Societal engagement is how Siemens Energy interacts with the communities around its businesses and projects and why it supports its people in charitable endeavours.
Societal engagement or corporate social responsibility (CRS) is not a new concept, but it has become increasingly important to UK companies and the customers who choose to work with them. It is no longer seen as acceptable to associate with organisations that operate unethical business practices or that show a lack of responsibility to society, the environment, the wider community, or their employees. How a business is perceived is critical to its success and companies of all sizes are accountable for their actions in a way they have never before experienced.
The government’s decarbonisation agenda is driving many corporate initiatives such as ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ schemes, but charitable giving and volunteering are also important to a company that is socially conscious.
In the shortest time the COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented change to our lives, creating worry, fear, and uncertainty. CSR has never been more important. Siemens has chosen to respond to the crisis by creating a COVID-19 aid fund under its community-serving non-profit organisation: Siemens Caring Hands e.V. All employees from Siemens and affiliated companies can donate and Siemens will match every amount donated. This aid fund will join the raft of CSR activities that help to make a difference to people and organisations, particularly in times of crisis.
But it’s not just the current situation Siemens Energy has responded to, it has long recognised that social responsibility is not just about the right thing to do but is a philosophy that should run through all its operations. Ross Walker of Siemens Energy Transmission Solutions has the dual role of Senior Buyer and CSR representative and says: “CSR is a valuable element of what we do. We’re increasingly being asked by customers to describe our CSR activities, so we know it’s important to them. What we’ve also found that – for employees - it boosts engagement and morale.”
Society, environment, and education are the three key areas that Siemens Energy focuses on for its CSR and charitable activities. Across its projects there is a strong society and environment element, for instance, where a substation is built on a green site, great care is taken to enhance or return the surrounding landscape to its pre-construction state. And during the redesign of National Grid’s substation at Whitegate, wooden packaging – ordinarily destined for landfill - was redirected to an initiative that helped vulnerable people train to make furniture from recycled packaging.
Education programmes, particularly around science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) are an important element for our Siemens Energy businesses in north-east England and have provided opportunity for collaboration over the creation of engineering-based activities for ‘Bring it On! – The North East Exhibition for Future Engineers’. Similarly, great links with schools around substations in Scotland have provided engagement opportunities with potential future engineers.
Ross Walker, says: “As a business we encourage participation. Employees are entitled to two days per year for voluntary work for charities that either Siemens Energy supports or ones they have a personal interest in. In 2019, the Transmission Solutions business had the highest percentage of volunteers and the highest increase in volunteers across all Siemens Energy businesses. That’s something we’re very proud of.”
Customer collaboration raises thousands for charity
Mind is a UK charity that Siemens Energy supports and, as a company that places emphasis on the mental wellbeing of its employees, the partnership is mutually beneficial.
The relationship began in 2015 when the Transmissions Solutions business created ‘Siemens Challenge 2015’ – a two-day fundraising event that tested the strength and stamina of teams which included both Siemens Energy staff and its customers. Sarah Preston, Personal Assistant to the Managing Director, was integral in the event’s organisation, she says: “The first challenge was such a success that we decided to run it again in 2016. We raised £10k the first year and improved on that the second year when we raised £12k.”
Since the first two Siemens Challenges, employees have also taken part in a Total Warrior challenge and the gruelling Great North Run as well as smaller fundraising events, raising over £40k for Mind.
This year sees the return of the Siemens Challenge with eight teams of employees from sites in Manchester, Monkton and Newcastle, and four customer teams battling it out between 9th and 11th October. Sarah Preston, says: “Our event coincides with Mind Mental Health Awareness Day on 10th October, so we hope that spurs people on to raise even more money for this great charity.”
A business that cares
When Siemens Energy Transmission Solutions employees – Jackie McCaffrey, Donna Foggon and Lisa Nelson - formed a charity committee, it was driven by a desire to help people in the local communities of the north-east. Jackie McCaffrey, Finance Assistant, says: “We started to see an increase in homelessness and people using food banks. We’re lucky we’re a big organisation with staff and management who feel it’s important to contribute to society.”
One of the first initiatives was to collect and donate food, clothes, toiletries and toys to homeless charity ‘Hospitality & Hope’ who was pleased to recognise Siemens Energy's support with a mention when it won a Queens Award for voluntary services. Easter egg appeals have also been popular with nearly 500 eggs from raffle ticket sales and donations, benefitting children’s charities ‘Children North East’ and ‘Hope4Kidz’.
Donna Foggan, Finance Officer, says: “Families are struggling and need support. Our staff are very generous and are happy to donate money or goods, which means we’ve been able to raise around £10k for charities in the local community.”
From ‘Hebburn Helps’, a community food back that the business supports: “Your generosity and kindness reflects the best in community spirit on which this organisation was founded and helps us to help those in need.”
Employees and customers to benefit from move
Greater cooperation between the two businesses will undoubtedly enhance customer relations. As a centre of competence in the north east, customers will have improved interaction with Siemens Energy employees and benefit from increased responsiveness.
There will also be significant gains for employees with one site creating one team. The opportunity to develop already successful working relationships will create a cohesive approach to project support in the future, showing Siemens Energy as it is: a true power player in the energy market.