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  • ‘Corporate responsibility means taking action’ – Sponda’s employees actively involved in doing good

‘Corporate responsibility means taking action’ – Sponda’s employees actively involved in doing good

There is strength in collaboration. This old wisdom also applies to the volunteer work that is part of Sponda’s sustainability programme. Thanks to the project that started in the company in 2022, Sponda’s employees can spend 1–2 working days a year doing volunteer work. It’s not just little tinkering either – last year, the company’s employees volunteered for more than 600 hours. The community sustainability programme has mobilised Sponda’s employees in a way that combines a sense of meaning, the joy of spending time together and taking concrete action to do something good.

Sponda’s Community Engagement programme features three different areas of sustainability work. One area consists of charity collections, free events and themed days that are actively organised in Sponda’s shopping centres to support the operation of non-profit organisations. The second area includes Sponda’s annual Christmas donation to a charity voted by the employees, as well as other donations. Collections have been organised at Sponda’s office for low-income families, the homeless and refugees, among others.

‘The third area consists of volunteering during working hours, which has proven to be a very popular way to help. For several years in autumn on the Baltic Sea Day, we have rolled up our sleeves and cleaned up litter from the shores of the Baltic Sea together. We have also handed out food with Hursti’s Charitable Association and participated in cooking and gardening at Ronald McDonald House’, says Pirkko Airaksinen, Sponda’s Sustainability Director.

Last autumn, Sponda’s employees met around 29,600 people in need during their shifts in Hurstin Apu, and 36,000 kilos of food were distributed.

Partners provide new ways for sustainability work

In recent years, companies have been more active in moving from words to actions to demonstrate their true commitment to sustainability. According to Airaksinen, reliable cooperation partners play a significant role in social sustainability.

‘Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and the importance of social sustainability in particular, have been strongly highlighted both in Finland and elsewhere. One way to implement corporate social sustainability is to give the employees an opportunity to volunteer during working hours – this trend is also evident in our operation. Another trend seems to be that companies are looking for long-term partnerships with charities’, says Johanna Huhtariihi, the Executive Director of the Ronald McDonald Children’s Foundation.

Ronald McDonald Children’s Foundation Executive Director Johanna Huhtariihi and House Manager Leena Lehtovaara thank their business partners for the smooth cooperation.

The nonprofit foundation does important work for families and maintains the Foundation’s Ronald McDonald house for families with severely ill children. Companies’ support to organisations is very welcome, as many organisations have very limited resources of their own.

Volunteering during working hours is a great way for employers to provide support!

‘All the help we get saves costs. For example, we have been able to exclude a third party completely from the care of our garden, because we get help from companies. We have not had to raise the family accommodation fee at all for almost 10 years, even though the costs have generally increased’, says Huhtariihi.

The sentiment is shared by Maija Soljanlahti, the producer at John Nurminen Foundation. She also sees volunteering during working hours as a great way for employers to provide support. The Foundation’s work to save the Baltic Sea is based on a slightly different operating model: the work effort of the Foundation’s employees and partners.

‘We have limited opportunities to take advantage of volunteer work, which is why we have put together a comprehensive list of volunteer work activities that benefit the Baltic Sea and are suitable for business donors that support our operations. We also encourage all work communities and companies to join and participate in the Baltic Sea Day in their own way’, says Soljanlahti.

Sponda’s policy on the working time used for voluntary work came from the company management. It shows that the company’s values ​​are put into practice.

Sustainability issues are increasingly becoming part of everyday operations

Joint action creates a sense of community between people. In addition, a wider audience is becoming increasingly more interested in sustainability. According to WWF Finland, Sponda’s Baltic Sea Day and WWF Green Office partner, people are very interested in security and crisis management issues, and this is reflected in applying for oil spill response training, for example.

‘Concrete action for the benefit of nature is also a good way to psychologically manage feelings of environmental and climate anxiety. More and more companies are becoming aware of environmental issues and they are increasingly becoming part of everyday operations. Raising awareness is significant because it helps in making companies more activate with environmental and climate work. In addition, it enables us to maintain WWF’s multi-level volunteer work’, says Mikko Kuiri, Account Manager at WWF Finland.

As more and more companies become aware of environmental issues, they become commonplace.

On Baltic Sea Day, the staff of Sponda did not let the rain disturb them, but collected litter from Mustikkamaa’s beach and sea, such as the construction site sign shown in the picture. The event was carried out in cooperation with WWF Finland.

Visibility and active cooperation with Sponda

Maija Soljanlahti appreciates the effortless and functional cooperation with Sponda. Through cooperation, the Foundation has gained national visibility for the Baltic Sea Day in lively areas where there are potential participants Baltic Sea Day, among other benefits.

‘It is important that shopping centres encourage the celebration of Baltic Sea Day all over Finland. This reminds Finns that the Baltic Sea is a drainage basin for the whole country, with the exception of the northernmost part’, says Soljanlahti.

WWF Finland also had a positive experience during the Baltic Sea Day plastic litter collection event that took place last autumn. Kuiri highlights the importance of active communication in cooperation.

‘Sponda’s employees are very energetic volunteers! Active and agile communication between us and the customer organisation is important in order to carry out the event smoothly and ensure that its goals serve both parties in the best possible way.’

Spring volunteering at the RML building were a popular way to participate in doing good this year, as well. Sponda’s employees spent the afternoon raking, building new composts, cooking and repairing bikes.

When a company, including the corporate leadership, is involved in the implementation of communal sustainability, volunteering days can also strengthen the corporate culture. Leaving the office and working together in a new environment invigorates people and offers different perspectives on everyday work. This is well known to Huhtariihi, who warmly thanks Sponda for the help offered to the foundation.

‘Some of Sponda’s employees fixed all of our bikes, while others cooked for families and the third crew mowed the lawn and raked the leaves. We had one contact person efficiently coordinating the information from Sponda’s side to us and making sure that everyone was up to date. It is also great to see that senior management is involved in volunteering. Participating corporate culture is strengthened by events like this where the employees do things that differ from everyday work duties. We hope that the companies will also gain something from these events – the joy of working together for a good cause, if nothing else’, says Huhtariihi.

We want to thank all our partners for letting us participate in your important work!

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