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The value of volunteering at Reed Exhibitions

Published: February 2021

By: Gillian Cartwright

People volunteer for a variety of reasons. Many do it to give back to their communities, or make a difference to those in need. For others, it provides a chance to meet new people, develop new skills, and build on their life experiences. Most are united in saying that volunteering is incredibly rewarding. It makes them feel happier, healthier and more fulfilled.

Reed Exhibitions has a long history of supporting our event and local communities through volunteering and fund-raising. We recognise our responsibilities in giving back to the people and places we work among – but we also see the very real benefits our employees get from doing so.

Despite our best intentions, finding time to volunteer in our busy lives can be difficult – which is why making time is so important. Through RELX Cares, our global community programme, every Reed Exhibitions’ employee gets two full days’ paid leave per year to dedicate to their own community work.

To focus minds on giving back, and celebrate our commitment to making a positive impact, every September is RELX Cares Month, when our people unite to undertake hundreds of activities in support of our communities around the world.

In addition to traditional hands-on volunteering, many employees use their professional skills to help charities with marketing, setting up a website, mentoring and much more. Others take part in team days in support of local charities.  Many of our relationships with local ‘partners’ date back years, involving our volunteers in everything from property renovations, gardening and cleaning, to providing companionship for the elderly, ‘volunteaching’ underprivileged students at local colleges, and preparing and sharing lunch with the homeless.

Our US Finance Director, Frank Snyder, has been a dedicated volunteer since joining Reed Exhibitions 11 years ago. His passion to support communities enhances family lives and nurtures a strong and connected volunteering ethos within our Norwalk office. So much so, that in 2019 he received a Recognising Those Who Care Award’ in honour of his outstanding contributions. Frank joined eight colleagues from RELX businesses around the world on a mission to Ghana to help set up a Children’s library in Koforidua, to encourage more children to explore their passions through reading. “The pride that we felt as a group in helping with this important initiative was more than words could ever express” he said.

In-person and virtual volunteering

In 2020, nearly 7,000 RELX employees were engaged in volunteering through Cares. Together we generated cash, in-kind and time donations to the value of £17.6 million.

The pandemic challenged us all at Reed Exhibitions in ways we never expected, but it was never going to stand in the way of our volunteers. Our communities needed us more than ever before, and if we couldn’t support them in person, we would do it virtually.

In Brazil, our colleagues collected and distributed food parcels to more than 1,000 event workers and their families who had lost their income due to the pandemic – the security, cleaning, receptionists and general labour teams who are so critical to the running of our events in normal times. They also collected toys to donate to the event workers’ children, and sent letters to the elderly, isolated in nursing homes, through the project ‘If this street were mine.’

Volunteers from our German team joined forces with a local environmental conservation agency to remove garbage and waste from the banks of the Rhine. More than 80 kg of refuse was collected in the space of just two hours!

In China, eleven volunteers from our Reed Huabo office spent a day in Hemu Primary School school, supporting classroom education and organising a School Sports Day.  Reed Huabo has been supporting improvements to the infrastructure and facilities of Hemu Primary School in Lantang Town, Heyuan City of Guangdong Province since 2013, and provides education-aid once or twice each year.

Alysia McAuliffe and Penny Pollard in our Australia office are members of an app called ‘Be My Eyes’ which connects blind and low-vision people with sighted volunteers for visual assistance through  live video. During the pandemic, they have helped with everything from shopping online with the aid of voice assistance, to locating missing washing! “One lady I was assisting counts each item of laundry when she washes it, hangs it on the line, and brings it in so she can identify if any has gone AWOL” explains Alysia. “Through the video call, I was able to view the missing items in her garden and guide her toward them.”

And, unable to hold their annual volunteer fair in-person, our US office hosted its first virtual volunteer fair. Employees could talk online directly with the eight participating charities (many of them long term ‘partners’) to find out how they can volunteer on their own or with friends/family members during the pandemic.  Earlier in the year, the office won a Corporate Good Neighbour ‘Light a Fire’ Award for going above and beyond in their efforts to help those in need in Connecticut.

Caring for our own

Many of us at Reed Exhibitions have experienced feelings of loneliness, anxiety and increased stress while working remotely during the pandemic. And our volunteers have come to the rescue here too, giving up their valuable time to help their colleagues stay connected, active and engaged with everything from online yoga, stretch and meditation sessions to cookery demonstrations and quizzes.

Florence Dinar, Portfolio Business Development Manager in the UK, was nominated by many colleagues for going ‘above and beyond’ during the first lockdown. Florence delivered twice-weekly lunchtime stretch sessions via Zoom as part of Reed Exhibitions’ Wellbeing programme. She also conducted regular aerobic sessions for her elderly neighbours from the communal garden where she lives.

“The exercises helped our people do a work-out in a safe environment without having to go out and without needing much space” says Florence. “I gave tips on posture and posted videos online for those who couldn’t join the sessions during the day. My older neighbours followed from their balconies and Zoom, it was simply amazing.”

The examples given above only touch on the enormous contributions our compassionate and committed volunteers made during 2020, and will continue to make.

Reflecting on their achievements, Reed Exhibitions CEO Hugh Jones said: “I am humbled that despite the internal disruption we still managed to turn our attention outwards to the communities that surround us to proactively help and support those in need. We have found ways to connect and support colleagues, bought together their event communities to make a difference, and helped those within our own industry who are less resilient to the current crisis. It makes me proud to see their remarkable efforts and I look forward to celebrating further achievements through RELX Cares in 2021 and beyond.”