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Litter collection, donations and food distribution – the Community Engagement programme has inspired the Sponda staff to help

The Community Engagement programme launched by Sponda offers its personnel concrete ways to help and enables them to do some good even during working hours. On the Baltic Sea Day, Sponda staff took up the challenge of litter collection.

On Baltic Sea Day, August 25, 2022, around 40 people from Sponda gathered on Lauttasaari beach. The idea was to spend half the workday doing something good – in practice, collecting litter both by paddling and on foot.

At the beginning of the event, Sponda staff were divided into two groups. Some collected litter on foot and some in kayaks.

“This combines many great things. Together, we are participating in a fun activity where we can do some good and enjoy nature at the same time. The Baltic Sea is one of the most polluted seas in the world and everyone’s contribution counts in cleaning it”, says Sponda’s Senior Designer, Graphic Design and Marketing Marissa Kopola as she prepares to push her own kayak out to sea.

This project combines many great things.

Words like togetherness, meaningfulness, responsibility, joy, helping and good mood are also heard in the comments of other attendees when they justify their participation in volunteer activities offered by the employer.

Triangular engagement work

According to Sponda’s Head of ESG Pirkko Airaksinen, the Community Engagement programme is about triangular engagement work.

One part is the environmental and social responsibility events organised in Sponda’s shopping centres, which support nature conservation, strengthen the community and help those in a weaker position.

Veera Luostarinen and Hanna Holmström signed up for the litter collection challenge as soon as they heard about it. “We want to show that the Baltic Sea is important to us”, they say.

“This activity also includes various charity collections, free-entry events and theme days that support the activities of non-profit organisations”, Airaksinen explains.

The second part is formed by donations. Charities selected by Sponda over the years have included UNICEF, the John Nurminen Foundation organising Baltic Sea conservation work, the New Children’s Hospital and the Cancer Foundation.

The father and CEO of the Engagement Programme, Christian Hohenthal, encourages personnel to spend time on activities that are meaningful to them. “Helping others also gives you joy and strength in your everyday life”, says Hohenthal. 

The latest opening is the voluntary activity started in 2022, thanks to which Sponda’s employees can use 1–2 working days for voluntary work every year.

Getting to know aid organisations

According to Airaksinen, volunteer work projects have been mapped together with the personnel. Both environmental responsibility and social responsibility projects have been selected. After the litter collection campaign, Sponda staff have been participating in Hurstinapu’s food distribution activities.

Volunteer work encourages employees to do a lot of good even in their free time. You can borrow a free-of-charge kayak from the Vuosaari Kayaking Centre at any time to collect litter.

“The idea is that our personnel get to experience aid work in practice. Also, different organisations become familiar and employees can be inspired to do volunteer work in their free time.”

Airaksinen praises the personnel’s activity and willingness to help, which the coronavirus era and the uncertain world situation have further emphasised. Collections for children in need, the homeless and refugees, for example, have been organised in the office.

Sponda’s personnel can use 1–2 working days a year to do a lot of good.

“As an employer, we also wanted to encourage collection activities and we promised to double the amount of donations collected by our employees for Ukrainians. Together, we managed to collect a nice amount for our donation”, rejoices Airaksinen.         

A total of about 60 kilos of litter was collected in one day. An accurate track is kept of the results, so that the effects of the campaigns can also be monitored on a larger scale.

Good grows from partnerships

In doing good, Airaksinen emphasises the importance of reliable partners and ready-to-use aid channels.

“For example, SPR has one of Finland’s largest volunteer organisations at its disposal. When the aid channels work, the effectiveness is also great.”

Large partners can also offer different contact areas for engagement work. Airaksinen highlights the John Nurminen foundation, with which the operation started with a donation cooperation.

After that, the foundation was involved in introducing the Baltic Sea Day to shopping centres and the Baltic Sea Day further inspired Sponda staff to clean up the Baltic Sea.

According to Pirkko Airaksinen and Marissa Kopola, the best thing about volunteering is the concrete way of helping and experiencing the sense of community.

Airaksinen believes that Sponda’s active engagement work is enabled by an enlightened company management. 

“Actually, the idea to develop the Community Engagement programme came directly from the CEO. The policy on the working time used for voluntary work also came from the company management, which shows that the company’s values are followed also in practice.”

The effectiveness of the work motivates you to continue

In developing engagement work, Airaksinen considers the international real estate assessment, in which Sponda has ranked top place for nine years already, a good mirror to reflect Sponda’s performance. 

“Systematic monitoring helps us choose the best practices for our engagement work and gives an objective assessment of the results of the work. It is important that our employees also get to see the effects of their actions and rejoice in the joint successes”, says Airaksinen.

Top results 9 years in a row – Sponda chosen the best in Northern Europe in its control group >>