Our communities

Local community projects, nationwide and international projects, education and scholarships

Local community projects

Local involvement on a nationwide basis, thousands of donations, £1.5m contributed

Every Howdens depot, manufacturing site, distribution and support centre, has an important role in the life of its local community. Each of our sites depends on its local community for its success and growth; for its customers and its staff. Our culture is based on personal relationships and individual accountability, and we encourage our people to support and engage with local community activities and charities.

We make our products, time and cash available for staff at local sites to get involved in their communities in all sorts of ways. This year we have donated 61 kitchens and paid for them to be fitted. Typical cash donations may be just a few hundred pounds, but they will make a big difference. They might cover things like:

  • buying new kit for a local children's sports team
  • supporting the work of a community centre
  • giving our staff's time and materials to help renovate facilities at a care home
  • providing assistance to a local school or college
  • donating cash to a local hospital's appeal for vital equipment

In 2016, we've made 3,700 separate donations which have involved us giving cash or products worth £1.5m. In addition to that, we also donated £150,000 of cash and stock to communities affected by flooding.

Our culture of being involved in the local community and of giving back to that community also shows in the actions our people take as individuals. Every year, all across the country, we support individuals and teams of our people as they give up their time and put themselves to the test to raise money for all sorts of local and national charities.

Nationwide and international projects

Leonard Cheshire Disability: increased commitment, starting involvement with international projects

We've had a successful partnership with Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD) since 2004 and we're pleased to say that it continues to grow. In 2016 we have doubled our commitment to LCD and have donated cash and goods worth £0.8m.

LCD works for a society where everyone is equally valued, and supports people with all types of disabilities, all over the world. Like Howdens, LCD values local relationships, and their work supports disabled people to be active members of their local communities. They support disabled people to live in their own homes and in residential care, as well as providing skills and employment programmes to help disabled people into work. Internationally, in over 50 countries worldwide, LCD helps disabled children into primary school, and supports disabled adults into jobs.

Our work with LCD is in three main areas:

  • designing and fitting inclusive kitchens in their care homes and day centres so disabled people can live more independently
  • helping young disabled people play an active role in their communities through sponsorship of the "Can Do" volunteering programme
  • working with LCD's international network on overseas projects

Howdens are experts in designing inclusive kitchens for disabled people or those with limited mobility, and all of our ranges are available with a variety of inclusive features. We have pledged to supply and fit inclusive kitchens from our range wherever they are needed in any of LCD's homes across the country. We take on projects as prioritised by LCD and when convenient for each home. This year's demand meant that we planned, donated and fitted 27 kitchens. Some of these are specific training kitchens, used to pass on cooking skills which help people increase their ability to live independently.



Just over four years ago we began to support LCD's Can Do programme. Can Do gives young disabled adults the chance to develop important life and work skills, and boost their selfconfidence. It does this by supporting them to devise and take part in a range of volunteering projects in their local community. It gives them individual mentoring, group support and a social network, as well as an opportunity to gain further qualifications. Howdens support has helped Can Do expand from four locations when we began our involvement to 19 locations in 2016, supporting more than 6,000 young disabled people through meaningful volunteering opportunities in their local community.

Can Do aims to build young people's confidence, so that they can get out and about on their own, cook their own meals, build their support and friendship networks, and where possible get them ready for the world of work. In 2016, Can Do participants in London swapped skills with employers, providing them with training on disability equality in the workplace, in exchange for support with CV writing. As a result of taking part in Can Do, 79% of participants felt more independent and able to do tasks and activities on their own, and 87% of them believe their employability and skills improved.

Howdens has a global reach through our supply chain, and so in 2016 we began to support LCD's global network. We are currently supporting two projects in South East Asia. One of them aims to equip 5,000 disabled adults with the training and skills needed to find employment or to start their own business. The other project aims to support 300 disabled women by promoting their human rights, preventing violence and supporting them into employment.

There are more details of our involvement with LCD online at www.howdens.com/about-us/leonard-cheshire-disability/ and more information about LCD at https://www.leonardcheshire.org/.

Education and scholarships

QEST educational scholarships, E-ACT academies

QEST is the charitable arm of the Royal Warrant Holders' Association. They grant apprenticeships and scholarships in traditional and contemporary crafts, making a vital contribution to the British craft industry. We started to work with them in 2015. Our donations so far have funded one scholar in furniture making and design, and we look forward to sponsoring another scholar in 2017. There is more information about QEST at www.qest.org.uk/about-qest/

Howdens also work with E-ACT, a leading independent academy sponsor, responsible for managing, maintaining and developing 24 academies. We are part way through a three-year commitment to provide £20,000 per year to assist with developing community engagement. We offer them practical support in the shape of providing expert volunteer help with their governance, and we also promote our apprenticeship programmes to E-ACT students where appropriate.

Our communities

Case Study: Retained firefighters and emergency first responders

Our people are making a real difference in their local community, and are helping to save lives. Our factory in Howden, Yorkshire, is on the edge of a small rural town. The local fire station is unmanned and relies on retained firefighters. These are people who typically have other jobs or responsibilities, but when the call comes they drop whatever they are doing and respond.

Six years ago we started working with the local Fire and Rescue Service and we currently have three employees who are trained members of the retained firefighter team at the Howden fire station. That station sent teams to over 200 incidents in 2016, including house fires, vehicle fires, industrial fires and incidents in which people were trapped in burning buildings. 80% of those calls had at least one of our people on the responding team and on most calls our people made up at least half of the team. In recognition of this, one of our employees was given the 2016 Chief Fire Officer's Award. This award is only given to one person in a year, and it was presented in recognition for building a strong relationship between Howdens and the Humberside Fire & Rescue Service. In the words of the Chief Officer, that relationship has been instrumental in keeping crewing levels high and keeping two vehicles on the run during the day as well as on evenings and at weekends.

We also have some employees who are trained as first responders and who support the local ambulance service. These people are called out to give essential advanced first aid in the case of, say, a heart attack or stroke. They give vital initial care until an ambulance can get to the scene. This sort of care can be critical in determining the outcome of an emergency, especially in more rural areas where ambulances have to come from further away. According to the local Fire and Rescue Service, the team which our employees are part of has saved at least a dozen lives in the last year.

Around two years ago, we started to do the same thing at our Runcorn factory and we now have a retained firefighter team there. In the future we hope to extend this and have a team based at our main warehouse in Northamptonshire.