Entrance to Estate Office, Blenheim

Blenheim Estate Office Wins Oxford Preservation Trust Award

The Blenheim Estate Office has been recognised in the Oxford Preservation Trust Awards 2019.

The single-storey office received an OPT plaque in the Small Projects category for the annual awards celebrating the best in building conservation and preservation as well as exemplary new architecture.

The Estate Office, which opened in Woodstock last year, is situated within the World Heritage Site.

It features traditional materials combining ashlar cladding to the front elevation, with contemporary design, including floor-to-ceiling glass panels to the rear, providing views across the UNESCO World Heritage Site under a shallow pitch zinc roof.

“The Awards attracted a strong list of projects this year. The Blenheim Estate Office was up there with the best, and we were delighted to award it a plaque recognising the way in which the architects and team have created a rather beautiful, and very usable building which can sit happily within this World Heritage landscape,” said Debbie Dance, OPT Director.

In addition to its historic setting, the new building also respects the use of local materials used in the construction of Blenheim Palace including; limestone ashlar blocks and lime mortar to blend into its historic surroundings.

It was one of Oxford-based architect Andrew Spurring’s last projects and is a fitting legacy to his award-winning work.

“We are very pleased to have received this recognition from the Oxford Preservation Trust which has a long and illustrious record protecting and supporting the city’s buildings and its green spaces,” said Roger File, Director of Blenheim Estate.

“The Estate Office makes use of traditional materials and building techniques combined with the latest technological advances to create something which both sits comfortably within its historic surroundings and minimises its impact on the environment.

“It is a fine example of what great modern design can achieve and is a credit to the architect Andrew Spurring’s memory.” he added.

Despite its traditional build, the office incorporates state-of-the-art heating and lighting features to minimise energy consumption in line with Blenheim’s goal to become a net generator of green energy by 2027.

A heat exchanger unit provides both ventilation and heating for the entire building through vents in the floor and the temperature and CO2 levels are controlled automatically.

All lighting is LED, energy efficient and features motion sensors. The car park also features cycle racks for bikes as well as four electric car charging points.


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Aerial view River of Life - small

Carter Jonas Appointed by the Earth Trust for River of Life II

Carter Jonas, the national property consultancy, has been appointed by the Earth Trust to provide planning expertise for the delivery of the environmental charity’s River of Life II project, which will create new wetland habitats along the River Thames and River Thame.

River of Life II will involve creating new wetland areas to improve the natural landscape and promote biodiversity. These physical works require planning permission and Carter Jonas will be responsible for preparing the Supporting Planning Statements, checking and submitting the necessary planning application documents and engaging with South Oxfordshire District Council.

The Earth Trust has partnered with local landowners Church Farm Partnership and The Hurst Water Meadow Trust with new water ecosystems proposed at three locations in South Oxfordshire – Long Wittenham, Little Wittenham and Dorchester-on-Thames. The new habitats will include 16 ponds and seven backwater channels plus wet woodland, which will connect to the River Thames to provide
a refuge for fish.

River of Life II will incorporate the Earth Trust’s Clifton Meadow on the south bank of the River Thames, Church Farm north of Days Lock and Overy Mead on the banks of the River Thame. The proposed wetlands are in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so will be sympathetic to their surrounds while creating much needed habitat for insects, birds, fish and other wildlife. Little Wittenham Wood is home to one of the United Kingdom’s most significant populations of great crested newts and has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and Special Area of Conservation. Several new ponds will be created in the wood to strengthen the population and provide a safe haven for other amphibians affected by climate change.

Huw Mellor, a Partner, at Carter Jonas, said: “It is unusual for a planning consultant to work on a project where the end result is not a physical structure. River of Life II is an important project at a time when the environment is high in the public conscience. If we are successful, the wetland habitat created will look like it has always been a permanent part of the landscape in ten years’ time. I worked closely with the Earth Trust in the past, so I look forward to helping the organisation advance this ambitious project.”

Jayne Manley, Chief Executive, Earth Trust, said: “Land next to rivers and streams can provide healthy life support systems for all life through biodiverse, functioning, natural freshwater ecosystems. To do this, land needs to be able to slow down and filter water and this can be done through the addition of wetland features such as ponds and water channels that are within the floodplain, some of which are connected to the river. The creation of these features alongside mosaics of other natural habitats such as woodland improve the quality of the landscape.”

River of Life II follows the success of the Earth Trust’s first River of Life project near Shillingford in
South Oxfordshire.

For further information, please contact: Philippa Murray Head of PR, Carter Jonas: philippa.murray@carterjonas.co.uk

Carter Jonas

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(Left) Vicky Godfrey, Director of DNA Pal accepting the Pitching for Success Award from Wendy Tindsley, Innovation Director at the Cherwell Innovation Centre

App designer delivers award-winning presentation in annual Oxfordshire pitching competition

The developer of an innovative DNA-based diet and lifestyle app fended off strong competition to successfully deliver an award-winning presentation at an annual Oxfordshire competition.

Vicky Godfrey, Director of DNAPal, impressed judges with her ‘energy and tenacity’ to claim the title in the Pitching for Success round at VentureFest Oxford.

The developer of DNAPal, an easy-to-use app providing simple, reliable DNA-based diet and lifestyle information and advice, was awarded the use of a professional virtual office service, including a telephone answering and postal mailing address for 12 months at one of the 24 Innovation Centres owned by Oxford Innovation, sponsors of the event.

She said: “When you order a DNA test you are provided with a lengthy 26-page document. DNAPal uses the raw data and breaks it down into bite-sized lifestyle and diet advice.

“For example, someone who drinks five cups of coffee a day may actually discover they possess the caffeine intolerant gene and drinking those cups of coffee actually triggers anxiety, stress and sleep problems.”

The app uses this information to develop manageable targets to reduce caffeine intake at a realistic pace.

Vicky added: “Users can provide feedback and notice that their anxiety levels have in fact gone down, so another challenge is set to achieve even better results. Points are awarded when challenges are met, these can be used to unlock other areas of the app.”

Innovation Director at Oxford Innovation’s Cherwell Innovation Centre, in Upper Heyford, Wendy Tindsley, was asked to judge the Pitching for Success heats.

The annual competition was launched in 1998 to bring together innovators, investors and entrepreneurs to make connections that lead to new investments, new businesses and new ideas in the high-tech sector.

She said: “There has been a very rapid growth in individual DNA testing and I thought that DNAPal’s application of the technology was novel and appealing.

“Vicky herself impressed me with her energy and tenacity. She faced some penetrating questions from the audience and panel and was able to give comprehensive and thorough answers. She is just the type of exciting entrepreneur we like to support at Oxford Innovation.”

Vicky added: “We do all our work remotely so it will be wonderful to have the support of the team at the Cherwell Innovation Centre.”

Managed by Oxford Innovation, The Cherwell Innovation Centre provides a base to 40 growing businesses. Located in Upper Heyford, on the site of the former RAF Heyford base just a few miles from Bicester, it provides a base to a mix of technology and science companies.

It boasts over 50 self-contained offices for one to 25 people as well as meeting rooms, lab facilities, networking opportunities and a manned reception. Facilities also include free on-site parking, kitchens and showers, with a crèche and mini supermarket nearby.

To find out more about any of the services available at the centre, or to arrange a viewing, please contact the Cherwell Innovation Centre team on 01869 238000 or visit: https://bit.ly/2lRWoVB

Oxford Innovation

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Rough Sleeping Oxford

We believe businesses can help a city solve homelessness

Oxford Homeless Movement, an exciting new citywide partnership, is launching on Thursday 10 October. This is an innovative, inclusive Movement aimed at reducing rough sleeping in Oxford which includes local homeless charities, housing providers, Oxford City Council, health providers, funding bodies, community-based organisations and businesses.

Street homelessness has been on the increase since the turn of the decade and hit record levels in England in 2017, including in Oxford.

We are working in partnership with local businesses including The Westgate Fund, John Lewis & Partners, Royds Withy King, Beard, Carter Jonas and College and County Letting Agents, who have pledged their support to The Movement. Together, we are looking at ways to bring additional funds into The Westgate Fund and help the city solve homelessness.

Businesses have helped with these types of projects:

• a pilot Housing First scheme has launched enabling people from South Oxfordshire sleeping rough in Oxford to receive local housing and intensive support more accommodation for those leaving psychiatric wards and needing support.
• a house for people who have been in hospital and require an extra couple of weeks off the streets to help their recuperation
• a new house opening in Oxford for ex-offenders leaving prison to give them the best chance of rehabilitating in the community
• established a homelessness prevention service, to engage and support people in the community at the first signs of homelessness
• a ‘public talking shop’ for inspiring city-wide conversations on housing and homelessness. Open House is a platform for the voices of people experiencing homelessness and insecure housing and is ensuring that this lived experience stays central to the Movement and wider action on housing and homelessness in the city.

OCF and Oxford Homeless Movement are calling on more businesses, organisations and individuals in Oxford to get involved, everyone is welcome to come along to the launch at Open House, 36 Little Clarendon St, Oxford, OX1 2HU at 11.30 am or 15.30, to find out more about this initiative and join The Movement.

Please visit oxfordhomelessmovement.org.uk and pledge your support by signing the charter or by making a donation.

Oxfordshire Community Foundation

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Oxfordshire Voice at Howbery Park

Standard Operating Procedures?

Can the Oxfordshire Voice Forum provide a standard of accreditation or champion key aspirational best practice for all businesses in Oxfordshire?

The OV Forum at Howbery Park was a highly interactive affair with absolutely every member contributing to an excellent discussion. Our two excellent speakers Grant Hayward and Chris Harvey led a constructive and robust discussion particularly in terms of the key business areas and companies that we can use as role models for better business growth, development and management.

Identifying individual leaders and those businesses which embrace and embed best practice as integral to their business development was concluded to be a key objective. Sharing ideas and almost evangelising these exemplars through OV could enable all businesses to overcome barriers in their businesses.

A mapping system to highlight the business areas where other businesses could improve and grow was seen to be an excellent route to integrate individual business change into the framework of growth and change that OV and partners were developing.

A “Manifesto” of managing change

Oxfordshire Voice is not simply about Oxfordshire as an entity at the largest scale. It is also a central focus for all businesses to engage with for sustainable and consistent growth which will benefit us all at all scales.
If we can engender change at all levels and collaborate effectively we all benefit and the Oxfordshire brand at the highest level benefits at regional, national and international levels.

Our “Common Cause” as business as a force for good is already a growing movement across the world. Our challenges are not unique although Oxford has specific barriers that can only be tackled with truly integrated thinking.

Mapping out our priorities, particularly ones that all businesses, irrespective of their resources can attain is a core element. This could lead to a shared toolkit of knowledge and best practice. Case studies of Oxfordshire business that are already on this path can be highly publicised and the toolkit enables other business to benefit from this growth.

Although the discussion was very wide ranging the focus must be on what is achievable and fits into the strategic plans at all scales. Accreditation and compliance is a challenge in all our individual sectors but our manifesto cuts across sectors to enable a shared educational and promotional process to benefit us all.

Aligning Priorities – creating change

Mapping out best business practice ideas.
How does better business practice align with a better Oxfordshire at all levels?
Creating a toolkit of resources for shared knowledge and support from key experts.
Developing a panel of experts who exemplify how their businesses are either already executing best practice or are on the road to achieving it.

The latest OV Forum was a stimulating and positive event to enable us all to be better leaders and managers, develop key priorities to move our businesses forwards and generate awareness of how we all play a role in understanding, communicating and overcoming the challenges we face at every scale.

“Oxfordshire Voice is further developing into an excellent platform to generate real change to enable us to play a role in changing Oxfordshire for the better. A better Oxfordshire for everyone irrespective of their role, age or background……it is a privilege to be involved”

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Rural Gigabit Voucher Scheme

Full Fibre Broadband for Rural Communities – Rural Gigabit Voucher Scheme

Higher value vouchers now available: There is a new, higher value full fibre broadband voucher scheme available to residents and business in rural areas. This is known as the Rural Gigabit Voucher Scheme and offers voucher values of £3,500 for SME’s and £1,500 for residential premises. Please see the link below to access the full details and conditions.

In summary, these vouchers can be used when the location is rural and the existing available speed is below 30Mb/s. The online tool automatically determines if the postcode entered qualifies for the rural voucher scheme. An application may only be made when there is more than one premise listed in the application. If the online tool evaluates that the rural voucher is not applicable, then the standard Gigabit Voucher Scheme will currently remain in place and the website will direct you to the details of that scheme.

Both of these options are funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and will operate until funds are exhausted.

Find out if you are eligible by using the postcode search, which will also list suppliers that are active in your area and be able to advise of your eligibility and guide you through the process. Full fibre broadband is a fibre-optic cable directly to your premise from the telephone exchange that is future proof and will offer the fastest and most reliable speeds available of 1 gigabit, which is the same as 1,000 megabits.

For further information regarding the Rural Gigabit Voucher scheme, please visit: https://gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk/rural Please contact broadband@oxfordshire.gov.uk should you have any questions

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Inclusive Growth Seminar Series

Inclusive Growth Seminar Series – Speakers now confirmed

As Chair of the Oxford Strategic Partnership, I would like to invite you to a seminar series on Inclusive Growth in Oxfordshire. These seminars, held in partnership with Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, will explore how we can collectively enable a more equitable and inclusive economy in our county. I would welcome your participation and contribution to this important subject.

Oxford and Oxfordshire are among the fastest growing local economies in the UK but also one of the least equal, so we want to examine what fundamental structural changes may be required to ensure our future growth delivers benefits to all residents and serves to narrow the inequalities gap.

Through the seminars we want to develop a common understanding of this challenge, learn more about the measures and policy interventions being proposed, and what strategies are being trialled elsewhere. This will help inform what we can do here to have a meaningful positive impact on inequities in income and opportunity.

Oxfordshire’s Local Industrial Strategy now includes a commitment to an Inclusive Growth Commission, development of which will be informed by the seminar discussions. This initiative is to be sponsored through the Oxfordshire Growth Board.

I very much hope you will be able to join us, for the first and subsequent seminars on this important topic.

Warm regards,
Baroness Royall
Chair of the Oxford Strategic Partnership and Principal of Somerville College, Oxford

Seminar 1 – Defining the Challenge and Potential Interventions

Wednesday 16th October, 6:00pm – 8:30pm, Somerville College

The first Inclusive Growth seminar will focus on the research, policy and data on economic and social inequality to define the real scale of the challenge nationally and locally. We will start the discussion on potential interventions to be developed through the seminar series and beyond.

If you have not received an Eventbrite invitation, please register for seminar 1 here or click on this link:

Speakers confirmed as: Ed Cox, Dr Mark Fransham, Will Hutton and Professor Brian Nolan.

• Ed Cox is Director of Public Services and Communities at the RSA, where he is leading an ambitious programme of work on people, power, place and inclusive growth. Ed previously led IPPR North for 9 years where he was a champion for devolution and much of the thinking behind the ‘Northern Powerhouse’. Before that, Ed was an adviser to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government where he played a key role in developing the SubNational Review (2007) and the Empowerment White Paper (2008).

• Mark Fransham is a Researcher at the International Inequalities Institute, London School of Economics. He is interested in comparative analysis of urban areas and their responses to economic and social change and has undertaken doctoral research at The University of Oxford about the spatial distribution of income poverty at neighbourhood level in England.

• Will Hutton is a British political economist, academic administrator, and journalist. He is currently Principal of Hertford College, University of Oxford, and Chair of the Big Innovation Centre, an initiative from the Work Foundation (formerly the Industrial Society), having been chief executive of the Work Foundation from 2000 to 2008. He was formerly editor-in-chief for The Observer.

• Brian Nolan is Director of Employment, Equity and Growth and Professor of Social Policy, Department of Social Policy and Intervention (University of Oxford). He is an economist by training, with a doctorate from the London School of Economics, and his main areas of research are income inequality, poverty, and the economics of social policy. His work seeks to understand why current growth models are failing those on middle and lower incomes in many developed countries, and what policies may help to promote better, fairer growth.

Seminar 2 – Place-based Strategies

Monday 28th October, 6:00pm – 8:30pm, Kellogg College

Economic inequalities and deprivation are often concentrated in specific areas of cities and towns, or affect places in specific ways. The solutions to the inequality challenge can also lie within these places strengths and opportunities. This seminar will focus on lessons learned from cities and organisations that are taking the initiative to lead publicprivate place based strategies and investments.

If you have not received an Eventbrite invitation, please register for seminar 2 here or click on this link:

Speakers confirmed as: Gareth Hart, Bev Hindle, Neil McInroy and Jayne Woodley.

• Gareth Hart is Chair of Plymouth’s Inclusive Growth Group, a working group of the Plymouth Growth Board. The Growth Board is a private sector led partnership, bringing together representatives from important city organisations to collaborate and drive forward the economic priorities of Plymouth. Gareth led the bid that saw Plymouth become the UK’s first ‘Social Enterprise City’.

• Bev Hindle is Director of the Oxfordshire Growth Board and Oxford to Cambridge Arc Leaders and Chief Executives groups. His is responsible for coordinating implementation of the £215 million Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal agreed with Government in 2018, which includes developing the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 that will consider the needs of the county and align its strategies so that plans for future housing and infrastructure are joined up.

• Neil McInroy is Chief Executive of the Centre Local Economic Strategies (CLES) a leading independent think and do tank, realising progressive economics for people and place. CLES’s aim is to achieve social justice, good local economies and effective public services for everyone, everywhere. Neil’s work as the Chief Executive is centred on strategic policy making, cooperation, developing strategies, and public sector reform.

• Jayne Woodley is CEO of Oxfordshire Community Foundation an independent charity connecting people who care with causes that matter. Since it was established in 1995 it has stewarded £12 million in donations from Oxfordshire’s generous givers, grown its endowment fund to nearly £5 million, and awarded £6.3 million in grants, benefiting around 2,000 local charities and community groups. They also host the responsible business group Reciprocate.

Seminar 3 – Economic Opportunities for All

Wednesday 20th November, 6:00pm – 8:30pm, City of Oxford College, Blackbird Leys Campus

This seminar will focus on the themes of workforce skills and training, employer engagement and initiatives, and the role the business sector can play to expand economic opportunities to all.

If you have not received an Eventbrite invitation, please register for seminar 3 here or click on this link:

Speakers confirmed as: Trevor Philips, Anna Swaithes, and Paul Roberts.

• Trevor Philips is a writer and television producer. He is the cofounder of the diversity analytics consultancy Webber Phillips, and Chairman of Green Park Interim and Executive Search. He is the Chairman of the global freedom of expression campaign charity Index on Censorship, a director of the Barbican Arts Centre, and a VicePresident of the Royal Television Society. He was the President of the John Lewis Partnership Council until 2018, and founding chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

• Anna Swaithes is Head of Responsible Business, Inclusive Economy Unit, Department for Media, Culture & Sport. Her focus is on building partnerships between government, business and broader civil society to create social value and build sustainable businesses, and on driving a culture of business transparency and accountability.

• Paul Roberts is the CEO of Aspire, an Oxfordshirebased social enterprise which supports vulnerable local people into and towards employment and housing. Aspire runs social businesses which offer professional facilities management services to local councils, businesses, academic institutions and private customers. He is also co-Chair of Oxfordshire’s multi-agency Housing & Homelessness Group, and a Director of Makespace Oxford (Community Interest Company).

Any queries please contact inclusivegrowth@oxford.gov.uk or Shelley Ghazi on sghazi@oxford.gov.uk

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OV Introduces NEXUS

The B4 community has established itself over the past 14 years by bringing together organisations from the public, private and third sectors, providing the platforms for all of our members to gain profile, learn and grow together.

Oxfordshire Voice was launched to give organisations in Oxfordshire the opportunity to have their say and help local government shape policy. However, despite the fact that we have some great partners in Oxfordshire Voice, to be a true voice we needed wider representation from all sectors at all levels.

NEXUS was launched to provide charities, social enterprises, small businesses, new businesses, entrepreneurs and more with the opportunity to have their voice heard through Oxfordshire Voice but also make invaluable connections through B4 and gain profile at BIO2020 (see opposite)….all at no cost.

Partnerships are formed between sponsors (existing B4 and OV members and partners) and partners (charities, social enterprises etc…..). Sponsors pay a fixed fee for a series of benefits that are mirrored for the partner. Sponsors and partners will also be able to submit any good news stories coming out of their partnership during the year and we will promote these stories in B4 Magazine, our e-Newsletters, social media and on our B4 website.

NEXUS is designed to grow a spirit of collaboration, sharing and support for the partners and will culminate with the NEXUS Awards at our 7th annual BIO event in June 2020, a black tie dinner where partnerships which have worked particularly well over the course of the year will be recognised with a NEXUS Award.

OV Partner, Grant Hayward of Collaborent, came up with the name NEXUS and feels the programme is perfect for many organisations in Oxfordshire who will benefit hugely. ‘I work with so many charities, social enterprises, not for profit organisations and small businesses who would never be able to consider investing in networking and conferences. As we know, particularly in the third sector, every penny counts. I am sure I speak for all of the organisations that could benefit from NEXUS, to have the ability to connect with the incredible companies in B4 and Oxfordshire Voice, not to mention the profile on offer at BIO2020, this really is an invaluable and welcomed opportunity.”

For more information, visit www.nexus.b4-business.com

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Collaborent OV Partner

Building a more resilient, purposeful and attractive business

Why this is important – it’s not just a “nice to have”

I tend not to refer to CSR or Corporate Social Responsibility these days as it’s so often misunderstood and underestimated. It has also been regarded as something that can be added once a business is well-established, but we are truly witnessing a sea change in the ways businesses are operating. Companies leading the way are recognising not only the shared responsibility they have to help make the world a better place, but also the opportunities opened up by embracing this and embedding it into the heart of their businesses – whether start-ups or well-established, and here is why……

An employer of choice – attracting and retaining quality people: The increasingly competitive market for quality staff is demanding that potential employers become far more attractive. Equally, those already employed are seeking far more satisfaction and fulfilment from their work, as well as having more flexibility and feeling valued and engaged. This is particularly important to younger employees.

Winning more customers and satisfying the ones you have: All of us as customers are becoming far more discerning in terms of who we buy from. There is also a shift in thinking from the public, especially around the ways those we buy from treat the environment and generally operate their companies. Social Media means that bad news can go viral in an instant, as can great stories!

Investment: As well as seeking the best return on funds, investors are increasingly looking for ways their money can make more positive social and environmental impact. Therefore, there is an opportunity for positive attraction, but also the danger of deterring potential investors if you aren’t operating in many of the ways you can.

What can you do?

Develop a strategy: Clearly this all should start at the top, but it’s equally essential for genuine engagement from all levels within the business. Understanding how all areas of a business are or can be affected is vital, as well as the ways these areas can engage and benefit.

There are a number of models that can help with the overall approach. One, which is completely free, is offered by B Lab, supporting and promoting B Corporations and can be accessed here: https://bimpactassessment.net.

The B Impact Assessment is an online tool that helps you analyse and assess your current position, but also highlights ways in which you can improve your business. It is broken down into 5 main areas:

Workers: the ways in which you manage and care for your people.
Community: The way the company engages in and supports the local community.
Environment: The impact it has on the environment
Customers: The way the company trades up and down its supply chain, treats customers and suppliers and the products and services it provides.
Governance: The type of legal entity and the way the business is run, including involvement of employees in the decision-making process.

As a “B Leader”, having trained with B Lab to help companies consider becoming B Corporations, I work with this tool and find it extremely useful and enlightening as to what can be achieved. I therefore wholeheartedly recommend accessing it to benchmarking the way your company operates, but to also shine a light on the ideas and opportunities you have to build an even stronger and more positively impactful company. Other models and resources are also out there, including Blueprint For Better Business (https://www.blueprintforbusiness.org) and Purposely. (https://getpurpose.ly).

Practical, local, activities and engagement: There are so many things you can do to develop a more purposeful business and have more positive social and environmental impact, so it’s not possible to provide a comprehensive listing here. However, below are just some practical ideas and initiatives that can help you on your way.

Inclusive Employment: This is an increasingly topical subject and one which, as a former employer, I had no real understanding of back then. Since I moved from the corporate world to this area of operation I have learned so much about the opportunities this brings to employers. And it’s not simply about gender and ethnicity. Check out Aspire Oxford’s offering on Inclusive Recruitment: https://www.aspireoxfordshire.org/what-we-offer

Workplace Wellbeing: More employers are keen to improve the ways in which they can support their staff, although sometimes aren’t aware of precisely how they can go about doing so. The Oxfordshire Workplace Wellbeing Network was set up by employers, for employers and is a peer network that is free to join. You can join the LinkedIn Group here: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8515963

Employee volunteering: Boosting morale and providing the opportunity for your people to get more involved in the local community is not only good for your business, but great for them and the local community too. There are some exciting initiatives developing, so watch this space, but in the meantime, you can download this handy guide: http://reciprocateox.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Reciprocate-Volunteering-Handbook-2018-ONLINE.pdf

Community engagement is a huge topic in itself and there are so many ways businesses can develop strong, mutually beneficial relationships with the local community. Companies often immediately think about supporting local charities, which is absolutely something I would endorse and encourage. However, there are many more opportunities including local schools and colleges as well as supporting local community initiatives, business networks, parish councils and other local committees. Check out these resources for more information:
OxLEP Skills team for connections with local schools
The ROBIN Network – sharing skills and resources across sectors: www.robinoxford.org.uk

A particularly topical subject currently and another area that has a myriad of elements you can follow to improve your business. Check out:
OxFutures – http://oxfutures.org
The UN Sustainable Development Goals –
Bioregional’s One Planet Living model –
Better Business (https://www.betterbusinesspack.com), developed by Seacourt Print.

Marketplace – Customers and suppliers
Asking more questions of your suppliers, the provenance of your products and services as well as being more transparent and responsive to customers can multiply your impact. Do you pay your suppliers promptly and treat them fairly? Buying from sources closer to you and from local, independent businesses can make a difference to the environment and local economy. Do you “Buy Social”? https://www.socialenterprise.org.uk/campaigns/buy-social-for-a-better-world

It’s appreciated that most readers will be with private limited companies including micro businesses and perhaps even sole traders. But this sub-topic is still relevant to you whatever type or size. The word Governance is being used here in the widest sense, It could be the legal entity, the way a company is structured, managed and run. More private companies, like B Corps are embedding commitments to positive social and environmental impact in their Articles of Association to demonstrate transparency and accountability for the ways in which they operate.

Some companies are even choosing to share the wealth of the business with employees and a great local example of this is The Rooflight Company: https://www.therooflightcompany.co.uk. But even mainstream, private limited companies can engage and involve staff more in strategic development, the decision-making processes and operational aspects of the company to evolve it to become a Business as a Force ror Good

In summary

Hopefully this has helped opened your mind to some new ideas about embedding this as “business as usual” and shown how they might also help solve or alleviate some of your day to day challenges and open up business development opportunities for you. It’s my belief that companies that don’t adopt these ways of working will soon fall behind. Customers won’t want to buy from them, people won’t want to work for them, and investors will be directing their funds elsewhere. I am even seeing suppliers becoming fussier.

But this needs to be undertaken authentically, engaging your people, listening to your clients and other stakeholders and peers.

If you’d like to explore this further, send feedback or just connect, then please do get in touch:


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Workplace productivity tools

STL Communications provide IT and Communications to businesses in Oxfordshire, and have over 20 years’ experience in the industry. Paul Ballinger, gives his thoughts on how technology can help organisations embrace the modern workplace.

In recent years we have found that technology is changing everything – the way we work, live and do business. The modern workplace is evolving at pace with most organisations now having a flexible workforce, new intelligent business models and digital tools that allows teams to connect and collaborate.

As a result at STL, our traditional ways of doing things are being replaced by new smarter ways of working. With just over 40 employees, our business was traditionally office based. However, we have recently introduced a combination of workplace productivity tools, an efficient operating system and smart applications to seamlessly support employees and encourage collaboration.

Employees, such as our field based engineers or sales team, need to be able to connect back to head office and immediately have access and transparency to data and systems – all done with the complete confidence that everything is resilient, secure and compliant. We enable them with office collaboration tools which provides access to all files and emails from anywhere. We also utilise video conferencing allowing our mobile workforce to discuss and meet virtually with screen sharing and video chat.

This has led to a number of benefits such as an improved work/life balance for our employees with less travel time and flexible working options, as well as increasing efficiencies and streamlining processes within the business.

Environmentally, in addition to our flexible working strategy, we have been focused on decreasing our carbon footprint by reducing travel and encouraging car sharing wherever possible, removing paperwork with electronic sharing of data and storage and encouraging our employees and customers to better use IT and communications so that they can reap the benefits of flexible working.

STL Communications Ltd
01993 777148

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