B4SI News

‘In Conversation With’ Sarah Wells, Community Manager, Bettys and Taylors of Harrogate


  1. Please describe your role and responsibilities. How many years have you been in the company?

I have worked at Bettys & Taylors Group for a number of years, starting out with my first Saturday job in the Bettys Ilkley branch when I was 16. I then worked part time whilst I was at university and throughout my Master’s degree and since then I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work across several roles within the Group before finding my passion in supporting our community. The business is strongly committed to supporting its people to progress, nurturing personal development, and offering  opportunities to move across different parts of the business in order to develop skillsets and areas of expertise. My interest in social impact came from working with our Community Champion, Chris Powell, who worked closely with our community and had set up our flagship community recycling project, the Cone Exchange.

I have been in my current role as Community Manager for the last 10 years and I look after our Group approach to community investment. As a Group we recognise that we depend upon resilient communities for our employees, customers, and suppliers, both present and future. On a local level, this means that I look after a broad range of activities and initiatives that support these aims to have a positive and sustainable impact on people and communities. My role is therefore very varied and includes developing our community strategy, managing our grants scheme with our local community foundation, as well as collaborating with our teams around the business on charity fundraising projects.

  1. How has your social impact programme evolved at your company? What role did B4SI play in its evolution and development?

As a values-led family business, we can think and act differently to most businesses. We believe strongly that business can and should exist for the wider benefit of society, the environment and all our stakeholders. Our globally responsible approach to business embraces improving standards throughout our supply chain, supporting the communities in which we work, reducing our environmental footprint and finding ways to have a positive impact on the planet. These principles inform every decision we make and guide the day-to-day operations of our business.

Aligned with this, our social impact programme has evolved significantly over the last five years, and we continue to develop this alongside the changing economic and social dynamics that are impacting the communities we work alongside.  We have moved from being very active in our local community but with a slightly ad hoc approach to community support to now looking more strategically to the material issues that are facing our business and also the communities that we are working within. This increased focus became apparent during the pandemic and how we responded to the need within our community and certainly B4SI played a really important role in the advice and support that they offered to members during this time.

  1. What are the challenges you encounter in driving your social impact agenda and how do you stay inspired?

Recently the biggest challenge I have found is that we are moving from crisis to crisis and that makes planning a serious challenge. From emergency response to the pandemic, to helping community groups and charities to rebuild post-Covid, to the Ukraine crisis and now into the cost-of-living crisis and recession. Part of all of this is the balance and understanding between the business context and the community needs which is a difficult balance to find.

  1. Please give an example of how the B4SI Framework (or its tools and additional services) has helped you in your role, and your company.

As I’ve touched on already, the B4SI framework has been really useful in providing a really clear picture of how much we are investing as a business into our local community with distinct ways of demonstrating in-kind support, community investment and charitable donations.  This has enabled us to build a picture of how this investment changes over time and with the help of our account manager, Andy, look to what the next steps might be for us as we develop our approach over the coming years.

  1. What is your biggest accomplishment or learning so far?

We have been lucky enough to have our community work shortlisted for awards over the last few years and whilst we might not have won all of them, it’s a testament to the hard work that goes into our community work across the Group. We are a values-led business and this creates an environment where our community approach can flourish and its something all our people can feel proud of but for me it was our response to the Covid-19 pandemic that was something I am personally very proud. The pandemic affected every area of our business, and we had to be agile to overcome daily challenges. It took an extraordinary effort by our people to keep production and distribution going, as well as responding to increased demand and ensuring supply chains were maintained. Our people showed great flexibility, understanding and willingness to adapt to new ways of working.

We continued to operate to a stakeholder model, and all employees were paid in full, even when parts of the business were closed, without relying on public funds such as the Job Retention Scheme.   We established an internal ‘recruitment agency’ to redeploy employees from closed parts of the business into other roles within the Group.

The business also made ‘Five Covid-19 Commitments’ to our tea and coffee suppliers at origin, honouring all long-term agreements and contracts, support with payment terms and access to credit if needed and the launch of a £500,000 global Emergency Response Relief Fund.

Working for a family owned, values-led business at such a difficult time felt very special and our business approach to supporting our people, our local community and the communities we work with overseas was something to feel very proud of.

  1. What is your motto in life?

I think as a working mother there is one motto that has always stuck with me and my apologies as I am not sure who to credit it to but essentially life is a juggle with many balls in the air and at times you need to know which balls are made of glass and will break if you drop them and which are plastic and will bounce. I love this analogy as in so many areas of our lives it feels like we are juggling!

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