Guest Blog: “For a charity relationship to work on a long-term basis, it has to evolve” – Eimear Caslin, GSK Ireland

By Business & Finance
10 May 2018
GSK Ireland, charity, CSR, corporate social responsibility

General Manager of GSK Ireland Eimear Caslin talks the importance of charity in not just giving to your community but also developing as a company.

Eimear Caslin, GSK Ireland, healthcare

Eimear Caslin

This month is a very special one for GSK as we are celebrating a 20-year volunteering partnership with Barretstown, the charity that runs residential camps and programmes for children and their families affected by cancer and serious illness.

GSK Ireland charity

To celebrate our long-standing partnership, many of our employees attended a day of ‘Serious Fun’ at the camp in Co. Kildare, gardening and painting, in preparation for some very special visitors. The GSK team were working together to prepare Barretstown for a bereavement camp that offers families who have lost a child through serious illness a supportive environment within which they can spend quality time together.

Over the past two decades, GSK has provided €8 million in funding to Barretstown to help provide top-class family camp facilities, medical assistance and a new hospital outreach programme. Last year, GSK entered into a new €1.2 million three-year partnership with the Serious Fun Children’s Network (SFCN), which is represented by Barretstown in Ireland. This enables Barretstown to extend and grow its services.

Last year, Barretstown was in a position to serve more ‘campers’ than ever before, thanks to our support. There was a 5% increase in residential campers and 14% increase in their Outreach services which includes the Hospital Outreach Programme and Camp in Schools. GSK employees really put their heart and soul (and often elbow grease!) into volunteering activity and there is a great sense of pride in supporting this charity’s very special mission to rebuild the lives of children and families affected by serious illness.

As well as deciding which charities we support, each team member also receives one working day every year to use purely for volunteering activity.

In addition to our Barretstown relationship, we have also provided over €1 million in donations to 300+ charities and community groups in Ireland over the past five years. Why? Because as well as giving back to our local communities, it is also an opportunity for us to learn and grow as a business. Many businesses view corporate social responsibility (CSR) as transactional. They hand over money and feel good about themselves for a short period of time, but we believe there is a lot more to CSR than that.

A win-win scenario

Every partnership works best when it’s a win-win, and charitable ones are no different. Of course, the financial contribution is fundamentally important, but if both sides understand each other’s needs, the relationship can make a meaningful and lasting impact on both organisations. For example, in addition to the recent ‘Serious Fun Day’ at Barretstown, GSK employees have, over the years, provided essential business expertise and training to the Barretstown team, supported on stakeholder engagement, road tested their camp as a corporate venue and also acted as chaperones and translators on camping programmes. This kind of skills-based volunteering is hugely rewarding for our employees and the fact that the company not only supports it, but enables and encourages it, helps with engagement.

In return, Barretstown has supported our internal employee engagement programmes and supported leadership and team-development programmes. We have even had a GSK employee from Japan work at the camp for a six-month period as part of our global volunteering programme.

The importance of charity to your organisation

For a charity relationship to work on a long-term basis, it has to evolve. GSK has five businesses in Ireland – two commercial operations in Dublin and manufacturing facilities in Cork, Dungarvan and Sligo. With Barretstown’s support, we now have a team of trained GSK volunteers in Cork who support the hospital outreach programme in Cork University Hospital. This has also allowed Barretstown develop its volunteer pool in the Southern region. We are hoping to extend this initiative to our Waterford location later this year, supporting our own ambition to more closely align our business locations across Ireland. This means that we can live our company values and make a real difference to the communities we operate in.

To get maximum engagement benefit internally, it is important that the whole employee base has an opportunity to shape and contribute to the CSR agenda. GSK has 1,700 employees across the country and through a mix of local and national charity and community partnerships, everyone plays a part. GSK employees are responsible for selecting the GSK Charity of the Year, which, in the past, has included Make-a-Wish and The Irish Hospice Foundation. €50,000 is donated by GSK to the chosen charity over the course of two years while our employees also conduct further fundraising to raise extra monies and promote awareness of the work conducted by the charity.

As well as deciding which charities we support, each team member also receives one working day every year to use purely for volunteering activity. The Volunteer Day is available to GSK’s 100,000-plus workforce all over the world and is just one of our many initiatives to encourage employees to support the communities in which they live and work.

Our relationship with Barretstown, one of the longest volunteering partnerships in existence in Ireland today, proves that while fundraising and donations are a good starting point, a more strategic and long-term view of charitable partnerships can be hugely beneficial for the charities, businesses and employees.

Eimear Caslin is General Manager at GSK Ireland.

National Volunteering Week will take place from 14–20 May, 2018. It is a whole week dedicated to highlighting volunteering across Ireland.