Chamber of Commerce to celebrate business stars who are pledging to make a difference

Business which have pledged to go above and beyond will be recognised at a social responsibility celebration in November.

West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce has announced the return of its Raising the Bar (Businesses Acting Responsibly) initiative and this year, is rewarding business “stars” from Leeds, Bradford and York who have committed to making ethical, environmental and social changes.

Raising the Bar is the Chamber’s initiative to support, encourage, advise and reward businesses which go above and beyond in making a positive impact. In a change to its usual celebration of businesses which have delivered impactful social responsibility programmes, the Chamber recognised the challenges of Covid and launched its “Make a Pledge to Make a Difference” campaign in April 2021 to encourage businesses from across the region to pledge their social responsibility targets.

Pledges include activities to benefit the community, the environment, the economy, employees and education and are achieveable regardless of business and lifestyle restrictions.

West and North Yorkshire Chamber Chief Executive Sandy Needham explains: “Despite the enormous challenges of Covid, we saw many members working hard to support their communities, their staff and understanding more about how their working practices could protect the environment.

“Although formal social responsibility programmes may have been paused, we’re seeing many inspiring examples of businesses going above and beyond in the most testing of times. We knew our Raising the Bar programme had a role in recognising these efforts and so launched the “Make a Pledge to Make a Difference” campaign to encourage businesses to say their commitments out loud and share their experiences to gently ease people back into formalising and celebrating great work.”

Leeds-based secure courier specialist, Mail Box Express, has pledged to become the first carbon neutral courier in the UK.

Managing director Darren Shaw explains: “The nature of our business means that we’re constantly on the road, transporting goods around the UK for our customers. We’ve always looked for ways to do as much as we could do minimise our impact on the environment and have been making changes to reduce our carbon footprint, including using electric vehicles for the last decade and becoming a paperless office 15 years ago.

“Being involved in the Raising the Bar initiative has helped focus on fulfilling our pledge to become the UK’s first carbon neutral courier and already this year we’ve sourced eco-friendly uniforms and coats made from recycled plastic. We’re also working with The Woodland Trust to plant trees around the country to offset any carbon we produce.

“It’s great to have whole-team buy-in and employees feel a great sense of pride in being part of an organisation that goes the extra mile to be a responsible company. We’re looking forward to implementing more initiatives over the coming months and joining other businesses in the area pledging to make a difference.”

The “Make a Pledge” campaign for 2021 includes a downloadable “Pledge Tool Kit” available on the Raising the Bar website which has helped to attract more than 30 pledges from over 25 businesses. All pledges submitted on the Raising the Bar website before 15 October will be considered for formal recognition by a panel of judges who will conduct telephone interviews with the businesses involved.

Questions will focus on the size of the business, its processes to achieve the pledges, progress made and evidence of wider company and team support. The Chamber will recognise those with clear benchmarks in place to ensure their pledges prompt change.

Sandy added: “The pledges campaign is helping to get social responsibility back into business conversations and we are delighted that many local businesses have already made a pledge. While we won’t be announcing “winners” on the 10 November, we will be rewarding our Raising the Bar “stars” those businesses show effort, creativity, clear process and a commitment to making positive change happen.”

Sponsored by Provident Financial and HSBC and with pledges already made by companies including TF Automation, ESC Solutions and UNTHA, Raising the Bar is in its sixth year and has historically helped businesses accrue over 20,000 hours in donated time and more than £150k in funds raised. The Raising the Bar programme and Make a Pledge campaign are available to all businesses, irrespective of Chamber membership.

Business Development manager Rebecca Farhall from Bradford-based chartered accountants Naylor Wintersgill added: “We have pledged to provide weekly term time online reading sessions through TutorMate to help Bradford children improve their literacy skills. It’s easy to take part via remote sessions with our reading buddies and just 30 minutes a week each, we are helping young children in Bradford improve their literacy skills and grow in confidence.

“We wanted to join the Chamber’s “Make a Pledge” campaign to share how, despite the challenges of the last year, there are lots of different ways you can make a positive impact in your local community.”

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