Hi Nick, thank you so much for taking the time to give an interview to Private Goodness. First question. Your background is in PR, can you tell us how you found the transition to CSR?
My background in publicity has been very useful in many ways particularly as it’s helpful to know how to promote ideas and inspire people. I took up my CSR role at Turner (the company behind such well-known brands as CNN, Cartoon Network and TCM) following on from a PR role here where I was working on our entertainment channels and as part of that I set up a group of children’s charities called the Caretoon Network so that we could help each other and swap ideas and research. I also founded and organised a long running short film competition as part of the London Film Festival with a lot of very well-known directors and actors as judges which gave a big step up to aspiring young film makers many of whom have gone on to have very successful careers. So I was already doing a lot of activities which benefitted the community and so it was an easy sideways step into doing CSR full time. Having been at Turner for several years also meant that I knew the people and the workings of this large international company quite well and so had a good idea of what would and would not be possible. I also had many ideas about things that we could do and improve which would have been much harder for someone coming in from the outside.
‘Volunteerism’ is a big part of your company’s community programme. When you talk to colleagues who don’t want to volunteer, what’s the first thing you say to persuade them?
The trick here is to offer a variety of opportunities and eventually something will tick someone’s box! Turner is a very diverse company with a wide brand portfolio from CNN to Cartoon Network so within the one building there are people reporting on the latest global news headlines while others are creating cartoons for small children and so our volunteer activities need to be as varied as our employees. Because we have several children’s channels we often work with kids charities and this takes many forms, from a day creating a sensory garden for a disabled school which a big group did this summer, to spending half an hour a week online helping children to read.
All our volunteering is linked to our output and/or our locations so we also offer opportunities to help with environmental projects and work a lot with our local communities. Diversity and Inclusion is central and so we regularly invite disabled and otherwise disadvantaged people in for various activities including making a news programme, and many people are keen to volunteer for these opportunities and share their knowledge.
The most popular event in the volunteering calendar is our African School Building project where volunteers fundraise to build a school and then spend a week helping builders in a remote African village. We do this with ActionAid and to date have built nine school facilities which will help educate at least 25,000 children and give them a much improved start in life. This is an unforgettable experience for the local people, school children and the volunteers who camp in the villages and everyone works side by side and gets to know each other.
What, in your opinion, are the most important ingredients for an impactful corporate-charity partnership?
For us it’s about making really good use of our assets, whether that is our staff volunteering time, airtime or web donations or the right to use our famous cartoon characters and finding benefits on both sides. We talk to a lot of organisations and explore ideas and, as with any partnership, it quickly becomes apparent if it’s going to work or not. We are great believers in trying things out and find that relationships often flourish in ways that we hadn’t anticipated so it’s very important to keep an open mind and be flexible.
Are you optimistic about the future of social responsibility?
Yes very much as it become more and more important to employees. Millennials always want to know about our CSR and diversity policies and say that it is one of the reasons they joined and want to continue working with us. More and more companies are seeing this and so for this reason alone CSR is here to stay.
What motivates you to keep going and championing social responsibility?
Just watching the news headlines and seeing what is going on around the world is enough motivation for anyone. There are huge social problems all around us and we cannot expect governments to solve everything so it increasingly falls to businesses and individuals to do what they can to help. We are in the fortunate position of being a successful international company and so can give our staff time to help out and donate our assets where they are most useful.
Thank you very much Nick! I am sure that your work will inspire many others to do more good.
Nick Hart in Rwanda