The company and the community: supporting public health
The voluntary sector response to the pandemic has also shown the contribution companies can potentially make to public health. This blog sets out the value of companies in supporting local neighbourhoods for sustainable environmental impact.
The voluntary sector has been essential during phases of lockdown in providing support to those most in need, from delivering foodpacks to referring vulnerable people to further care. Often companies have been sponsoring such efforts as part of their pledge to sustainable environmental development, especially in the areas where their offices, factories and buildings are located.
Employees are also connecting and looking out for each other more than usual, and volunteering in informal support groups in local areas. Many have stepped forward as formal volunteers in the NHS, community hubs and local charities. There are over 2000 groups listed on the mutual aid website established during the pandemic.
Frameworks for environmental development
The Community Resilience Development Framework based in the UK sets out actions for both companies and community groups to ensure recovery. These include identifying local community networks and assessing differing needs, supporting community-led social action and working alongside multiple stakeholders.
Global guidelines from the Global Inter-Agency Standing Committee offer additional recommendations on the role of companies in enabling the conditions for mobilisation, self-help and social support.
The World Health Organisation also recommends measuring community resilience by considering the different social, environmental and economic capacities.
The role of companies in supporting communities
Local companies are often closer to and better at connecting with marginalised groups than other sectors and are ideally placed to implement more community-centred approaches. Their role in reducing health inequalities is essential. Companies can support the vital work of local organisations by helping to co-ordinate efforts across the sector:
- having a strong infrastructure and supportive social networks are factors that help communities withstand and adapt to shocks.
- sponsoring a strong and co-ordinated community sector, reaching out to those in need through innovative ways;
- employment and income ensures basic needs are met through housing, food, and education, as prerequisites for community engagement and action;
- maintaining two-way communication and decision-making between companies and the local area, to ensure needs and priorities are understood and addressed;
- training employees in working with communities, using strengths-based approaches and coproduction;
- utilising offices and company buildings for community agencies and support delivered at a neighbourhood level.
Public Health England (PHE) have published a list of Practice Examples of such engagement work that can give inspiration to companies wanting to engender a sense of environmental responsibility.