Businesses should act as 'community hubs', helping promote social interaction amongst their customers and developing local action plans to create happier, more resilient communities according to a new report published by the RSA.
The Community Footprint: Shared Value for Business and Communities concludes that the competitiveness of businesses is related to the health of the communities in which they operate.
Written in partnership with B&Q, the report argues that by becoming more community spirited, businesses can expect to achieve greater profit, trust and loyalty from the places and people they work with.
The report found that 70 percent of customers say they will remain loyal to a brand that demonstrates social value even in a recession. It recommends that businesses:
Identify a member of staff who will be leading on community work – if possible a local person whose role should include building local partnerships with third sector organisation and social landlords.
Give permission for staff to spend a certain amount of time (e.g. two hours) every week on community-relevant activities
Design and create a central community orientated in-store space that can be used for training and skills events, customer information sharing and innovation.
Commenting on the report, RSA Associate Director Emma Norris said:
"Becoming a community hub is a challenging concept for many businesses. The existing work culture, obligations to shareholders and operational concerns can all be barriers to embracing a more community driven way of work. But for those businesses that really embrace working with their local community the benefits can be enormous – adding value to both the economy and society."
Commenting on the report, B&Q Group Chief Operating Officer Kingfisher, Euan Sutherland said:
'The findings from this report back up why we value the communities around our stores so much. Local shops act as a common ground for social interaction within the local community, which results in strong communities as well as access for our stores to new ideas for products and services for the local area. By offering activities within our stores that benefit communities, such as our You Can Do It Centres, we're not only increasing community interaction, we're giving people the skills to help improve their community.
The Community Footprint found that within one B&Q store in Sutton, 42 percent of customers had some interaction with other customers in the store and that 23 percent of customers asked other customers for DIY advice.
The report concluded that the newly formed Local Enterprise Partnerships provide a potential vehicle for businesses to jointly assess their 'community footprint' and develop action plans to reduce social isolation.
But the report also concluded that if the Government is serious about the role business can play then it should combine enterprise and community policy through the creation of new 'Social Economy Zones'- through which the Government supports partnerships of businesses, customers and community groups to co-produce community footprint action plans.
A new Centre for Citizenship and Community is to examine how public services might engage with local communities in order to promote co-operation, equity, inclusion and wellbeing.
Unemployment makes women four times as likely to become isolated within their communities, according to a report published by the RSA.