With Volunteers' Week being recognised nationally across the UK between 1 to 7 June, Sodexo’s Social Impact Director, Angela Halliday, explains why it’s vital that businesses like Sodexo encourage volunteering among staff.

If there was ever a time to celebrate the brilliant ways our colleagues have been supporting local communities, it’s now. 

Image of Angela HallidayThe Covid-19 crisis has been incredibly tough for many of us, but it’s also brought to the fore stories of communities coming together like never before: people getting to know neighbours they’ve never previously spoken to, and complete strangers stepping up to help people in their local communities who are isolating or vulnerable. 

Volunteers' Week is a chance to say thank you to those who have been giving back to their neighbours, local charities and businesses, both during the pandemic and before it took hold, and I always love hearing from my Sodexo colleagues about the charitable work they do.

Because this is what makes our people so special. At Sodexo, social impact has been at the heart of how we’ve been operating since Pierre Bellon founded the company in 1966, and we pride ourselves on continuing to recruit the right people based on our shared values. Through volunteering and pro-bono activity, our people are living those values, and it is only right that we celebrate their contribution to society. 

Sodexo gives all employees three days of volunteering a year. While many people volunteer to support Stop Hunger charities, there is also the opportunity for employees to use one of those days to help a charity of their choice – for a cause close to their hearts.

Throughout the Covid-19 crisis, we’ve heard stories about colleagues who have taken to citizenship volunteering, whether that’s through formal routes such as the NHS Volunteer Responders programme, or more informally through their own networks. 

My own experience of this has been through supporting my parents and their neighbours. Taking inspiration from something I’d seen on the news, I pushed a note through the doors of my parents’ neighbours’ houses, asking them to call me if they needed any supplies. I also said that my mum likes to talk so included her number in case others fancied a chat! 

Since then, I’ve been making regular drop-offs with supplies, and my mum is having regular calls with neighbours she may not have spoken to before. 

People are so grateful for their supplies, but more so to have someone to have a socially-distanced chat with when I drop off their shopping – you can see their faces light up, and that’s so rewarding for me.

As a business with over 42,000 employees, Sodexo is well-positioned to be able to support small business or charities, which might struggle against their competition, through skills-based volunteering. If our employees can support them and help them grow, that could have an invaluable impact, socially and economically, on the communities in which they operate. 

Our employees have a wealth of skills and experiences that they can offer, and I’ve heard of colleagues who have supported their local church with their accounts to parents acting as school governors, and some who are Trustees for charities. 

We are also looking internally at how we can establish skills-based volunteering opportunities. For example, we are establishing projects whereby we will provide legal advice or business skills coaching to residents in our custodial estates in justice, using volunteers from within the business: an opportunity which could be immeasurably impactful for those who are on their rehabilitation pathways.  

Studies have shown that as well as helping others, volunteering can improve volunteers' wellbeing too. It’s human nature to feel good after helping someone out, and it can also help you gain valuable new skills and experiences, and boost your confidence.

As a company with improving quality of life at its heart, that’s precisely why we actively encourage our employees to use their three day volunteering allowance. 

And we ask our employees to share with us what they are interested in and passionate about, so that we can create more opportunities for citizenship volunteering that makes a meaningful social impact across our communities, which can help inform our thinking and decision making when developing ways in which we can tackle the challenges faced by the communities we live and work in.  

Visit our social impact page to find out more about how Sodexo supports the communities we serve. 

June 03, 2020

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