Business in the community – Driving Diversity and Inclusion Through Sustainability and Employment Programs

Business In The Community (BITC) has been operating in Ireland for more than 21 years. Through their low carbon pledge, matching businesses to schools and community groups throughout Ireland to drive CSR and employment programs for underpresented groups in the workplace. We got in touch with BITC’s digital marketing manager Nathalie Pavone to find out more:

  1. To someone who may not be aware of Business in the Community, what does the company do and how did the company come about?

Business in the Community Ireland is a movement for sustainable change in business with over 100 of Ireland’s largest businesses in the network. Our purpose is to inspire and enable businesses to bring about a sustainable, low carbon economy and a more inclusive society where everyone thrives. We are trusted advisers in sustainability and corporate social responsibility. We provide access to best practice and support businesses with practical management and monitoring systems. By facilitating forums for reflection and action, we ensure that businesses are ready to meet the current, pressing challenges of the climate crisis, the pipeline of talent as well as the issues of social inclusion, diversity and accountability. You can check out here our areas of expertise and how we help our members.

Led by CEO Tomás Sercovich, Business in the Community Ireland has one of the strongest board of directors in the country and our Patron is President Michael.D.Higgins.

BITCI works in three ways:

As a sustainable business network we have many events every year covering the sustainability topics that are top priority for our members but also for the wider sustainability and CSR audience. 

So far this year the Network has hit big strategic milestones towards the achievement of our mission by launching two Pledges, the more ambitious Low Carbon Pledge and most recently the launch of our Inclusive Workplace Pledge, Elevate. This one has been a highlight.

In May 45 of Ireland’s largest companies have committed to improve inclusivity and diversity in their workplaces by signing up to ELEVATE, the Business in the Community Ireland (BITCI) inclusive workplace pledge.

The vision of the ELEVATE Pledge is to build a workforce reflective of society, starting now. The Pledge, which must be signed by the CEO, asks companies to commit to profiling their diversity and to take action to embed inclusion. BITCI will publish a progress report on an annual basis with the first report due in mid-2022. You can find out more about Elevate on our website.

The event launch was attended by over 500 people, trended on Twitter thanks to our collective digital campaign and received a lot of coverage in the media. As a result we have received a lot of interest from business in signing up the Pledge.

Coming up later this year 4th – 8th October we will hold our virtual conference series ‘The Sustainability Revolution’. The series will bring together the best thinking, leadership and research on sustainability and is a must attend event for anyone interested in Sustainability and CSR.

Our events will be virtual for the rest of the year, we strictly follow the government guidelines and we regularly review future scenarios.

  1. Can you tell us about what brands you work with? Are there any brands you are targeting to join in the future?

We work with over 100 of Ireland’s largest brands across all business sectors. Accenture, Boots, ESB, SSE Ireland to name a few of companies we work with. We like to work with brands that are committed to creating inclusive workplaces and that support the transition to a low carbon economy. We work with businesses at various stages of their sustainability and CSR journey, whether they need to develop a fully integrated sustainability business strategy.

  1. Can you tell us more about the Low Carbon Pledge you recently launched? What’s involved with it?

BITCI’s Low Carbon Pledge is Ireland’s only collective commitment by the private sector on climate action and is recognised in the Government’s Climate Action Plan. So far 65 companies have signed up to the Pledge. The Pledge aims to provide leadership, set a collective ambition, and drive practical action on the climate crisis. It is aligned with international best practice aimed at mobilising businesses towards a net-zero emissions future.  By signing up to the Low Carbon Pledge all signatory companies commit to setting science-based carbon emissions reduction targets by 2024, which must include their entire carbon footprint (Scope 1, 2 & 3) and be in line with the Paris Agreement and the latest IPCC findings. Our ultimate goal is to achieve carbon neutrality and these targets are the first step towards a net zero world by 2050.

  1. Can you tell us more about the Business Action Programmes? Can you give some examples of success stories from the programme?

At BITCI we support companies to make a positive impact on education and employment. Business Action on Education is a nationwide initiative that aims to develop mutually beneficial partnerships between schools and businesses in Ireland which support the Government’s overall strategy on educational inclusion. We operate by matching individual schools that are targeted through the School Completion Programme with a local company. We are the only business-education programme in Ireland that receives matching Government funds under the National Development Plan.  Our suite of six programmes supports students, principals, teachers, the STEM agenda and children’s literacy & numeracy in primary schools. You can find out more here.

At BITCI through our Employment programmes we offer authentic diversity and inclusion programmes providing practical supports to clients and opening up an untapped talent pool for businesses.

We have a range of diversity and inclusion programmes:

  • EPIC works with people from migrant or refugee backgrounds and features pre-employment training, one to one guidance and opportunities for work experience.
  • Ready for Work helps people with disabilities and health challenges and provides guidance, work experience and in-work supports.
  • The Women@Work programme provides a next step for women who have already participated in existing high quality employability programmes but who have not yet found suitable employment. Women@Work is jointly funded by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth and the European Social Fund

You can find out more about our success stories here.

  1. What have been some of the highlights of the events the company has done? So far this year the Network has hit big strategic milestones towards the achievement of our mission by launching two Pledges, the more ambitious Low Carbon Pledge and most recently the launch of our Inclusive Workplace Pledge, Elevate. In May, 45 of Ireland’s largest companies have committed to improve inclusivity and diversity in their workplaces by signing up to ELEVATE, the Business in the Community Ireland (BITCI) inclusive workplace pledge. The event launch was attended by over 500 people, trended on Twitter.
  1. Apart from the events, what other marketing have you done since launching? What have you found works best?

Our collective digital campaigns play a crucial role in raising awareness of our low carbon and diversity & inclusion focus areas.  As the leading advisers on sustainability and CSR in Ireland, PR also plays an important role in influencing the business sector. Our CEO Tomas Sercovich recently wrote an op ed piece in the Irish Times which you can find here.

  1. What have been some of your favourite moments since joining the company?

I joined the company 9 years ago, so I have so many highlights! It has been amazing to see recently how sustainability has thankfully grown in importance and gaining momentum.  I am so proud of everything we do as an organisation, driving the agenda on low carbon and social inclusion by creating platforms for business collaboration and action.  Through our employment and education programmes you can really see and feel how our work directly impacts the lives of students and clients we support and this inspires me on daily basis. They are the heart of our organisation.

  1. How did the Pandemic affect the company? Are there any positives to take from this time?

The pandemic presented many challenges to our colleagues like other organisations, but the senior management team were brilliant from the offset. Amidst the challenges we have experienced many positives such as being able to pivot and support our members to in turn support their communities. You can check out #BusinessResponseIRL for a snapshot of how some of our members supported their employees and wider communities.  

Another positive outcome for us was the ability to bring our events online providing us with the opportunity to reach even a wider audience.  All of our past webinars have been recorded and can be accessed on our YouTube channel.

This has been the busiest year we have faced in our 21-year history. Companies are joining as members, and they are at various stages of their sustainability journey.

  1. Where do you see the company in the next 5-10 years?

In the next five years we see the organisation as:

  • A recognised leader in driving the agenda of business for a low carbon economy and an inclusive society
  • A trusted partner in delivering major collaboration on key sustainability issues – a bridge builder for sustainability initiatives
  • A voice that is sought and that engages in debate on direction and make sustainability meaningful
  • A  valuable place to work in a mission-driven organisation !

10. What companies or programs are BITCI fans of?

Our own diversity & inclusion programmes:

  • EPIC
  • EmployAbility
  • Women@Work
  • Schools’ Business Partnership

 Along with other support and advocacy organisations such as:

  • AsIAm
  • Ballymun Job Centre
  • BlackAndIrish
  • MTU Traveller Programme
  • Cultúr
  • Disability Federation of Ireland
  • Empower
  • IWA
  • Local Employment Services
  • Open Doors Initiative
  • Pavee Point
  • Specialisterne
  • WALK

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