In 2015, all United Nations (UN) Member States adopted a 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This Agenda is a plan of action for people, the planet and prosperity. It seeks to strengthen universal peace and heal and secure our planet. This includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets which demonstrate the scale and ambition of this new universal Agenda.
The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a global call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure all people can live in peace and prosperity. The 17 goals that make up the SDGs address the world’s most important economic, social, environmental and governance challenges. Successful delivery of the SDGs require all players from all sectors to champion this agenda. Private sector action will be key to the success of each goal – through responsible business operations, new business models, investment, innovation and technology, and collaboration. In aligning our sustainability strategy to the SDGs, we have chosen five of the Goals to focus on where we think we can have a genuine impact.
The SDGs are a global call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people can live in peace and prosperity. The 17 goals integrate and address new areas such as peace and justice, innovation and climate change. To achieve the targets of the SDGs, it’s crucial that we work together. Businesses, Governments and communities around the world need to commit to making changes to improve life and ensure a sustainable future for generations to come. PFG has chosen to play its part and will focus on five goals that are linked to our strategy and where we think we can make a genuine impact.
The Five UN Goals we have prioritised are:
- 1. No Poverty
- 4. Quality Education
- 5. Gender Equality
- 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
- 10. Reduced Inequalities
In 2020, we established long-term objectives that are aligned with each of our five priority SDGs to show how PFG is responding to global issues such as climate change, inequality, injustice and poverty.
This goal aims to end poverty in all its forms everywhere. The target is to eradicate poverty for all people everywhere by 2030. Poverty is currently measured as people living on less than 91p a day.
Our purpose as a business it to address key barriers to financial inclusion and help to put people on a path to a better everyday life. We do this primarily by ensuring that our customers have access to cost-effective and appropriate products, that meet their specific needs. We also invest in activities and initiatives that address key factors which may affect someone’s likelihood of being accepted for credit. We make sure our colleagues have the skills to deal with customers with additional needs. We also support independent financial research, money advice and financial education.
This enables our customers, and others who might face financial difficulty, to recognise the barriers to financial inclusion. They can then overcome these barriers and secure a positive financial future for themselves.
We did lots of work in 2020 to contribute to this goal and a key highlight was our work with IncomeMax. IncomeMax is a community interest company that helps people, some of whom are experiencing financial difficulties, to maximise their household income. Through the partnership that IncomeMax has with Vanquis Bank, customers receive independent personal money advice. This is to help them take control of their finances, reduce their household bills and increase their income.
We also work with The Money Charity to deliver financial education workshops to help children and young people to develop their budgeting and money management skills. Through our partnership with The Money Charity, we prioritise delivering workshops to children and young people who are from refugee or ex-offender backgrounds, and who have been in care or are homeless.
Our partnerships with Community Foundations mean that we can also distribute funding to small voluntary organisations which support financial inclusion. These organisations are providing grass root support and signposting services to people within their communities who need help with their finances. For example, in 2019 we awarded a grant to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in Fareham. This allowed them to provide outreach services to those who were unable to travel due to reduced access to transport, mobility or caring responsibilities.
This goal ensures inclusive and equitable quality education and promotes lifelong learning opportunities for all. The target is: By 2030, to ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.
Through our Social Impact Programme, we support children, young people and adults to boost their education, skills and aspirations. This encourages them to participate in society and secure a brighter financial future. We fund a range of initiatives that increase literacy and numeracy skills, that help the employability of young people and adults. This will help raise aspirations of both children and adults who live in disadvantaged communities, so that they can have a better chance of having a future that sees them included in society.
The work we have already done to support Quality Education includes being the lead supporter of National Numeracy and their National Numeracy Day Campaigns. These campaigns look to raise awareness of the importance of numeracy and helps people take steps to improve their numeracy skills. As a financial services business we’re keen to ensure that any potential customers understand the terms of the products they are purchasing from us. In order to do this, they require basic numeracy skills. That is why we were lead supporters of National Numeracy Day for the third year running in 2020.
We also continue to support the National Literacy Trust to help develop the literacy skills of young people and give them the confidence and desire to widen their aspirations. As a large employer, we can be one of the best sources of advice and guidance for students. Throughout 2019, we supported almost 300 pupils ranging from primary school age to post 16 across Bradford, Birmingham, London, Middlesbrough and Petersfield. Colleagues from local offices also volunteered to engage with the students and deliver programme activities.
Finally, through our work with our education partners School Home Support (SHS), we place practitioners in schools to work with young people and their families who need support to overcome challenges at home. These challenges include poverty, poor housing, domestic violence and other complex issues in order to get into school. We help to provide support in schools in Bradford and Chatham, where persistent absence levels are high. In these regions we also have large numbers of colleagues who volunteer to support vulnerable children. We also ran a Christmas gift giving appeal in partnership with SHS. We asked employees to buy gifts for some of the most disadvantaged children the charity works with across Bradford, London and Chatham. We managed to donate 187 gifts. Similarly, for World Book Day in 2020, we asked employees to donate book and book tokens to be sent to schools in Bradford, London and Chatham. We collected over 1,000 books and £140 in book tokens. This ensures they do not lose out on education because of disadvantages at home. Through this partnership we have seen improvements in school attendance, in behaviour and in children being more engaged with their learning.
The Community Foundation partnerships we have also give us the opportunity to provide funding for extra-curricular activities which contribute to a person’s learning. This might be through the provision of a range of services and activities, which ultimately help to encourage a person’s engagement with learning on a number of levels. For example, in 2020 we provided a grant to Bradford Community Broadcasting to support children and young people to increase their oracy skills, confidence and self-esteem. It encouraged them to widen their life aspirations and educational outcomes through producing broadcast radio programmes.
This goal aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. The target is: End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.
We are committed to supporting diversity and creating an open and inclusive culture where everyone feels valued. We also recognise that PFG has a key role to play in closing the gender pay gap across the financial services sector. Financial services has traditionally been seen as an industry that has lacked diversity and inclusivity.
In 2019, we signed up to the Women in Finance Charter. Being a Charter signatory underlines our commitment to focus on attracting, retaining and developing talented women. This will not only enable us to achieve a gender balanced workforce, but also to create a diverse, open and inclusive culture where everyone is a valued member of PFG.
We also seek to improve gender equality through our company wide Social Impact Programme. In 2020, this saw us support the Excel Women’s Association to provide job searching support and training to women and girls in Barking and Dagenham. We also provided funding to the Muslim Women’s Council in Bradford. This was to enable and encourage Muslim mothers to have the confidence to empower and support their daughters to achieve their full potential and build active independence.
Building on our gender diversity work, we launched Be Yourself in 2020, which is our programme to promote and advance the wider inclusion and diversity agenda across PFG. The launch of this programme was borne out of the recognition that our colleagues and other stakeholders can only embrace our purpose and move along a path to a better everyday life if they feel that it’s their path and the feel comfortable walking it.
This goal promotes sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. The target is: Sustain economic growth in accordance with national circumstances and, in particular, at least 7% gross domestic product growth per annum in the least developed countries.
Through our Social Impact Programme, we aim to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all by creating opportunities for all generations.
We are a founding funder of the Social Mobility Business Partnership which brings together large corporate organisations and professional sports clubs to remove barriers, develop skills and provide experiences to sixth form and college students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The programme helps build aspirations and inspire individuals to pursue a career in a profession which they may not have previously considered. Our colleagues supported this and volunteered their time to deliver CV writing and job interview skills to young people in Bradford.
We also support charities and other organisations in the communities we serve, to help people to develop their skills and secure employment opportunities. For example, in 2020, we funded the Wecock Community Association in Hampshire. They provide advice to people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) to access work opportunities.
Finally, we’re committed to protecting and promoting labour rights in both our business and supply chains. We do this by ensuring that we take steps to prevent modern slavery and human trafficking from occurring in our supply chain and direct business activities. We also ensure that we pay our suppliers, in particular those that are small to medium sized, promptly.
This goal aims to reduce inequality within and among countries. The target is: By 2030, progressively achieve and sustain income grown of the bottom 40% of the population at a rate higher than the national average.
Through this goal, our aim is to contribute to reducing inequality by building our capabilities to better identify, support and empower our stakeholders who may face inequality and exclusion.
We do this by supporting community projects in areas where people are more likely to face social and financial exclusion. We provide them grants to support local people in improving aspects of their life. For example, we provided a grant to the Refugee and Migrant Forum of East London. This enabled immigration casework to be delivered to disadvantaged young refugees and migrants who are entitled to be in the UK but cannot afford to regularise their status. We also support the Newport Yemeni Community Association in Wales to deliver an online homework club that allows children from the Yemeni community to engage with tutors. They can then access support in key subjects such as Maths, English and Science. In Havant, we’ve been able to provide funding to Enterpride CIC which supports and encourages the development of enterprise initiatives to allow greater work opportunities for people with learning disabilities. They raise awareness of the value that people with learning disabilities can bring and offer access to employment.
We also seek to ensure that we create a workplace culture at PFG which aims reduce inequalities. We do this because we know that our colleague’s unique backgrounds, experiences and abilities are at the core of our culture and vibrant workforce. The communities we operate in and our customers bases are made up of equally diverse mixes of race, gender, sexuality and disability and other protected characteristics. So, by building diverse teams at all levels of our business that represent and understand these populations, we can innovate. We can provide the best products and service to our customers and contribute to the long-term success of PFG. This saw us launch our overall inclusion community. This comprises four affinity groups based around disability, ethnicity, gender and LGBTQ+, to discuss inclusion and diversity plans, developments and proposals.
Our core focus in 2021 will be aligning our Corporate Responsibility Strategy and Blueprint with our priority goals. This will enable the strategic drivers of our business, and the everyday behaviours of our colleagues, to have a direct positive impact on sustainable development. Our purpose will be to improve the lives of the undeserved people that make up our customer base, as well as millions of others facing hardship around the world.