Last month I was lucky enough to be one of the 44 participants chosen to take part in a challenge of a lifetime climbing Mt. Cotopaxi, a 5,897m high ice capped active volcano in Ecuador all to raise funds and awareness for our 3 Charity Partners: Alzheimer’s Society, Mind, and Prostate Cancer UK.
The preparation was pretty intense – on day 2 we walked 9 hours at altitude into a driving wind and camped overnight at 4,000m in the wind and lashing rain. That was followed by climbing the 4,750m peak of Mt. Ruminahui on day 4, which involved a seriously scary final ascent to the summit rock on which only two could stand at once (to stare down at the 2,000m vertical drop the other side).
None of that prepared us for the final night’s ascent of Cotopaxi. This involved a 1,100m vertical ascent through the night in extreme cold due to the wind chill, climbing in crampons, ice pick in hand, up a glacier only to be greeted at the top by acid rain and sulphurous fumes!
As I reflect on the journey, here are 2 things I will take away from the experience forever:
- Everyone has a story to tell. I am inspired by the other participants who took part in the challenge. Hearing the stories of why we had all chosen to take part during the training walks was one of the most enjoyable things on the journey – particularly from those who had personal connections to the charitable causes. For me it highlighted how much we can learn from one another if we take the time to connect and share our stories with others.
- We are all capable of more than we first think. The challenge was equal parts physically and mentally draining, and there were many moments when I thought the exhaustion would get the better of me and I would throw in the towel. The important thing I learnt was to just take one small step at a time … small bits of progress soon and up to a big achievement, and before you know it a campsite is in sight, where a comforting cup of apple and cinnamon tea is waiting.
I’ll happily admit this was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done – but hands down one of the most rewarding too!
Of course the instinct to protect my children comes first, but the thought of any child, anywhere, living in a rubbish dump, sickens me. I believe everyone feels this way, parents especially. I was out shopping for my son’s baby clothes and thought to myself: if I could buy beautiful baby clothes and know the profit helps children in need, why would I buy anywhere else? Because I couldn’t find a way, I set up From Babies with Love.
From Babies with Love is the baby brand that donates 100% of its profit to orphaned and abandoned children.
We donate every penny of profit from our beautiful organic baby clothes to SOS Children, to build and run children’s villages around the world. In these safe, happy places, some of the world’s most vulnerable children can grow up in a loving family.
Earlier this year we launched our Maternity and Paternity Leave Gift Service with Deloitte as our first large client.
On 17 June, the first group of Deloitte staff set off on the challenge of a lifetime. Deloitte’s Charity Challenge 2015 sees 246 Deloitte staff, including 24 partners, undertake four challenges across four continents in an effort to raise £1 million for our charity partners Alzheimer’s Society, Mind and Prostate Cancer UK. They will be climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, Cotopaxi and Mulhacén in Spain as well as a triathlon style jungle trek, mountain bike and white water rafting activity in Borneo. This is largest fundraiser we have ever attempted!
I have been involved with this project from its inception over 2 years ago, alongside our partner sponsor and the Head of Corporate Responsibility, so I have mixed emotions now that it is all finally underway. As the Charitable Giving lead at Deloitte, I work directly with our charity partners and have developed a strong relationship with them all. I have a personal connection with two of the charities which means that my passion to raise awareness and funds is more than just about it being my job.
There’s a quiet revolution taking place in our country - the way in which we think and talk about mental health. In homes, communities and workplaces, more and more people are being open about their experiences, and there is a growing level of awareness amongst employers, civil servants and politicians that this issue affects one in four of us.
At Mind, we have been playing a vital role in working with many organisations. With the support of Business in the Community, many businesses have now signed the Time to Change pledge and hundreds of thousands of people took part in the Time to Talk Day in February. We have ambitions to turn the growing awareness of mental health into action and it is through partnerships with highly effective businesses such as Deloitte that we believe we can make the most of this rare opportunity.
There are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, over 40,000 of those are under the age of 65 and still of working age. With numbers set to rise, businesses have an increasing social responsibility to become more aware of dementia and help break its stigma.
Recently, Alzheimer’s Society was proud to announce that the Dementia Friends programme has reached one million people. The campaign has harnessed the energy of individuals, communities and organisations, allowing anyone to learn more about the condition, and making sure people with dementia are understood and included. As a Dementia Friends Champion myself, I have provided sessions to a range of people, including Deloitte’s Senior Leadership Team.
Prostate Cancer UK share their views on the benefits of corporate partnerships.
More than ten thousand men die of prostate cancer each year in the UK. That’s one man dying every hour of every day. And there are over a quarter of a million men living with the disease in the UK today. It’s as big an issue for men as breast cancer is for women.
The good news is that prostate cancer can often be successfully treated, if it’s diagnosed early. But there’s less good news too. The number of men identified with prostate cancer is growing fast. It’s predicted to become the most common of all cancers in the UK over the next decade or so. And while people are gradually starting to become more aware of it, too many still know dangerously little about it.
That’s why when Deloitte employees chose Prostate Cancer UK as one of its charity partners in 2013, we asked them for their support on our awareness programme - an ambitious project aiming to reach 300,000 of the most at-risk men over three years to tell them about their risk, the signs of prostate problems and what they can do if they have concerns.
At Teach First, we are delighted to see the return of Deloitte’s annual Technology, Media & Telecommunications (TMT) Predictions Schools Challenge this year reaching sixth form students from across Deloitte Access partner schools as well as a wider network of schools. The event directly supports our vision to give every child access to a brilliant education and our commitment to tackling the shortage of specialist Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) teachers in the UK.
In recent years, this shortage has meant that schools in low-income communities have been hit especially hard. Less than a third of students eligible for free school meals achieve a science GCSE at grade A*-C, compared with 70% of their wealthier peers.
Growing up in Belfast during the 1970s and 1980s, I was the first person in my family to pass the 11+, to go to grammar school and then onto university. I am now a Partner at Deloitte, one of the biggest management consultancies in the UK. I work hard and enjoy what I do and never really thought that my story was in any way unusual. Having three children of my own now and seeing how hard they have to work and the competition that exists for jobs, I imagine that my story would be less common today.
We know from research that socio-economics is a major determinant of educational outcomes. Another impact of this is that many young people find themselves in challenging schools without the support they need to make the best choices or compete for the best jobs. And this is often exacerbated by employers who want to recruit in the most cost-effective way possible – which often means going to just a select few universities where they can take their pick from a very talented and high performing student population. But increasingly this is not a diverse one.
Ask most businesses these days if they have a CSR policy and they’ll almost always say ‘yes’. Which is fine, I guess.
There’s an acknowledgement that business does have a responsibility to contribute to broader society, whether through charitable donations, allowing staff days off to undertake volunteer work, or whatever. Again, all fine.
Categorising corporate social responsibility as some kind of policy – a box to be ticked – for me undersells the importance of organisations with resource, talent, expertise, contacts, networks and funding being able to genuinely do some good.
One strand of Deloitte’s approach to this is the Social Innovation Pioneers programme. This invites applications from social enterprises, i.e. businesses which have social good as the key metric on their balance sheets, for a year’s worth of mentoring and business support from some of Deloitte’s senior people. The idea is that we can help them take a great idea and turn it into a great business, so they can amplify their intended benefit to society.