The pledges reveal that businesses are committed to an impressive variety of community activities, such as promoting work opportunities for young or vulnerable people; raising funds or sharing time and skills with charities; giving away free products or services; and adopting ethical business practices. The pledges have been shared by some of the county’s biggest corporate names, including Unipart, Oxford Bus Company, Bicester Village, Blenheim Palace, VSL and Beard Construction.
For example, 22 companies have created dedicated employee volunteering programmes, usually giving staff paid time off to share their effort or professional skills with local charities. OCF has been supporting these employers by piloting a new brokerage service that matches employees with charities that need volunteers. Other companies are offering to share professional skills via a series of free workshops for charities known as Reciprocate Encounters, which are organised by Bicester-based accountancy firm Clark Howes.
Six Reciprocate companies are proactively recruiting employees who have overcome life obstacles, such as homelessness or a history of offending, giving them a chance to rebuild their lives. Kate Allen, Director of local recruitment firm and Reciprocate member Allen Associates, comments in her pledge: “We have been working with employers across Oxfordshire for nearly 20 years and I can honestly say that the most talented people often come from the most unexpected places. Having an open mind and an open door can have a tremendously positive impact on business, and I would love to see more employers and Recruiters commit to our vision of making open and inclusive recruitment a reality for everyone.”
Several Oxford-based companies are pledging to specifically address the increasingly visible homelessness problem in the city. Letting agents College and County and law firm Royds Withy King are offering advice and support to charities tackling deprivation. Robert Pinheiro of Royds Withy King says: “We believe everyone should have a door to a place where they belong and can feel safe. We are hoping staff will warmly embrace our pledge by providing meaningful work experience and interview practice, as well as sharing experiences and learning from those who have not had the same good fortune and privileged start in life.”
Other pledges include offering top-quality work experience placements to school students from deprived backgrounds; partnering with a particular charity over the long term; running a company grant-making foundation; sitting on charity trustee boards; sponsoring community events; using premises to generate green energy; and offering up all sorts of free resources, from venues and parking to cooking ingredients.
To see the full pledges from all of the Reciprocate members, please visit the website.