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
At Provident 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.
In addition, during 2014, we convened a roundtable discussion with peers on corporate responsibility in the financial services sector at Vanquis Bank's London offices. The session was facilitated by sustainability consultancy Corporate Citizenship and attended by representatives from a range of financial services companies including Barclays, RBS, Zurich, Aberdeen Asset Management, Royal London, Friends Life, and colleagues from Vanquis Bank. The purpose of the roundtable was to discuss best practice, important challenges and key learnings for corporate responsibility professionals in the financial services sector and use the findings to inform the next iteration of the corporate responsibility element of the group's overall business strategy.
The findings from the roundtable session were as follows:
Despite all the controversy of the last five years around the financial services sector, there is still no clear consensus in society at large about what a responsible financial services company should look like. The onus is on the financial services sector, and its component companies, to create clear visions of responsible companies through their actions. There was agreement that the corporate responsibility initiatives that companies engage in are recognised as signals of trustworthiness among individual customers.
Corporate responsibility is increasingly important to building a differentiated employee brand and hence to attract and retain the best talent.
Discussions around how to bolster the role of corporate responsibility within a financial services company focused around three key mechanisms:
1) having a senior sponsor behind each initiative,
2) having CR professionals who have the strength and influence to push initiatives through, and
3) having investors who ask the difficult questions that can instigate an increased emphasis on certain aspects of this agenda.
The results of the roundtable will be used during 2014 to help us to review and revise our CR strategy, and ensure that there is continual improvement in the overall performance of our group-wide CR programme.
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 the Social Market Foundation which led to the publication of the report Family Fortunes: The bank of mum and dad in low income families in 2013. This research, carried out under the guidance of an expert steering group, explored a third source of welfare for low income families, after the state and market: their wider family, specifically the support from the 'bank of mum and dad'.
The report examines in detail the prevalence, nature and impact of intergenerational transfers in low income families. The research found that such financial support generally generates positive financial and emotional benefits for both donors and recipients. It goes on to conclude that new, imaginative policies are needed to help low income families provide support for one another, and to better help those who cannot rely on familial support.
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.
The majority of our community investment activities are delivered through our Good Neighbour programme. We identify and support projects in the communities where our offices and employees are based to address issues that are relevant to the needs of those communities.
At the end of 2014, we had 48 funding partnerships in place through our Good Neighbour and Active Community programmes. Here are just a couple 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 hardto- 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
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 education institutes and training providers to support young people to develop employability skills.
The Consumer Credit Division continues to work with Bradford Council, the Ahead Partnership, National Apprenticeship Service, apprenticeship training providers, other local employers and educational institutions, including Bradford University, Shipley College and Buttershaw School on a range of initiatives.
This has enabled the Division to recruit apprentices at Head Office in Catering, People Development, Contact Centre, Agent Services and Business Change and provide students with work placement opportunities. In addition, the Division's People Resourcing Team in Bradford provided students from Shipley College with advice on how to build and write a CV and how to prepare for a job interview.
Resourcing People Manager Brett Bennett, who leads Provident's Resourcing team, said: "The sessions are a great way for us to raise our profile externally, as well as to give something back to the community and network with other businesses in the area. In the future we hope to build on the work we do at Shipley College and extend it to include apprenticeships. We're not quite there with that yet, so until then weâll continue provide as much support as we can."
Supporting the sustainability of local businesses
During 2013, we worked with the Bradford Chamber of Commerce to develop and deliver an initiative called "Raising the Bar". This aims to engage small and medium-sized enterprises in West Yorkshire on the wider CR agenda, helping them develop, measure and gain external recognition of their efforts.
In November 2013, we celebrated the success of the scheme at an inaugural awards event. Successes include the following:
- More than 30 companies got involved in the Raising the Bar initiative.
- Sixteen firms have, between them, raised more than £500,000 for local good causes.
- 954 staff at 11 firms helped local projects, between them donating more than 10,000 volunteer hours.
- Six firms gave staff time out of work to be volunteer mentors, helping young people in education or mentoring on enterprise challenges, totalling 1,700 volunteer hours.
- More than £300,000 has been given to charities and voluntary groups and firms have donated about £17,000 worth of products, materials, furniture and other resources to local projects.
- 14 firms hosted more than 1,200 pupils, either on work placements or company visits.
Saltaire-based architects firm, Rance Booth Smith, was named overall winner for its pro bono work for projects to promote and advance carbon reduction, sustainable green spaces and flood risk management. The firm also supports local community initiatives and has taught local students about sustainable architecture.
Managing our carbon footprint
One of the ways we reduce the carbon intensity of our business activities is by offsetting some of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for which we are responsible.
Throughout 2013, the GHG emissions from our business-related travel was 4,322 tonnes CO2e. While we try to reduce these emissions we also recognise that travel is an essential part of our business. To ensure our environmental management programme continues to follow best practice we offset these emissions. This provides tangible evidence to our stakeholders of our commitment to reduce the carbon intensity of our operations.
We offset these carbon emissions by buying Gold Standard credits in the Datça Aegean Wind Project in the Mugla Province of Turkey. This is a renewable energy project which consists of 36 wind turbines. The wind farm reduces GHG emissions by displacing traditional sources of energy, such as coal, which produce large quantities of carbon emissions as well as air-borne pollutants. The project is expected to generate 99,000 MWh of electricity per year, resulting in a total reduction of over 444,000 tonnes of carbon emissions during the first 7 years of the project.s operation.