When homes in Boston, Lincolnshire were flooded last December the Community Life Champion at the local Asda, Stephen, was on hand to support the local community. He helped coordinate the clean up, arranged financial support from the Asda Foundation to help people in immediate need and helped out elderly residents.
What no one realised was that Stephen's own home had been devastated in the floods as well. Rather than focus on his own problems his priority was to support his local community.
That sums up for me Asda and our role in the communities where our customers and colleagues live and work. Being part of the local community is at the heart of everything we do and is an integral part of our business strategy. It is something all 180,000 of our colleagues care about deeply. Not only is it the right thing to do but it is also good for business. We launched Community Life in March 2012 with the aim of making our stores the 21st century community hubs in their local areas. Since its launch, the programme has exceeded all of our expectations with over 65,000 uses of our stores as community centres, 280,000 hours spent in the local community by our Community Life Champions and local fundraising totalling £12 million. But we know we can do more. One of the things I like about the RSA Report is that it challenges us to do better, both for local communities and for our own competitive advantage.
As the state continues to withdraw funding for public sector budgets and services, businesses will be expected to play a new social role. Successful businesses understand and shape their markets. By working in communities, either providing organisations with a safe place to meet, or helping to address a local problem or issue, Asda can make progress toward our ambition of becoming Britain’s most trusted retailer. We recognise that the successful business of the future will occupy a new space and one that explicitly blends economic creation with the creation of social value.
The nature and scale of retail is changing. The way customers interact with retailers is rapidly evolving. Ouronline offer is now the fastest growing element of our businessand with the rise of Click and Collect and self-service checkouts, there is the potential for our customers to become more and more isolated from our local stores. To be successful in the future all businesses, not just retailers, will need to demonstrate that they make an active contribution to society. We are therefore determined to build on our existing Community Life programme and understand how our stores can become even more locally relevant and trusted, not just as a business but as an institution that local citizens value for the contribution it makes to their community. The RSA report (Shopping For Shared Value) has helped us begin that process.
Paul Kelly is External Affairs Director for Asda and Chair of the Asda Foundation. Shopping for Shared Value, a report detailing the RSA’s research with Asda, undertaken by the Action and Research Centre, was launched 14 January at the RSA.