The Big Debate: Do Brighton’s Businesses Give Back Enough?

The Big Debate: Do Brighton’s Businesses Give Back Enough?

100 businesses, charities and public sector managers attended the Brighton Chamber’s Big Debate, asking the question ‘Do Brighton’s Businesses Give Back Enough?’

In Brighton, there are a growing number of businesses involved in ‘giving back’.

Whether it’s being a governor at their kids' school, fundraising for a close-to-their-heart charity, mentoring other businesses, volunteering expertise or providing work experience opportunities – it all counts towards creating a huge bank of support which benefits our economy in so many ways. But is it having enough impact?

Chair for the evening Richard Freeman, CEO always possible, launched the discussion and the panel of Sascha Koehler, General Manager at Hilton Brighton Metropole, Jo Crease, CEO at Brighton & Hove Impetus, Gavin Willis, MD at Search Seven and Tom Druitt, CEO at The Big Lemon explored the topic.

Discussions on each table were facilitated and shared throughout the evening with challenging questions around “sharing the love” and how to extend the conversation to include schools.

CEO of Brighton Chamber Sarah Springford said, “It was amazing to hear about the all the many ways that businesses and charities are working together in the city.”

Jo Crease spoke about volunteer work vs. paid – at Brighton & Hove Impetus, volunteers give 14000 hours of help per year yet 75% of their budget still needs to go on salaries. She said charity-business relationships are challenged by competition and longevity. It's about mutual benefit and mutual support, "there's a lot we can learn from each other."

Tom Druitt (The Big Lemon) said, "It was an obvious choice to set up as a social enterprise.” This model allows business to put their social purpose at the heart of what they do. Tom asked the businesses in the room to look for ways to make a positive social impact every day, not just making a load of money and giving some away (although that is good too).

Sascha Koehler (Hilton Brighton Metropole) said that charity work has benefited their company too - helping them to win awards for work they've done with local community and charities. Brighton is very lively for charity activity, more so than other places. "We owe this to the city, to give back."

Search Seven are proof that small agencies can put passion over profit, and still be successful whilst playing an active role in the community. Gavin made the point that you don’t have to be a big company to make a big difference. Following the event he said, “We never needed a business case to get involved, it’s our drive and dedication to support the community and build personal connections that has been the catalyst for our success.”

Improved communication, use of digital tools and networking the networks were all sited as key issues. Popular themes throughout the evening included the sharing of common goals, being clear about what you want (both businesses and charities) and the importance of having the right person leading on the partnership.

What next? Brighton Chamber and other organisations attending like Community Works and the Sussex Community Foundation are looking at how to work collaboratively to help to avoid duplication and develop relationships between businesses and charities to increase social impact in the city.

The CSR Forum who sponsored the event will be meeting in January to take forward a number of the issues raised. Watch this space and contact Brighton Chamber to get involved.

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