The Big Difference: our new approach to charity support
We serve communities up and down the country as one of the UK’s leading energy companies. And we think it’s vital that we do our bit to support them in other ways too. After all, these communities are where our 20,000 colleagues and their families live. So we wanted them to lead the way in deciding where and how we make a difference.
Until recently, we’ve partnered with a national organisation as a focus of our charity efforts. We donated £1 million and our colleagues fundraised £2.2 million during our 2019-2022 partnership with Carers UK. And during the first lockdown, our volunteers helped 391 Trussell Trust food banks to deliver £7.5 million worth of essential supplies. Meanwhile, Bord Gáis Energy has worked with Focus Ireland to prevent family homelessness since 2015, committing €4.4 million.
Changing how we work with charities
While all of these initiatives were successful in delivering help and support where it was needed, in 2022 we decided to switch up how we do things. Instead of embarking on another partnership with a large organisation, we decided to shift from a national to a local colleague-led approach to community support.
And so The Big Difference was born. We wanted to really engage and empower our colleagues to be fully involved in shaping where and how we support our communities. The Big Difference has three overarching themes, voted for by colleagues, where we focus our efforts:
- Children and young people
And within these themes, everyone in the company has the chance to shape where our charity donations go, and which organisations they would like to volunteer and fundraise for. In 2022, we gave £2 million to local causes through donations and matched funding.
How The Big Difference works
We help by donating, fundraising and volunteering. Colleagues can apply for a donation to their chosen cause, or if they’re already fundraising for it, they can apply for us to match the funds they raise, up to £500. Each of our offices and field regions has a Local Charity Lead and team who review the applications and decide the charity activity in their area.
In 2023, we decided to make local and grassroots sport a priority, and launched a campaign offering up to £2,000 for sports kit and equipment to local teams in communities and schools. We’ll be opening it up for applications again later in the year too.
We give time and expertise as well as money. All colleagues get two paid days a year to volunteer, and we’re encouraging everyone to use them. We have partners they can volunteer for, like Bookmark, Groundwork and AGE UK – or they’re welcome to pick any cause that they’re particularly passionate about. Check out a couple of them below.
Helping build a new home for Getaway Girls
In 2022, a team of British Gas volunteers gave 420 hours to help build a new centre for Getaway Girls in Leeds. Established in 1987, Getaway Girls raises the aspirations of girls and young women aged 11-25 by empowering them to learn new skills as well as building their confidence and resilience.
In 2022, DIY SOS created a new purpose built centre for the charity as part of Children In Need, and a team from British Gas volunteered on the project for 10 days. “We did everything from digging and gardening to plastering and tiling as well as fitting insulation and underfloor heating,” says Jen Crawford, a Customer Delivery Manager whose idea it was to support the charity. “There was a fair bit of painting and decorating too.”
Why Getaway Girls? “We wanted to make a difference to the lives of young women and girls that come from a deprived background and needed the support of the local community,” explains Jen. “We chose to support them because they are local to where me and my team works and lives, and we have offices in Leeds as well. The girls the charity helps are potentially future employees and leaders of our company.”
As well as the hours of volunteering, we also donated £10,000 to help the charity with their work. Overall, our volunteers found it a worthwhile and rewarding experience, with Jen saying: “It was amazing to support a local charity and to help girls and young women to achieve their full potential.”
Supporting the Sikh community to serve free meals to those in need
The Midland Langar Seva Society (MLSS) was established in 2013 to provide hot meals to those in need and operates on a Sikh based ethos. Sharing with the less fortunate is one of the core principles of Sikhism. ‘Langar’ means a kitchen/canteen where food is freely available to anyone regardless of background. And ‘Seva’ means selfless service, so helping others without any reward.
Today, MLSS provides over 150,000 free meals a month and its mission is to create a world with no barriers where everyone has access to food, water, warm clothing and shelter. It also supports people with mental health services, rehabilitation support and education.
Led by Soni Rai, an Area Customer Delivery Manager, we’ve been supporting MLSS for several years, with both his peers and senior leadership team getting involved. “We help by providing and distributing hot meals to those in hardship across the area. Meals are always vegetarian and may have been cooked at a local Sikh temple or been donated by a local restaurant,” he explains.
As well as giving over 50 hours of volunteering time, we’ve given £13,500 through a combination of donations and matched funding. This will be used for transportation, making and distributing meals and buying equipment like containers and cutlery. It will also go towards paying for a new boxing ring at the gym within their community hub in Walsall.
“The help from British Gas enabled us to serve over 3,000 hot meals to people and support more families with food parcels and essentials like duvets, sleeping bags, toiletries and food parcels,” says Sharon Heer of MLSS. “Life can be difficult but by playing a part to help those in need, British Gas reminds us we are all in this together and connected to those around us.”
Who we’ve supported
Here are just a few of the hundreds of charities and organisations that The Big Difference has contributed to.