Aros’ structured journey to responsible business began following an invitation from the Lord Mayor of the City of London to join the Heart of the City (HotC) Foundation Programme in November 2016, and we feel lucky to have joined as a member of their programme in January 2017.
Access to HotC’s great schedule of seminars and online resources provided the chance to outline our strategy across 3, 6, 9 and 12 months, and integrate social and environmental concerns into our business operations. Choosing four cornerstones of workplace, community, marketplace and environment, we then elected to see where best to start this new journey within an over-arching, broader, clearer review of our culture, our values and our purpose.
As a values-led organisation that attracts, develops and retains the best talent, our team at Aros are our largest asset. Their points of view, engagement and wellbeing are important to us, so we consulted them to identify eight areas to focus on; voting to see where they would like to channel their time and energy. From the eight, we selected ‘quality education’ and ‘widening access to our profession’, which spanned the workplace and community cornerstones. This encouraged us to stretch beyond a healthy work experience programme for students we tended to know through connections. We are now building relationships with local schools, Construction Youth Trust and students we did not already know – who otherwise had no access to learn if architecture was a career option for them.
During summer 2017 eight candidates joined us for eight weeks, and in 2018 more candidates have visited throughout the year (including those from Construction Youth Trust’s Budding Brunels programme). We also go out to visit schools for Q&A sessions at career days, advise on how to apply to architecture schools and hold university CV surgeries for job applications.
As part of our wider view on the importance of giving back, we have also granted one day’s paid volunteering and donation matching up to £100 per person which allows our team to fundraise for more personal endeavours as well as for other charities.
In tandem with this we continue to spend time and energy across the four cornerstones. This includes using PaperCut to avoid wasting printed paper, monitoring our energy consumption, taking part in Adopt-a-Plot of land through Better Bankside and designing and building a Folly (pictured) for the London Festival of Architecture. We continue to enhance our own workplace with planting, increasing supplier diversity and promoting Aros-branded tote bags among many others. This September, staff will nominate new charities and four will be selected by vote to pinpoint our future attention and volunteering time.
Staff appraisals prove that our efforts have made Aros a better business – an environment our team are proud to work in. It is not about individuals on their own in this – it is more about the enrichment and greater purpose in our practice’s work. There is still work to be done, but with a strategy in place it is much easier.
Ultimately, it is demonstrating that we at Aros are people’s people: building environments for people. Individuals cannot deliver that alone, and, like all our projects, it is a real team effort.
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