We are committed to creating a lasting positive social impact in our communities. Our Statement of Intent “The Time is Now” sets out our sustainability ambitions, including our commitment to create £10 million of social value by 2030.
Creating Sustainable Relationships helps put our ambitions into practice with initiatives on issues we care about that have a direct effect on London. The strategy also forms part of the social value guidelines issued to our development teams to ensure that we monitor, manage and measure the social impact of our development activities.
For more on how we integrate social value within our development activities see our Sustainable Development Brief.
The themes of our strategy reflect key priorities for London:
- Breaking the cycle of youth homelessness;
- Improving air quality and urban greening;
- Addressing the skills gap through engagement with education; and
- Mitigating the risk of modern slavery.
We also report progress against our community strategy annually through our Social impact report. In 2020, the pandemic increased awareness of the inequalities faced by many in our communities. Accordingly, our focus shifted to the immediate crisis and how, through our existing charity partnerships and our COVID-19 Community Fund, we could support those most in need in our London communities.
Breaking the cycle of youth homelessness
raised in the last three years
of staff took part in our 2019 community day
With youth homelessness in London at record levels, we committed to a three-year partnership with Centrepoint in May 2018. Following the COVID-19 outbreak, this was extended by one year to March 2022. Centrepoint is dedicated to tackling youth homelessness across London and to getting young people back into work, this made them the obvious organisation for us to work with as our charity partner.
During our three years of engagement we have raised more than £360,000 and supported them through two Community Days.
We are also working with the Centrepoint team to find opportunities for work placements within our supply chain. This helps their young people ready themselves to return to a full-time job. Last year, we extended our partnership to provide pro bono support for their Independent Living Programme which aims to provide truly affordable housing to enable young people to live independently and move on from supported housing services.
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak we increased our corporate donation and kick started their emergency appeal with £25,000. We also provided gifts in kind donations such as food supplies and hand sanitiser.
In 2019, we held our second Community Day with three activities on offer:
- A charity bike ride, which raised funds for Centrepoint and Groundwork London;
- Upcycling of old furniture in Barnet; and
- Improving biodiversity in a community garden in Hackney and Burgess Park in Southwark.
For more on our activities with Centrepoint during this financial year, see our Social impact report.
Improving air quality and urban greening
Poor air quality is a key health risk impacting London communities. We partner with organisations who are focused on improving London’s air quality and increasing biodiversity, recognising the health and wellbeing benefits that access to green spaces can bring.
As a member of Wild West End and London National Park’s City Developer Forum we are working with other property owners to enhance biodiversity and increase connections with green space and nature across London. During the year, we delivered a 62% improvement in biodiversity net gain across our portfolio.
Through our community strategy, we formed a long-term partnership with Groundwork London. In total, £80,000 has been provided to improve local air quality around schools and fund the creation of the Air Quality and Green Infrastructure Toolkit for London schools.
Addressing the skills gap
Partnering with schools, colleges, and universities to provide skills and employability initiatives is essential if we are to prepare young people for the world of work and inspire the workforce of the future.
Since 2013, we have built a relationship with the University of Westminster Construction Programme. This year, we supported nearly 450 students through presentations and lectures on sustainability, BIM and smart buildings using our developments as real-life case studies. We also continued our sponsorship of Pathways to Property Pathways to Property, an initiative from Reading University working with underrepresented groups to create a more diverse property industry.
Mitigating the risk of modern slavery
We seek to ensure that there is no slavery or human trafficking within any part of our business or in our supply chain. See our Modern Slavery Statement and our Supplier Code of Conduct. We also work with our design and construction teams on ethical sourcing of materials and labour, see our Sustainable Development Brief for more.
Social impact in action
For our first Community Day in support of Centrepoint we: Transformed a garden of a residential service painting fences, clearing weeds and installing a bike shed; “Blagged” £7,400 worth of much needed goods, including ‘Blue Monday’ bags, soft furnishings, books, memory sticks and equipment for the training teams; Together with Centrepoint, helped brainstorm plans to tackle a challenge that the Engagement Team were facing; and took £250 and used it to create a raffle, raising more than £10,000 with prizes generously donated by some of our occupiers and suppliers. 86% of our team took part in a fantastic day
Through our support of Groundwork London, we were able to provide seed funding for Oliver Goldsmith school in Southwark, the funding unlocked an additional grant from the Greener City Fund and together we were able to fund the installation of a green wall and additional planting, to provide a green barrier for the playground. Work was carried out over the Easter holidays and the children returned to school, able to use their playground as an external learning environment with the green wall acting as a barrier between the children and the busy road adjacent to the school.
Bankside Open Spaces Trust
The link between nature and wellbeing was made clear during the pandemic and so last year we supported Bankside Open Spaces Trust (BOST), an environmental charity working to transform green spaces in SE1. Our donation enabled the charity to bring their team off furlough and allowed them to keep the green spaces that they maintain open to support Southwark’s residents.
“The funding received from GPE was a game changer for the charity at a time when over 50% of our income disappeared overnight.”
Charlotte Gilsenan, CEO at Bankside Open Spaces Trust
Education and Skills
The pandemic resulted in a significant amount of lost schooling which has had a devastating impact on people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Through partnering with the National Literacy Trust, we were able to reach 15 disadvantaged young people supporting them to improve their literacy skills and employability outcomes by fully funding a virtual internship programme. The programme involved virtual employability workshops, business masterclasses and one-to-one mentoring support. As a direct result of the programme, four young people achieved a job outcome, with the remaining participants returning to education to pursue future aspirations.
Mitigating the risk of modern slavery
Victims of modern slavery were particularly exposed to the impacts of the pandemic because it exacerbated existing vulnerabilities. We provided financial support to Hestia’s Phoenix Project and enabled Hestia to respond to victims’ needs, supporting 56 adults and over 60 dependent children in London.
"GPE’s generous donation means Hestia can be there for these individuals. Their contribution will support the work of our award-winning Phoenix Project; a pioneering volunteer-led project to help adults (and their children) recovering from immense trauma to rebuild their lives.”
Laura Dawson, Deputy Director for Innovation and Partnerships at Hestia