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Business response network provides coronavirus support

PUBLISHED: 10:30 29 May 2020

'We want business actively contributing towards a better society' says Andy Brown    Picture: Anglian Water

'We want business actively contributing towards a better society' says Andy Brown Picture: Anglian Water

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Anglian Water is providing coronavirus support to charitable organisations in the East of England.

Andy Brown is head of sustainability at Anglian Water      Picture: Anglian Water/Tim GeorgeAndy Brown is head of sustainability at Anglian Water Picture: Anglian Water/Tim George

Anglian Water has teamed up with Business in the Community (BITC) to help local businesses provide critical support to charities and community groups during the coronavirus crisis.

Established in 1982 by HRH the Prince of Wales, BITC is an outreach charity promoting responsible business for the betterment of the community. On April 2, 2020, BITC announced its National Business Response Network.

The network identifies community needs and facilitates connection with appropriate businesses for assistance. Requests from community groups, local authorities, schools, charities and alliances are matched with businesses to provide resources such as food, social care, technology and logistical support.

The National Business Response Network is managed by BITC on a national level via an online portal, with delivery implemented regionally. It currently has more than 750 members, including household names such as Lloyds, Boots and Marks & Spencer, all the way to local businesses.

The National Business Response Network helps businesses provide essential support to charitable organisations in the East of England     Picture: Anglian WaterThe National Business Response Network helps businesses provide essential support to charitable organisations in the East of England Picture: Anglian Water

Andy Brown, head of sustainability at Anglian Water, has been instrumental in heading up the National Business Response Network in the East of England. He says: “When the coronavirus hit, what we needed was some way of connecting community groups and charities that suddenly found themselves in dire need with businesses that might be able to assist them.

“The portal enables organisations to post their need – whether it’s a local food bank needing food or a homeless charity needing IT equipment,” Andy says. “It is also there for businesses who might have something to offer local community groups or charities.

“I act as a local connector, finding businesses that can help support and deliver against those asks – we’ve seen requests for food, baby equipment, technical support and any number of other things. We recently helped with providing graphic design services to create posters showing volunteers how to wear PPE properly.”

To date, over 500 matches have successfully been made nationally.

“Before coronavirus, the Business in the Community Regional Advisory Board, chaired by Peter Simpson at Anglian Water, had agreed to provide some support to the new place-based project in Lowestoft. The Kier Group, which also sits on the board, made an offer to second Jason Benham into the town as a business connector to give on-the-ground support. As the crisis hit Jason has really been able to make a difference to the most vulnerable communities in the town.”

Jason secured a donation to purchase 20 insulated containers from a company called PED in Northampton at a discounted price and these are being used by the Salvation Army and Access Community Trust to deliver hot meals to the elderly in the town (he also secured a £1000 donation for the service).

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“Jason sourced three new freezers which are now being used to store foodbank supplies before redistribution to the community,” Andy explains. “But he hasn’t stopped there, he is now developing a programme of mental first aid support drawing on trained volunteers from Kier and Freshfields.”

Jason is just one example of the great work being done thanks to the initiative.

“All charities need to do is log a request,” Andy says. “It is our role to link them up. If there are no matches, we reach out and ask the right businesses for support.”

Andy urges organisations that need support and businesses who can offer support to get involved.

“We have had a great success rate in matching needs to support, but this must be the tip of the iceberg. If you need support, please go on the system to log your request. We will do whatever we can to try and match you up with someone.

“If you are a business able to help, please go on the system. 
If you find that there is nothing that immediately matches with the materials or expertise that you have to offer, post your offer on there anyway.”

Andy says that the community is best served when business contributes positively.

“Charities deliver essential functions and the coronavirus is stopping them from being able to do what they need to do at the most important time for them to do it. Businesses can therefore step in to help.

“Customers are going to remember those companies that stepped up and did the right thing at this critical time. We want business actively contributing towards a better society and we are working to ensure that is part of the new normal.”

In 2019, Anglian Water made fundamental changes to its Articles of Association, enshrining public interest within the company’s constitutional structure. This legally binding document sees the company committing to delivering sustainable social and environmental prosperity to the region as part of its core purpose.

“Our purpose at Anglian Water is to bring environmental and social prosperity to our region. That purpose is not going to change. If this network can help us to deliver that more effectively, then it is absolutely brilliant, and we will not stop.”

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