Four years ago, Belmond set up a corporate social responsibility (CSR) committee at its head office at London Bridge to coordinate CSR efforts across its 48 hotels, trains and river cruises worldwide.
Almost all of them had longstanding individual CSR programmes, but the aim was to bring them all together and offer mutual support.
Here, Alison Booth, Belmond’s editorial director, talks about some of the more recent projects in the London Bridge area, how other companies can get involved and the benefits for staff...
How did you begin working with the local community?
Team London Bridge – a Business Improvement District – put us in touch with Bede House, a local community charity based in Southwark. We have done various volunteering projects with Bede House, such as community gardening days, advice on accounting and interview techniques, and have also worked with the Bede House learning disabilities group and Big Local projects. Last autumn, Bede House paused activities while they undertook a review. So last October we held two volunteering days at Surrey Docks Farm, helping with the animals, clearing a garden and building a compost heap.
What kind of activities are you currently working on?
This year, Team London Bridge put us in touch with Snowsfields primary school. We kicked off with a gardening day on May 12, and are now getting our team security-checked in order to set up a mentoring programme. I hope we can build a long-term partnership with the school and take part in other projects. The idea is for 10 Belmond volunteers to spend half an hour every week during term time reading or doing maths with pupils. We have also brought the “Belmond Enchanted Gardens” from the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show to the local area (pictured above, and video below), and will replant the magical mix of trees, plants and vegetables at a housing estate on Newcomen Street, near Guy’s hospital. Residents will be able to grow vegetables and herbs; the plants were originally grown at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. We are also talking to Bede House about fixing up a gardening or wildlife day with their learning disabilities team in September.
What tips do you have for other travel firms thinking of working with a school or charity?
Talk to a local organisation or Business Improvement District (such as Team London Bridge) to find a school or charity with specific needs that match your brand values. We are keen to support nature and gardening (because many of our properties have gardens and are set in beautiful natural surroundings), and education – especially of children and young people in need. Projects work best when you have common aims.
What are the benefits for your employees?
Our aim is to give something back to our local community – but these activities also enable us to meet our neighbours and bring together employees from different parts of the company who would not normally interact. They are great team-building opportunities. What other CSR projects are you working on? We have several hundred CSR initiatives around our portfolio of hotels, trains and river cruises worldwide. These vary hugely, but include building schools and clinics in Myanmar; supporting the Salvation Army in New York; helping to save oysters in Chesapeake Bay and hospitality training in Charleston, in the US; and conservation in Brazil.
Find out more about Belmond’s CSR projects here
Learn more about Make Holidays Greener here