Pictured (centre): Telus International CEO Jeff Puritt joined the Voxpro team at the Days of Giving event in Cork.
Since being bought by Telus International, Cork-headquartered Voxpro has adopted its parent company’s Days of Giving programme. We speak to HR Director, Brendan Ring, about the company’s main CSR partnership with Down Syndrome Cork, a cause close to co-founder Linda Kiely’s heart.
Tell us about your CSR initiatives?
Voxpro’s main CSR initiative for 2019 has been its partnership with Down Syndrome Cork. On May 18th, more than 350 employees took part in a volunteering event, which saw them help expand and transform Down Syndrome Cork’s Field of Dreams site – a training space for adults with Down Syndrome.
Team members from both Cork and Dublin worked together to convert an unused acre of land into a horticultural hub, by installing and fitting out a polytunnel unit, building new training rooms and planting a commercial pumpkin patch.
The partnership is part of our ‘Give Where We Live’ culture and the one-day event forms part of our parent company’s Telus Days of Giving (TDOG) programme. Hosted at their locations around the world, TDOG initiatives provide opportunities for team members to volunteer at a high-impact, one-day event in their local community. From refurbishing schools to building houses and planting trees, TDOG events have been empowering team members to make a difference in their communities since 2006.
What inspired your CSR initiatives?
At Voxpro – powered by Telus International, we believe that it’s important to give back to the communities in which we operate. And, for us, it’s more than a photo opportunity or a PR exercise, we genuinely want to make a difference and bring about meaningful change.
Additionally, given the industry in which we operate, it makes perfect sense to get involved in these initiatives. To do CSR and CX well, it generally takes people who possess a burning desire to solve problems. Our team members possess this trait in spades and so, it’s natural for them to switch seamlessly from their everyday tasks to rolling up their sleeves and helping a good cause. This is something we witnessed at Field of Dreams on May 18th.
Describe why you chose this particular sector/area. How does it relate to your company and/or brand?
Research findings from Down Syndrome Cork show that 95 percent of adults with Down syndrome in Ireland are unemployed due to a lack of social services once they reach the age of 21. This statistic speaks volumes about the work that we still need to do to help people with Down syndrome within our communities.
When we first became aware of the work being carried out by the Field of Dreams programme we knew straight away that it would make an ideal charity with which to partner. There’s a number of reasons for this, but one has to be the symmetry between Field of Dreams and our own company when it comes to how we view our people. At Voxpro, we encourage team members to bring the very best of themselves to work every day and to allow their unique personalities to shine through. That’s an approach mirrored by Field of Dreams as they encourage participants to be their true selves while helping them to develop new skills that will result in meaningful employment.
Also, Linda’s nephew John has Down syndrome. John works one day per week at his local McDonald’s and, while that might not seem like a lot to some people, for John, these eight hours provide him with a real sense of purpose and independence. Not only that, but John has developed a number of friendships among staff and customers alike. This is another reason why the work being carried out by Field of Dreams to help people with Down syndrome access meaningful employment really resonated with us.
Describe what you are doing to help.
When you look at the work being done by Field of Dreams – the environment in which it trains participants, its emphasis on learning through meaningful and productive tasks in a social and holistic setting – it makes for a truly inspirational programme. The social farming model, whereby those learning, working and volunteering experience all the benefits of working in nature, is an excellent blueprint for other programmes to follow. Down Syndrome Cork providing us with the opportunity to play a small part in the change they are bringing about by helping to expand and transform their training hub has been a real honour.
Has your vision grown since you started?
Witnessing the change that 350 team members can bring about in one day really encourages us to build on our achievements and to aim bigger in 2020. We also hope to partner again with Down Syndrome Cork in the future to help address the employment challenges facing people with Down syndrome in Ireland. Planning for our next TDOG event in 2020 will begin the coming months, so watch this space.
How do you think implementing CSR has benefited or improved your business?
As well as helping us to develop and grow relationships with a fantastic charity in our community, it has helped us to further engage our team members. Millennials and Generation Y are synonymous with valuing the CSR credentials of their employer. The vast majority of team members at Voxpro are indeed part of this demographic and when they are weighing up their employment opportunities, we have found that they are looking for more than a job – they want to make meaningful contributions in their local communities.
Their response to the event in May has been overwhelmingly positive. This positivity is passed on to our customers, which is ultimately good for business.
How do you involve/include all employees in your CSR initiatives?
All of our employees in Dublin and Cork were given the opportunity to volunteer for our TDOG event. People travelling from Dublin were provided with accommodation for the night, while transport was also arranged. CSR is all about inclusion, which is why all team mates at Voxpro have the chance to get involved.
Do you have any employee-led CSR initiatives?
We have a number of fundraising initiatives throughout the year that are led by Voxpro team members. One example is the Shoebox Appeal with the Simon Community whereby staff gather presents and gift wrap them in a shoebox to give to people affected by homelessness at Christmas. Witnessing their enthusiasm and the funds that they manage to raise makes me believe that they could well and truly organise an event of their own on the same scale as TDOG and be just as successful. This might be something we see down the tracks.
Do you have any advice for companies who are just beginning to implement a CSR strategy?
My advice is to start with small projects and build them up. Logistics – the kind that we saw at our TDOG event – can often be a challenge, so it’s important not to take on too much if it’s your first time.
Also, make sure that members of your senior leadership roll up their sleeves and get involved. This is what CSR is all about – everyone chipping in for the greater good.
Finally, it’s important to ensure that you are and the charity with which you are partnering is the right fit. Voxpro and Down Syndrome Cork were aligned on so many levels that we knew it would be a success. There are loads of fantastic charities out there today so take the time to get to know the work they do and choose the one that resonates with your line of business.
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.