Nicholas Bewes on the importance and responsibility of creating a lasting legacy of social impact and value for generations to come.
COVID-19 is a force of disruption that has touched every facet of our daily lives and will continue to have a deep impact on our society for the foreseeable future.
The last year has been difficult for us all, but in particular there is clear evidence of the huge impact COVID-19 is having on young people. From employment and education to health and wellbeing, the pandemic has been especially difficult for our next generation.
The pressure caused by lockdowns and restrictions has led to family breakdowns, job cuts, and poor mental health which have triggered a worrying and dramatic increase in the number of young people forced to sleep rough. For young people going through homelessness right now, it is harder than ever to find a stable place to stay.
As responsible stewards, both of the business and our world, what part must Howard Group play in leading a response to urgent and systemic social challenges such as this?
More than just a tick box exercise
Societal shifts and changing expectations mean that companies are being asked and urged to take a more active role in addressing society’s problems, lead change and make a positive impact beyond profit.
At Howard Group, there is a strong drive towards people and purpose. The concepts of stewardship, responsible ownership and legacy run very deep within family businesses.
While stewardship is often associated with financial responsibility and ‘handing on the business to the next generation in a better state than we started’, we put equal focus on becoming responsible stewards of change for a better society and future. This is our commitment to doing business in a socially, environmentally and economically responsible way, where each factor is held and pursued in equal weighting. In short, our responsibilities are far reaching.
Youth homelessness is an issue we are passionate about – we want to help end youth homelessness in the UK andtake positive steps to improve the lives of those young people experiencing homelessness in our community. The reality is, as a business, we are in the privileged position of being able to bring people together and it is inherently the right thing to do. By sharing some of the initiatives we’re involved in, we want to encourage other businesses to think about how they might have a positive, and importantly long-term social, environmental and financial impact in our world.
Helping to deliver life-changing programmes
Howard Group is currently working on a programme around homelessness. As well as supporting the project to create modular homes for Cambridge’s homeless last year, we recently took part in the YMCA Sleep Easy event, supported by LandAid, which involved spending one night outside to raise vital funds for YMCA Trinity’s Access to Employment Service (A2E) in Cambridge. Since this project launched in January 2015, it has engaged with over 1,000 people, helped to write 600 CVs and has seen 296 people enter employment, education or training.
Werner Baumker, our Group Director, Property who also took part in the YMCA Sleep Easy Event supported by LandAid commented: “As one of the most unequal cities in the UK in terms of income distribution and housing affordability, Cambridge has some way to go in addressing the unseen inequality. As a family, the kids and I really valued the opportunity to take part in the SleepEasy event and camp out in support of the YMCA in Cambridge. The 4c degree overnight temperature really brought home the tough reality of youth homelessness, and how important it is that we all play our role in making a difference, one young life at a time.”
This type of support is needed more than ever. Thanks to the generosity of many, the Cambridge event alone has so far raised £15,500, and other SleepOut events across the country have raised almost £500k which will help to deliver life-changing services for young people who are or have been homeless.
Speaking to Jonathan Martin, Chief Executive of YMCA Trinity, recently, he said: “It is really humbling for a local charity like the YMCA to see so many people give up a comfortable Friday night to sleep outside, or on the kitchen floor, to support our work. The money raised will help support young people into sustainable jobs and give them job readiness skills. The Howard Group have been a very active and supportive partner for many years, and we’re very thankful to them for their amazing efforts.”
We are equally grateful for the phenomenal work the YMCA team do day-in, day-out.
Launching a new programme to help young people
Together with the wider property industry, and with the support of LandAid, YMCA and a number of other groups in Cambridge, Howard Group is working to help young people to access apprenticeship training within the property and construction industry. This programme will see the property industry coming together to help alleviate the challenges of youth homelessness, demonstrating how the industry can not only construct remarkable spaces, but do remarkable things in the process.
As we go forward, our three strands of social, environmental and economic responsibility
will be united and kept in balance to drive success. We will approach our business – decisions, policies, practices and behaviours - with these three strands clearly in mind to leave a legacy that will be impactful, cherished and preserved by, and for, future generations.