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How are businesses helping charities' coronavirus response?

17 Apr 2020 News

UK corporates have pledged at least £165m to charities responding to coronavirus, according to an analysis of public statements. 

With many sectors struggling because of the economic consequences of the lockdown, the biggest contributions have come from supermarkets and financial services.    

Support comes in the form of extra funds, support and goods, analysis of public announcements from  Civil Society News shows. 

Supermarkets donating food and money

Most supermarket retail chains have increased their charity contributions by donating more food and money. Most of this support is going to food banks.

Tesco is donating £15m in extra food plus £1m in cash to food organisations the Trussell Trust and FareShare, and has also donated £2m to the British Red Cross.

Asda has also donated £5m to the Trussell Trust and FareShare, and Co-op is giving £1.5m in extra food to FareShare as well as £2.5m in airtime. Co-op’s Easter ad campaign, that was meant to advertise its chocolate eggs, has been replaced by an ad encouraging customers to support food banks at this difficult time.

Sainsbury’s has donated £3m to FareShare and is supporting The Big Night In, an entertainment night on BBC One that will be raising funds for Comic Relief and BBC Children in Need. It will be matching all customer donations in store and online between 9 April and 1 May.

Morrisons is giving £10m worth of food to food banks and has pledged £500,000 to local homeless charities via its foundation.

Aldi has donated £250,000 to Age UK’s coronavirus emergency appeal and £100,000 to the Teenage Cancer Trust, and Iceland has also donated £150,000 to Age UK.

Sainsbury’s, McColl’s and Co-op have also started selling The Big Issue in their shops, now that vendors cannot sell them on the streets as normal.

However, supermarkets have also been criticised because in England they will be benefiting from business rate relief granted by the government, even though their shops are still open.

According to figures published by the Times and The Guardian, savings could come close to £3bn a year.

Tesco in particular has been criticised on Twitter by Labour peer Andrew Adonis because it will also be paying £635m in dividends to its shareholders, which is close to the amount the corporate will be saving from the business rate holiday. Tesco defended the move saying it is facing significant costs for hiring extra staff, offering full pay to sick employees and buying protective equipment.

Financial services

Last week, Barclays Group announced a £100m package to support communities through the crisis, one of the biggest pots available so far. Most of it will be distributed in the UK.

Insurance company Aviva has donated £10m to the British Red Cross, in what the charity’s CEO Mike Adamson has called “one of the biggest single corporate donations ever received by the British Red Cross”. The money will be used to expand the Red Cross’s Community Reserve Volunteer programme in the UK, which enrols volunteers in the community to help with coronavirus response, for example by sorting food donations at food banks.

Currency trading company XTX Markets has donated £10m to the NHS Charities Together appeal, which is raising money to support NHS staff, and £1m to FareShare.

HSBC has donated £1m to the National Emergencies Trust, while TSB has donated £250,000 to Citizens Advice.

Business networks

Businesses have also been teaming up to see how they can best support communities at this time.

Membership organisation Business in the Community has launched a new initiative, The National Business Response Network, with the aim of connecting “national and local community groups, businesses, local authorities and charities with businesses that can offer support, ensuring resources are delivered to the right place, at the right time”. Insurer AXA has committed £1m to the initiative.

Neighbourly, a platforms that also connects businesses with communities in need of support, has launched the Neighbourly Community Fund, which will be issuing unrestricted micro-grants of £400 to support local food banks and other organisations.

M&S, Lidl, Aldi, Danone UK & Ireland and Coca-Cola European Partners have committed £500,000 to the fund between them.

Finally, the C-19 Business Pledge, founded by former UK cabinet minister Justine Greening and UK entrepreneur David Harrison, asks businesses to support their staff, customers and communities during the crisis, including offering communities practical support and financial assistance, and has been signed by more than 200 companies and universities.

The pledge says: “We understand businesses across the globe are working hard to ensure they are able to continue in this turbulent time. We acknowledge that this will involve difficult decisions, but for those that can, we are asking them to help in the global effort with their employees, customers and communities. By mobilising that collective effort, we can support those most in need through this crisis.”

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