From ethics to elephants — meet the small company who are giving bigger than most
Most offices have had a bake sale or two in their time, or sponsored a staff member for a run. But it’s not often you meet a team who’ve also adopted an elephant, a panda, and a goat!
Incredibly, the crew at The Sourcing Team haven’t stopped there — in fact, between volunteering, sponsoring and business donations, they’ve supported more than 10 causes in the last year. And they’ve even been nominated for an award by one of their charities, Microloan Foundation.
Obviously we’re all about doing good through your business — so we were excited to catch up with Gill from The Sourcing Team and find out exactly how her small business finds time to make such a big impact.
- So Gill, for anyone who hasn’t heard of you — what is The Sourcing Team all about?
The Sourcing Team are an ethical sourcing company who’ve been running since 1996. Basically, we’re leading the way in sustainable branded merchandise — driving change in the supply chain through better human rights and environmental practices, and helping clients understand the impacts of their purchasing, helping them to buy more ethically and sustainably.
- Right, so your business already has a really strong social purpose embedded in its day-to-day. So what makes your team so dedicated to charitable causes?
Since we started, we have done something year on year for charity — we really believe it should be part of every business’s contribution to their community, great causes and giving back. We either support charities close to our own hearts, or aligned with our values as a business. The Team love it too!
- It’s certainly a great way to help your team get to know each other and bond as a group. So which charities and causes have you supported so far?
We’ve made cakes, completed walks, runs, stopped drinking, adopted an elephant, panda and a goat, grown bamboo for koalas and planted trees in cities! We have supported girls’ education throughout the Commonwealth, supported Christmas parties for the elderly, and donated prizes for all sorts of amazing fundraising and charity events.
On top of that, we regularly sponsor our team, clients and supply partners in their own charitable challenges, and our team also have extra days of leave each year for their own chosen volunteering.
And what’s more, we’ve done this consistently, every year throughout our 23 years in business. Being an SME doesn’t stop us — we believe every business must understand their responsibility in providing social purpose, supporting communities and charitable organisations — because every little counts!
- I’m sure any business owners reading this will wonder — how on earth do you fit it all in?
Well, this year to help us have a more focused and strategic approach to our donations, we decided to join Work for Good. [Author’s note: Work for Good are an online platform who help businesses donate easily to charities through the work they’re already doing. We also help you track all your donations and publicise them!]
The charities we have chosen through Work for Good are aligned to our business values. So for us it is about mentoring and supporting specific causes that align with our impacts in sustainability — or as a women-owned business, we’re also keen to help causes that support women and children around the world.
- Can you give some examples of the causes who align with your business values?
So far we’ve committed to support 4 different causes through Work for Good. Plan International helps children gain access to education, clean water and healthcare, something our team can all get behind. We chose Cool Earth because as a team and a business we love our planet and recognise the urgent need to protect our rainforests.
We’re also donating 5p to Water Aid for every reusable water bottle sold to our commercial clients — hopefully helping to drive changes in buying behaviour, whilst also supporting a great charity.
Finally we also donate to the MicroLoan Foundation — a cause very close to our hearts, who enable some of the most vulnerable women in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe to work their own way out of poverty. As a women-owned business in the UK it can be tough, so for the women we’re supporting in some of the poorest parts of Africa, anything we can do to empower them to earn and save their own money and provide for their families means so much to us all at The Sourcing Team.
We will continue these donations for the foreseeable future, and do all we can to help drive awareness and fundraising opportunities for our chosen charities. On top of these regular business donations, we’ll be doing Macmillan’s Worlds biggest coffee morning, and I’ll also be walking for Dementia. And of course, we will continue to support organisations like WEConnect Europe and CIPS in volunteering, along with Team-selected paid volunteering days and support for their own chosen charity challenges.
- It’s incredible how much your team manages to give back, all while doing their day jobs too! Can you tell us a little bit about the SWIB award you won (and your nomination by Microloan Foundation!)?
It was such a surprise. As a small business owner, life (work, family and other commitments) is a balance and often finding time to put yourself forward for an award is not a top priority. I won the Socially Minded Award — it was a very special event with so many inspiring women, doing incredible work often through adversity.
- Do you find it challenging being the champions of ethical practices in so many aspects of your work? I can imagine there’s sometimes pushback or reluctance to change..
We are an ethical and sustainable business, taking responsibility for our impacts — for both people and planet. Working closely with factories around the world, we help them constantly improve, in their process, their human rights and in their environmental impacts. We don’t demand X or Y from our suppliers; instead we share insights, learning and best practice and then take them with us on the journey.
It has been challenging because we are driving change in behaviours both up and down the chain. Sadly, financial metrics can often outweigh sustainable considerations, but we’ve stuck to our vision, making real progress in the supply chain and with clients who share the vision.
More and more major corporations want to see their suppliers have a social purpose and it’s good to see relevant questions appearing on client tenders, but of course I’d always like to see more of this!
- Would you recommend giving to charity for other businesses? What if they’re just starting out?
Absolutely, there are so many amazing causes out there — it doesn’t matter how small you start — just do something and develop it as you go. I do think it is important to find a passion or alignment with your own business, and it doesn’t have to be financial giving if that’s too much at first — there are thousands of charities who need volunteers in order to do the great work they do. Like we say to our clients when we talk about sustainability, it’s a journey — just start in whatever way you can.
- Anything other tips for businesses who want to be a force for good?
I’d say it’s about starting out with a really holistic ethical mindset — charity donations are just one part of our overall strategy to do good. We’re a certified London Living Wage employer, we take on apprentices, we care passionately about our people and their own success.
We also use a number of independently assessed tools to make sure we’re constantly developing and improving on our impacts, one of which is EcoVadis. We’re now a Gold level member and have been for a number of years, and in 2017 we won the EcoVadis Sustainability Award for SME in Europe.
In 2019 we also become Carbon Neutral and there are more developments underway! So yes, we pride ourselves on being a ‘responsible business’ in truly every area, and it takes time, money and commitment from the whole team.
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A huge thanks to Gill for taking the time to give us this insight into her business — I think it’s fair to say we’re feeling pretty inspired by The Sourcing Team and how much they’re doing to make the world a better place!
You can find out more about The Sourcing Team’s charity work on their Work for Good profile.
If you’re interested in doing good through your business, Work for Good could help you donate to charities through your work, just like Gill does. Visit our website to find out more (and sign up by the end of August to get a whole year’s membership free!).