Ethical Christmas gifts with AECOM

‘Tis the season to shower your friends, family and even colleagues with gifts, but have you considered searching for meaningful presents offered from social enterprises? Not only will you come across new brands or ideas that you haven’t encountered before, but you’ll also help make a positive impact, which I’m sure your recipient would appreciate as well!

Take Heart of the City contributor AECOM for example. They told us about their initiative to have a positive social impact through Christmas gifts for their employees.

AECOM is a global professional services company with 100,000 employees worldwide and 7,000 UK staff. During the festive period, AECOM, like most businesses, likes to show their appreciation for their employees’ hard work by giving them a Christmas gift. For many years, they gave their staff a bottle of wine, but this changed in 2017 when a small team came together to introduce a new initiative incorporating gifts from charities and social enterprises. The new ‘ethical Christmas gift bag’ better reflects AECOM’s values: showing appreciation to employees and delivering meaningful social impact at the same time.

The gift bags include a range of products, from Christmas decorations created by an anti-trafficking charity in Moldova (The Beginning of Life) to soap made by people in the UK with disabilities (The Soap Co). The Ideas Partnership, a charity who run a social enterprise in Kosovo, made the gift bag. Every staff member receives a handmade tote bag, designed by children of AECOM employees and chosen through a competition – see the picture!

By giving “gifts for you that are gifts for them”, AECOM volunteers have delivered an inspiring initiative that’s positively improving the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable communities. For example:

      • A team of women in Kosovo earned enough money to send their children to school for another term
      • Two visually impaired people in the UK got jobs crafting beautiful soap bars
      • Farmers in Madagascar were fairly paid for their work growing coffee beans
      • A contribution was made for repairs at a school in India
      • The idea was born to build a community centre for children from disadvantaged backgrounds in Kosovo – and it’s now in progress!

As you can see, the impacts of AECOM’s switch to social enterprises have been positive from both a staff engagement and social value perspective. But your business doesn’t have to be large to accomplish great things. You can start small and ask that this year’s secret Santa gifts from from social enterprises (that’s what we’re doing at Heart of the City!). If you want to give your colleagues some ideas, check out the 2019 Social Enterprise Gift Guide.

You also don’t have to limit your social enterprise shopping to the festive period. Look at your suppliers and check whether there’s a social enterprise that can provide a quality substitute, like From Babies With Love, for maternity and paternity gifts. From catering, cleaning, floristry, printers, designers and office supplies to manufacturers of all kinds of goods – you name it, there’ll be a social enterprise that supplies it, and Social Enterprise UK  can support you to connect with them. Some other organisations that could give you ideas are:

      • Social Supermarket, an online platform which showcases products with purpose and offers corporate festive hampers.
      • Concept to Creation, which promotes experiences, wining and dining options offered by social enterprises in London. (Full disclosure – Karina from Heart of the City is a writer for them!)
      • CoGo, an app that recommends businesses you can shop with that are tackling the issues you care about most
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