Business for Good: Celtic Anglian Water aims to raise the profile of mental health in society with Green Ribbon month

Business, Business For Good | Thu 13 Jun | Author – Business & Finance
Celtic Anglian Water staff partaking in the Darkness into Light walk.

Celtic Anglian Water (CAW) has been operating for over 20 years in the Irish market. We speak to Padraic Dolan, Health, Safety, Environment and Quality Manager, Celtic Anglian Water about the employee-led Green Ribbon month campaign to help raise the profile of mental health in society.


Q. Tell us about your Corporate Social Responsiblity initiatives?

As a company we are heavily focused on improving the mental health and wellbeing of our staff. In respect of this we undertake a number of health initiatives and are currently participating in the employee-led Green Ribbon month campaign. This aims to raise the profile of mental health in society, the workplace and to get people to talk openly about mental health problems.

As part of this 24 members of the CAW team, many accompanied by family members and dogs set off on a journey of Hope for the annual Darkness into Light 5km walk.

The walk sees people around the world getting together to walk from the darkness of night into the light of morning to help in the global fight against suicide and self-harm.

CAW staff took part in venues in Dublin, Wicklow and Waterford and to date has raised over €4,000. The funding raised goes to Pieta House in Dublin, allowing it to continue to deliver vital services. Pieta House was established to provide freely accessible one-to-one counselling to people suffering from suicidal ideation, engaging in self-harm or to those bereaved by suicide.

Individual members of staff are also encouraged to participate in charitable activities, benefiting the communities in which we operate. This includes fundraisers for Saint Vincent De Paul, where the money raised is used to buy food for those in need. CAW also support local clubs that our employees are involved in such as local GAA clubs.

We also host multiple sites visits throughout the year with young people, educating them on our business operations and processes at our plants which help protect our environment.

Q. What inspired your CSR initiatives?

The CSR initiatives as they relate to mental health complement our activity as an organisation in delivering health and wellbeing programmes for staff. These not only focus on mental health but also on healthy eating, diabetes and bowel screening and smoking cessation.

Despite being a small business we take an interest in wider social issues and the issue of poor mental health is one of these and has been recognised as one of the greatest public health challenges of our time and hence our CSR activity in relation to this.

In addition to benefiting the communities in which we serve it also benefits us as a company through delivering a healthier workforce and has seen our absence rate reduce considerably. CAW strive to create a workplace where our employees thrive and recognise wellbeing and health is at the core of this goal. Our new LIFE initiative which focuses on improving our culture around Health, Safety and Wellbeing has the tag line ‘It’s not just a work thing!’.

Q. Describe why you chose this particular sector/area. How does it relate to your company and/or brand?

We are a small business but value employee safety, health and happiness, the goal of our LIFE initiative is to ensure our employee are ‘Happier, Healthier and Safer!’, which encapsulates our overall vision. The impact that poor mental health has on our society is well-recognised and some of the CAW team have been affected in some way, with mental health problems being all too common in the workplace.

Engaging staff in activities such as the Green Ribbon campaign and Darkness into Light and other CSR activity reinforces the programmes we undertake through our mental health, mindfulness and stress management workshops.

So not only are we giving something back to society, connecting with the local community and showing support for those who have mental health problems, but we are also ensuring that are staff have a greater awareness of mental health issues and the stigma associated with this is reduced.

Celtic Anglian Water also host multiple sites visits throughout the year with young people, educating them on our business operations and processes at our plants which help protect our environment.

This also reinforces our brand as a company in terms of our environmental sustainability credentials, limiting pollution and reducing greenhouse gases, benefiting society as a whole.

Q. Describe what you are doing to help.

We participate in the annual Green Ribbon Campaign which takes place every May and aims to get people talking openly about common mental health problems. This campaign promotes open conversation about mental health and it challenges the associated stigma that sometimes comes with it.

We are now in the process of becoming an organisation that have signed up to the See Change Workplace Pledge. See Change, which is an organisation dedicated to ending mental health stigma has identified the workplace as a key setting for social change around attitudes to mental health problems to take place.

CAW recently took part in the Darkness into Light walk which in 2017/18 had 5 per cent of our workforce participating, but this has increased to 28 per cent of employees supporting the initiative. This walk sees funding raised going to Pieta House, which as noted earlier was established to provide freely accessible one-to-one counselling to people suffering from suicidal ideation, engaging in self-harm or to those bereaved by suicide.

Staff are also encouraged to be involved with charities in the communities in which we operate, including fundraising for Saint Vincent De Paul and supporting GAA clubs.

Celtic Anglian Water also host multiple sites visits throughout the year for young people to our plants, helping to showcase what we are doing to protect the environment and how they can help.

Q. Has your vision grown since you started?

Since we started our vision has grown considerably. This has grown with our team’s appetite to focus on health and wellbeing in the workplace.

We just need to look at the increase in participation in the Darkness into Light walk. Last year less than 5% of the staff took place and this has now increased to over 25%. The vision is to create a workplace where mental health is of the same value and focus as is our physical health, no stigma, open conversation and support systems to help one and all of us.

We have also encouraged an increasing number of youth visits, educating them on our business operations and processes at our plants which help protect our environment.

Q. How do you think implementing CSR has benefitted or improved your business?

We have enjoyed considerable success from our CSR activity. Staff are now more aware of their mental health, both through our CSR activity and the inhouse programmes we organise. This has greatly improved the wellbeing of staff, boosting motivation, reducing absentee levels and increasing staff retention. It has also boosted employee relations.

As evidence of this absentee levels have reduced from 6.9 days per employee per year two years ago to 4.5 days currently.

The Mental Health Green Ribbon workshops we undertake aim to support individuals in identifying early signs of mental health problems and reducing the stigma associated with this. These were first rolled out in the business in 2017/18, with a 47 per cent participation and totalling five workshops. In 2018/19, boosted by our CSR activity, this witnessed an increase to 70 per cent participation and a total of seven workshops across all our sites.

The implementation of our CSR activity has assisted in creating a workplace environment where people can be open and positive about their own and others’ mental health.

It has also assisted in making us more attractive as a company when it comes to staff recruitment.

Q. How do you involve/include all employees in your CSR initiatives?

Employees have become more eager to participate in our mental health CSR activity as awareness of mental health issues has increased and this has been supported by the mental health and wellbeing initiatives we undertake. CAW has a relatively small employee workforce when we compare to the larger multinationals

Since 20017/18 the number of those, for example, participating in the Darkness into Light walk has increased more than five-fold.

Employees are further encouraged when they see the support CAW put behind initiatives and there has been sincere passion within the CAW team throughout on the topic of mental health. When staff see CAW employees who have struggled with mental health get the support required from CAW to see them through such times this demonstrates our real commitment to this issue.

Q. Do you have any employee-led CSR initiatives?

Our Darkness into Light, Green Ribbon and St Vincent de Paul fundraisers are all employee led with the support of CAW. CAW aim to do is to encourage the workforce to lead these initiatives.

Q. Do you have any advice for companies who are just beginning to implement a CSR strategy?

The key advice is to “practice what you preach”. It would have been rather strange of us, for example, to have gone out with CSR activity as it relates to mental health but not to have done anything or have done something very limited in in relation to supporting staff in this matter.

It is also good to keep activities local so employees can identify the benefits and ensure that they are fully engaged.

This should be more than a tick-box exercise and should not just be seen as a one-off but woven through the culture of the organisation. It is also vital to create a culture of support and encourage and watch employees drive the strategy themselves.

Business for Good

Business & Finance, in association with Aviva, recognises the efforts of companies attempting to create meaningful social change through effecting strong Corporate Social Responsibility programmes.