As environmental and social issues become ever more important for consumers and investors, businesses can no longer bury their heads in the sand.
Firms are expected to put their pounds to good causes and make a positive impact on the world around them – as well as maintaining and growing profits.
For Milestone Group (LON:MSG), carrying out these corporate social responsibilities (CSR) isn’t just a bolt-on activity - it’s become the heart of the business.
The firm has built up an ecosystem of complementary services based around commercial activities and social initiatives.
Take its Passion Project, which officially launched on Wednesday.
Essentially it is a digital platform designed to combat youth unemployment.
It does so by helping 16-24 year olds identify and develop their skills and passions, which are then matched up to “meaningful employment opportunities”.
The intriguing part is that its corporate social responsibility mixed with private enterprise.
The project has a charitable core, but it also lists a growing number of fee paying companies looking to “do their bit” for youngsters.
Businesses can spend a slice of their community budget to be part of the initiative, with an annual fee membership determined by number of staff, total assets and annual turnover.
Erith Demolition joined last week. For Erith it’s a chance to meet a so-called ‘Section 106 obligation’, a requirement placed on contractors to deliver social value with their work.
The Rank Group, the owner of Grosvenor Casinos and Mecca bingo clubs, also joined last week with others are expected to be announced shortly.
Given Milestone’s impressive network of strategic contacts in business, public service and the third sector, chief executive Deborah White sees no limit to the project’s potential.
“Connecting organisations and businesses, information and customers is what we are about”, she said.
“The Passion Project allows us to act as an aggregator, broadening cross sector partnerships and appealing to the masses.
“It’s a chance for firms to build their community engagement and training while also promoting their own venues and activities.”
Award winning UK rapper Plan B and former Chelsea, Aston Villa and Celtic footballer Paul Elliot have both come on board as ambassadors, lifting its profile.
The firm’s main focus remains in the digital media and education space and the project allows it to grow the reach of its digital services and mobile solutions offering in the process.
This way it combines its vision to build shareholder value positive social value.
Milestone’s Winning in the Game of Life is another project that fits into the same category.
In broad brush terms, it is a school curriculum-based programme designed to build young people’s emotional intelligence. This, in turn, boosts self-esteem and builds relationships.
Similar to the way contractors can tick a Section 106 box, head teachers can score extra brownie points with Ofsted inspectors if they sign up for a fee.
With Milestone, it’s not a case of a listed firm being dragged down a charity route, but rather that of a media firm hoping to benefit communities, clients and of course its own balance sheet.
With the shares up shares up 75% in the year to date investors appear to be getting the message.
“The Passion Project linked with our core businesses gives us the opportunity to develop something unique within the marketplace that we believe has enormous potential and significant social value,” White said.
The first phase of the Passion Project website is now live - https://passionproject.org.uk