Contributing to the Community

It was a great honour for Athene Communications to win the Peterborough Telegraph Award for Contribution to the Community last night.  This is our second Award in a row – last year we were the winners in the Environmental Achievement category.

This Award seems particularly relevant – and therefore rewarding – in light of the current focus on the role companies should play in our modern society.

Contributing to their communities is something companies should do as a matter of course, not as a voluntary optional extra.  And in fact, all companies do, by definition, contribute to their communities in the most fundamental way by creating jobs.  That is their essential and basic function – making profit is something different, providing the motivation for people to do this, but not the reason for a company’s existence.   And companies – and those that create them – receive considerable legal and tax privileges from society in return for fulfilling that function.

When I set up Athene I did so with three equal objectives.  To create work for our employees, to support and add value to our clients and to contribute to and play our part in our communities.

Creating work remains the biggest contribution Athene can make to its community.  This week we created three new jobs – or rather made two temporary jobs permanent and extended a third for another seven months. But we are also clear that work isn’t the only thing in people’s life – our aim is to help our employees make a living so they can make a life.  We encourage family friendly work-practice and don’t like people staying late in the office, if it can be helped.  And we also want our people to be active citizens in their own right – giving time off for volunteering and charitable activity – not as a one-off, but as an integral part of their personal development.  We also have an annual day off for team volunteering – part of the national Green Leap initiative and (when we can) we offer free advice and support on PR and marketing to local groups.

So in that sense contributing to the community – like all charity – begins at home through employment and through treating people fairly in the work-place and other simple things that make up good citizenship, like keeping our premises tidy and not annoying our neighbours!

When we think about the wider community, we can also help in ways that our integral to our business too.  By offering work-experience opportunities and internships for young people on a  regular basis, by giving away old office furniture or IT equipment and by offering meeting space and even office accommodation for voluntary organisations.

Donating money to charity is something we do a lot of at Athene – this year we donated nearly 4{8199157a03996f1a7ab1d1caf6f45edc473a1d2aec9e8517e0f1549d1671dba4} of gross profit to local charities, chosen by our employees.  But in some ways it is the easiest and least demanding aspect of our overall contribution to our communities.  We need to do it – but, I would argue, only when we have done the more demanding and meaningful things first – not least, starting by recognising our fundamental responsibilities to society and shaping our whole business model around them.