Our case studies illustrate our commitment to each of the different aspects of our CR programme, from increasing customer satisfaction to reducing the contribution we make to climate change.
Governance and management
We strive to take a stakeholder-driven approach to corporate responsibility. Through our stakeholder engagement activities, we seek to understand the views and concerns of our stakeholders which helps us to monitor the performance of our CR programme, as well as make sure that it continues to evolve and improve, and address the issues that are material to our business activities.
We have identified six main stakeholder groups that have an interest in, or are affected by, our activities and we continue to develop positive relationships with all of them. They are: customers, communities, employees, suppliers, shareholders, and regulators.
Our stakeholder engagement activities include conducting regular surveys with customers to obtain feedback on the products and services we deliver, continuing to engage with our community partners and employee volunteers in order to enable us to evaluate the efficacy of our community involvement programme and engaging with government and regulators through meetings and by responding to consultation exercises.
During 2016, our stakeholder engagement activities included:
- Reviewing our approach to community investment – convening a forum of stakeholders to ensure that their views and recommendations are factored into the group’s review of its approach to community investment. This undertaking involved the help of Corporate Citizenship who reviewed our current community investment activities and the programmes in place within other companies, as well as assessing key trends in community investment.
- Customer engagement – conducting surveys and focus groups to determine levels of customer satisfaction with our products and services, and gathering information on the profiles of our customers. Our operating businesses also use online review and feedback systems, such as Feefo and Trustpilot, which allow their customers to review their services and products.
- Employee engagement – carrying out staff surveys to monitor levels of engagement and gather feedback on our business strategies and communication methods, as well as training and development.
- Community engagement – engaging with our community partners and the employees that take part in our community volunteering activities to collect feedback which enables us to assess the impacts of our activities and evaluate the efficacy of our community programmes.
The importance of being a responsible lender
The importance of being a responsible lender
As a responsible lender, we continue to work with and support a wide range of free and voluntary money advice organisations, to help consumers who may have problems repaying their debts to us and others. These include: Advice UK, Step Change Debt Charity, Institute of Money Advisers, Money Advice Liaison Group, Money Advice Scotland, Money Advice Trust and National Debtline.
We also continue to support publicly available, independent research to help understand the financial behaviour of those on modest incomes and increase the quality and availability of free, independent money advice in the UK.
For example, we supported research undertaken by Bright Blue which led to their ‘Standing Alone – self-employment for those on a low income’ report.
With self-employment and low income being major characteristics of customers in the non-standard credit market, this research looked at whether these customers are well served by existing services and support systems.
It found that self-employed individuals in low income households struggle with financial resilience. Several factors contribute to this including income volatility, late payment from customers, lack of access to benefits such as Statutory Sick Pay and low levels of saving. These individuals also struggle to access the advice and training they need to grow their business, with cost a key barrier.
A number of policy recommendations were made based on the research findings including creating compulsory contributory top-up accounts, effective local advice networks, and a universal credit advice portal. The full research can be viewed at www.brightblue.org.uk/images/StandingAlone2.pdf
Being a Good Neighbour
Being a Good Neighbour
As we serve customers in so many communities across the UK and Ireland, we believe we have a duty to be a model corporate citizen and a positive force in people’s lives. We do this by addressing the issues that affect the communities we serve, as well as the wider issues that are material to our business activities.
At the end of 2016 we were supporting 53 projects on a longer-term basis, plus an extra 29 through accredited intermediaries such as Community Foundations.
The current funding landscape is particularly challenging for the smaller community organisations we support. To help them become more sustainable we asked Participate, a community regeneration charity, to work directly with them and provide bespoke support and advice.
For example, Participate worked with Made4U in ML2, a community centre in Wishaw, North Lanarkshire. Participate helped them define their organisational structure and strategic vision; identify and access further sustainable funding; and develop their governance structures.
To share the insight from this work more widely, we also funded Participate to deliver the Provident Financial Good Neighbour Live conference. The event brought community partners from across the UK and Ireland together to network and hear insights and was enthusiastically received by participants.
Here are just a few of examples of the projects we’re helping to support:
Young Kent (a Vanquis Bank Active Community Programme partner)
Young Kent offers support programmes for disadvantaged, disengaged or disabled young people aged 8 to 25 from across Kent.
One aspect of Vanquis Bank’s work with the charity supports the ‘How to Save a Life’ programme. This programme provides approximately 40 unemployed young people from disadvantaged backgrounds first aid and emergency lifesaving skills through a partnership with the British Red Cross. The programme increases confidence, skills and qualifications whilst also providing valuable work experience. A key element of the programme is that participants are trained to become first aid Peer Educators. Once qualified, Peer Educators practise their new skills during work experience, delivering first aid training to other young people across Kent.
Vanquis Bank also supports Young Kent’s Job Club, which provides support for unemployed young people from across the county. Job Club sessions provide one-to-one support with subjects such as CV writing, interview skills, job searching and completing job applications. The support of Vanquis Bank has also allowed Young Kent to purchase the IT equipment necessary to run the club.
United Estates of Wythenshawe (a Good Neighbour partner)
The United Estates of Wythenshawe was established in 1996 by a group of Wythenshawe families and local community leaders who were concerned by increasing instances of anti-social behaviour and the growing destructive influence of youth street-gang culture, coupled with the desire to prevent a local landmark building closing its doors for good. The project worked first with hard to- reach young people ‘not in education, employment or training’ (NEETS) and is now open to the whole community. Still under the management of local people, the organisation is able to provide activities suitable for the very young through to the elderly, based on their needs. Their approach has meant they have been able to create a route away from anti-social behaviour, leading to social responsibility for young people and beneficial results for the whole community.
Our three-year funding pays for the post of the centre manager, as well as the building of a new outdoor gym. In addition, a group of families were able to benefit from a trip to Stirling, which we organised through our funding partnership with the Scottish Youth Hostel Association. The visit gave the families an opportunity to bond; for most of the children, this was their first holiday and for many, their first family outing.
Solas Project, Dublin
When we first started working with Solas Project it was an after-school intervention project located in the Basin Lane flats, Dublin. At the time, the project supported around 12 primary school-aged girls who had challenging home situations. Solas offered the girls a safe place to go after-school, provided them with a healthy meal each evening, gave them help with their homework and the chance to make new friends and take part in after-school activities. Funding was provided to help expand the number of places available at the centre and, with our support, the organisation has continued to grow, now working with over 200 young people every week.
Since then the project has gone from having one after-school programme with one full-time and one part-time employee and five volunteers, to becoming a charity with seven programmes made up of three education projects and four sports projects, two full-time and two part-time employees and over 40 volunteers (including local Provident colleagues). Through our partnership with An-Oige, the Irish Youth Hostel Association, we’ve also been able to provide residential breaks for some of the children.
“It’s such a great encouragement to have Provident’s support. We are very motivated to grow and expand our programmes in both width and depth as we tackle the very serious issue of early school leaving and youth crime in Dublin’s inner city. Provident’s support will allow us the opportunity to do this.” Graham Jones, Managing Partner – Solas
Supporting the development of employability skills
Supporting our future talent pipeline
In addition to creating a working environment that both helps our employees to achieve their potential and our businesses flourish, we recognise the importance of working with local educational institutes and training providers to support young people to develop employability skills.
The Consumer Credit Division continues to work with apprenticeship training providers to develop and expand our apprenticeship offering along with local educational institutions including Bradford University, Buttershaw School and Huddersfield University to offer students work experience, work placement and graduate opportunities. This has enabled the division to support students in developing their technical knowledge and soft skills along with providing practical experience in a working environment.
During 2018, we will look forward to working with more education institutions and Bradford Pathways to prepare students for the workplace with CV building initiatives, mock assessment centres, soft skills workshops, business problem solving activities and work experience placements in addition to sharing information about the apprenticeship opportunities available to them within the Consumer Credit Division.
Assessing the CR performance of suppliers
Provident Financial Group's operating companies use self-assessment tools to assess the CR performance of the suppliers they engage.
These tools, which include self-assessment questionnaires, are used with prospective suppliers at the 'prequalification' and 'invitation to tender' stages of the procurement process, and are also used with existing suppliers.
The questionnaires cover both environmental and social issues, including the management of these issues in their own supply chains. The information that is collected as a result of the use of these questionnaires enable the operating companies to identify and act upon any potential sustainability risks, as well as select products and services which have positive environmental and social impacts. The collected information is analysed to produce a score which is factored into the procurement decision-making processes of the operating companies.
During 2016, Provident Financial Group's Consumer Credit Division launched an intranet portal that collects and tracks all due diligence information provided by its suppliers during the procurement process. This includes information on corporate responsibility, data protection and information security. This portal will enable the Consumer Credit Division to better track the corporate responsibility performance of its suppliers to ensure that they comply with all regulatory, policy and voluntary requirements.
Managing our carbon footprint
For over five years, we have offset the GHG emissions associated with our business travel. We have done this because, while we understand that travel is an important part of how our businesses operates, the emissions resulting from this are environmentally damaging and need to be limited. We have now decided to offset all our reported GHG emissions, to enable us to operate our business in a carbon neutral manner.
We have offset 8,430 metric tonnes of CO2e, which accounted for most of our 2016 operational footprint*. These emissions were offset through carbon credits, which were certified to both the Verified Carbon Standard and SOCIALCARBON standard, in the Kumköy hydropower project in the Antalya Province of Turkey. This is an 18 megawatt-hour hydroelectricity project which generates clean energy from the natural flow of the Yesilirmak river in Kumköy. Without this project, the same electricity would have been generated using fossil fuels. The project also provides a range of benefits for the local community in which it operates, such as helping Turkey meet its’ power needs and the irrigation of the 82,000 hectares of downstream land.
*After offsetting our carbon footprint, during validation of our data, our carbon footprint was revised to a total of 8,435 tCO2e.