practice has helped them transform their business and the communities in which they work.

The event is taking place with the support of Business in the Community, which is one of the Prince’s Charities, a group of not-for-profit organisations of which The Prince of Wales is president.

One business which has already integrated responsible business practice into their day to day operations is Northamptonshire firm GSSArchitecture.

Here, partner Mark Stevens explains why the firm is so committed to responsible business and the benefits it can bring to companies.

“To me at GSSArchitecture, responsible business means giving something back to the communities in which work in and recruit from.

“We have found there are a number of ways which cost us very little in terms of capital outlay, in which we can ‘give back’.

“This view of ‘Responsible Business’ can lead to real tangible business and community benefits, it is not just nice business fluff, so to speak.

“For example, we have found one of the most successful (in business terms) methods in which we support our communities in by supporting a network of professionals prepared to give their time to genuine community and voluntary organisations such as the Business in the Community ProHelp Programme.

“The programme matches suitable businesses with third sector organisations which have a need for a professional service that the membership can provide.

“This is a service which would normally have to be paid for, but through ProHelp comes free of charge, subject to a limit on the number of free hours provided by the member.

“From this initial free advice nationally we have generated around £500,000 worth of fee income in the last three years from an investment in time worth around £25,000.

“Without this initial free investment significant projects in Bristol, the East Midlands and Yorkshire would not have come to fruition, and both the practice and the community groups have benefitted.

“We also believe that Responsible Business means providing stimulating opportunities for young people, regardless of their background.

“Some professions have for too long been restricted to the middle classes, our own included.

“Our view is that every schoolchild should be given a work experience placement which inspires them about the world of work.

“As such, we have developed a work experience programme called “Designing Your Future” which actually puts the placement in the role of the architect designing a building for a client for a week.

“Over the course of the week the student will measure our existing building and design an extension to it based on stakeholder (i.e. our staff) needs.

“Most of the students are fairly IT literate, but we often find it is the first instance they have had to engage with adults who are not their parents or teachers.

“The placement ends with the student presenting their design to a member of staff on a Friday lunchtime.

“The programme was developed as we believed there was limited opportunities for children from non-traditional architectural backgrounds to work in our environment, and it has certainly been successful, enabling us to win a number of frameworks where there has been a requirement to develop a work experience scheme for users of the framework.

“We were honestly able to say we already have one in place, and the national award winning programme is now being cited as an exemplar across both the industry and other professions.”

For more information about Responsible Business Week, go to www.bitc.org.uk/programmes/responsible-business-week-2013.