We spoke to Leonora Rae, Head of Social Responsibility at EdenTree Investment Management, about the journey EdenTree have taken to double-down on their responsible business practices since joining Heart of the City last year, and how they’ve brought people along on the journey to really catalyse change. Here’s their story.
What’s been some of the highlights of your last year with Heart of the City?
After a year into our membership of Heart of the City, it’s been great to reflect on how far we’ve come, in many ways thanks to the support of the Foundation for Responsible Business programme and our programme manager Olivia. Whilst we’ve been on our responsible business journey for some years now, the end of 2022 saw us commit new resources and energy and it felt important to partner with an expert like Heart of the City to support us during this exciting stage.
Initially, we were keen to benefit from the insights shared in the online modules which provided a lot of comfort and valuable information as we started to refresh, formalise, and communicate our new corporate responsibility strategy. But quickly we realised there was so much more on offer.
As many of you will know, Heart of the City is not only a fountain of knowledge but a great connector of people, and people are really what this is all about. The highlights have been the in-depth chats with Heart of the City Ambassadors, the topic-specific surgeries and the ‘coffee and chat’ pairings which have all been hugely beneficial. The generosity of spirit shown by peers from across the city and beyond is both encouraging and heart-warming.
What positive changes has EdenTree seen?
The main changes came at the start of 2023 when, to mark five years of corporate responsibility initiatives, we formalised our strategy into three focus areas on People, Community and Environment. We refreshed our Corporate Responsibility Committee membership by ensuring representation from different departments across the firm. Around this time, I was paired with a fantastic Heart of the City Ambassador, Charles Joly, who supported us with an external view of our revised strategy and helped simplify our narrative for maximum impact. Charles and I recently caught up and reflected on the progress made and areas to elevate going into 2024. It’s people like Charles that make working in corporate responsibility a total joy!
What initiatives have you started?
EdenTree is proudly part of the Benefact Group, the 3rd largest corporate donor to charity in the UK, and we are fortunate to benefit from a robust charitable giving programme and climate strategy. In 2023 we launched several new initiatives around our ‘People’ pillar, both internally to strengthen D&I efforts, and externally to engage the wider industry.
We’ve reviewed our hiring practices and partnerships with charities and inclusion specialists. Members of the Corporate Responsibility Committee are now involved in the recruitment process which has benefitted us as a business, as well as the candidates interviewing with us.
An example of an external partnership we’re excited about is the Lord Mayor’s Appeal initiative ‘We Can Be’ and The Girl’s Network mentoring programme. EdenTree is acutely aware of the role we can play in supporting and welcoming more women into the investment industry and are pleased to have eight female staff across teams and levels involved in the year-long mentoring programme.
We’ve also started several initiatives to collaborate with our peers and clients, and included charity partners in this, so the term ‘Community’ for us has broadened. We run a regular ‘Charity Partnerships Coffee Club’ with peers working with charities, and we’ve started hosting roundtable discussions on topics such as embedding sustainability with experts like Greener & Cleaner.
In your role, getting people engaged is vital. How have you brought people with you on this journey?
At EdenTree we have unwavering senior management support and commitment. This role reports into the CEO Andy Clark, who is a huge supporter of all our initiatives. We’re also fortunate to have the support of our employee-led Corporate Responsibility Committee with engaged colleagues from across the business, running local initiatives across our three strategic areas. I’m hugely grateful for the senior management and employee support and it’s in part thanks to our revised strategy. People will be reluctant to join you on a journey if they don’t feel personally connected to it or understand its purpose, so continuous storytelling is key.
You’ve definitely been busy! What’s next for EdenTree?
Following a year of our refreshed committee we’ve undertaken a review of our membership, creating space for new ideas and new joiners to contribute to our initiatives. It’s crucial to keep things moving, energetic and to have the ‘doers’ at the table. We’ve also encouraged non-committee members to act as champions for particular areas to engage more colleagues in the business.
2023 was all about ‘going for it’, trialling partnerships and initiatives and creating a renewed sense of energy in the business, something every business can benefit from in a post-Covid world. 2024 will continue to deliver that same energy, with a focus on the most intentional and impactful initiatives that help us be a better business.
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