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Taking responsibility

Corporate social responsibility may be about doing good and giving back but it can also have unexpected advantages. Tamsyn Curley of Place Careers looks at how organisations can reap the benefits when it comes to getting – and keeping – the best people for the job

The coming year is likely to offer a tough environment for us all, as we climb out of one of the longest recessions in memory. But ‘austerity’ has offered us an opportunity to reassess how we do business and build relationships. Success is no longer just about the bottom line. Bringing social responsibility into the workplace is a good way to motivate staff and improve morale, which in turn, improves service to clients.

Martyn Evans of development company Cathedral Group recently told me of their work with the charity, KIDS. He has been overwhelmed by the extraordinary effect their association has had internally on the organisation, increasing staff retention, retaining a valuable knowledge base, and promoting discussion, dedication and commitment.

Similarly, at Place Careers, we have found that our commitment to corporate social responsibility has been beneficial to the charities we work with and our relationship with our clients and candidates. When we started up in 2009, in the midst of a very difficult economic climate, our aim was to offer a holistic architectural recruitment service. Since our establishment we have continually assessed how our business operates and its impact on architects’ careers and the future of our clients’ companies.

Trust, passion and a keen interest in architecture and design have been key factors in getting us through these difficult times and will continue to help us to develop.

While there is scepticism about whether companies can do well and give something back, our work with Article 25, the built-environment charity that manages and builds shelter in disaster-stricken areas, has not only offered exciting opportunities to our candidates but, by donating over 5 per cent of our annual profits to the organisation, our clients are also supporting the charity indirectly. During the London Festival of Architecture in the summer, we collaborated with Article 25 to host an exhibition featuring photographs of the Derwent Valley by Tim Soar, curated by architect Phil Coffey. We also supported and promoted the 10 x 10 event at Somerset House in November, which raised more than £80,000. Looking forward to a continued long-term relationship with Article 25, we intend to organise a summer event for 2013.

According to Robin Cross, acting CEO of Article 25, the charity’s collaboration with the UK construction industry is essential to its delivery of projects around the world.

‘Our partnership with Place Careers and other practices shows the conscience of the UK’s construction sector at work,’ said Cross. ‘The work we do together is recognition of the potential of our industry to contribute positively to international development to make the future brighter for those most in need.’

Working with external partners is a way to give back, by adding value and helping with wider social concerns, but it also supports our core business through improving the culture in our office, networking and building new contacts in the greater industry and promoting the future of our clients’ companies and our candidates’ careers.

Article 25 isn’t the only charity we support, we also work closely with bursary students from the Stephen Lawrence Trust to find them work on completion of their studies and we hope to continue with this in years to come.

We are also very proud to support the AJ Women in Architecture campaign. In March, we were invited by Christine Murray, editor of The Architects’ Journal, to support the AJ Women in Architecture annual luncheon and awards. The event was a great success, giving the whole industry time to digest, reflect and look ahead to an even more positive future for the industry. We look forward to the continued success of this campaign in 2013.

Looking forward to the year ahead, we are optimistic about the opportunities for the industry to work closely with organisations in the third sector as the economy improves. We have seen green shoots throughout our client base in the fourth quarter of this year and more practices will look to expand as confidence increases.

Working to improve corporate social responsibility is good for charities, good for business and good for your career. Happy 2013.

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