Corporate Responsibility: Orchid Group

Orchid offers staff at each of itssites the opportunity tonominate a community project

At 290 sites, Orchid is one of the largest food-led pub groups in the country, which is why Paul Cutsforth, the group’s operations director, is happy to give something back to the community, both at home and away.

On working within the community

We’ve created a range of community projects that are a little bit different.

Orchid Blooms is an annual event in which we choose some community projects. We pick one particular day and get our staff to nominate projects. We then choose a couple of community projects and get people involved. It’s a Ground Force-style community project. This year we took a team of people to redecorate care homes in Newcastle. It makes a small difference to people’s lives.

That’s the important thing about what we do at Orchid – it’s not just about donating money it’s about actively getting involved.

We bring everyone together, from head office and from individual pubs, to work together on these community projects.

On supporting charity

We had a charity called Project Fair Play, which was wrapped around the World Cup. We asked people in our freehouses to bring in unwanted football shirts, which we then collected and shipped off to South Africa to people in the townships.

Orchid then funds people who have been particularly active in the project to go out to South Africa to see what’s been done. At the end of this month I’m taking a group of managers from the freehouse division out to do some voluntary work in the townships.

There’s an emotional reaction when you see the conditions that underprivileged children are living in, and the difference it makes to their lives, and the staff tend to come back with a renewed vigour for raising funds.

One project we did was for victims of the tsunami and the people who were closely involved with that, who saw the project and the difference it made, said it had actually changed their lives.

Holistically, people do like to work for a business that cares. It’s important that its not just about sales and profits but that the business gives something back as well. So having a charity to support is important.

On publicity

The best way of putting out the work you’re doing is by word of mouth. People who work within Orchid go home and tell their families what they’re doing and that can be the best avocation of the company. Especially as the pub sector is quite an insular business and people talk.

Of course there is a positive impact on the bottom line as it does tend to generate quite a lot of local and national publicity. That helps because people become more and more aware of the business and what it is we’re doing.

It’s important but it’s not the reason for doing it. In terms of recruitment, people do like to work for businesses that care and give something back. Publicity is an important aspect, but I don’t think it’s the fundamental reason for doing it.

On being green

We’re working on an initiative at the moment to improve our carbon footprint. We’ve just invested in putting smart meters into our pubs so we can measure our energy consumption on a daily basis. Reducing our carbon footprint has the added benefit of reducing the money we’re spending on utilities in Orchid.

We don’t source food locally; we use a national supplier as we are a bigger business. We do, however, where possible source British produce. We use the red tractor symbol for farm assured food. So though we don’t use local suppliers we do have an ethical stance on the quality of the food and the animal welfare. We ensure that standards are adhered to in our purchasing policy.

What’s the impact?

Being socially responsible doesn’t damage the bottom line; the benefits far outweigh the costs in terms of morale and motivation. The key factor is choosing something you’ve got a passion for and then getting directly involved in it. Saying that you support a charity and then asking for salary donations does benefit a charity, but it doesn’t really engage the people that you’re working with.

Fundamentally, working with your local community is a great thing - it does inspire people. For me it’s more about giving something back to the community.

Read more articles in this series here.

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