Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 10.49.27More than 160 volunteers from 10 of the North’s East’s leading businesses dug deep for a Tyneside environmental project as part of national Give and Gain Day 2015 run by the charity Business in the Community (BITC).

The companies gave their staff time off to volunteer at West Bolden Lodge, an environmental education centre run by charity Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle (STAN) in partnership with National Grid and South Tyneside Council, on the UK’s biggest day of employee volunteering.

Staff from Groundwork(STAN), Grainger, CAB, Sage UK, Hay & Kilner, DWF, Gentoo, Pentiar, Lloyds Bank and Foundation Futures rolled up their sleeves to create an allotment in a day – which included creating an outdoor fairy garden, hobbit house and new footbridge.

As the NE volunteers stepped up to help the project, new research published by the Prince of Wales’ charity BITC to mark Give & Gain Day , suggests that 64% of workers in the North of England do not know, or are not aware, of their employer’s employee volunteering policy, compared to the national figure of 76%

The Ipsos MORI survey of 2,174 online adults aged 18+ in Great Britain assessed views on business behaviour. Among workers in the North, it found around only 4% reporting that they have used their employer’s volunteering scheme. A further 4% are aware of their employer’s volunteering scheme, but their primary reason for not using it is a lack of time.

Liz Needleman, area director of BITC England East, said: “Skilled volunteers are a lifeline for community organisations hit by cuts, yet as our research shows there is more to be done to embed volunteering as part of everyday business. The companies that took part today are beacons of best practice in helping to build a fairer society and more sustainable communities. We urge many more business to get involved in volunteering and ask those who are involved to use it as a springboard into deeper long term business engagement in their local area.”

Andrew Watts, Executive Director of Groundwork STAN, whose 20 volunteers managed the activities, said: “Give and Gain Day is an excellent way for organisations to work together for the common good of the community.

“That they make a real difference has been seen in the great work they have done this year at West Boldon Lodge, a hugely valuable education centre and outdoor resource.

“Similarly, Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle is committed to working to bring about positive and lasting change and improvement to the environment in which it works.

“The shared goals of Groundwork and Business in the Community are making a real difference and that is why I am delighted that Groundwork has supported this year’s Give and Gain Day.”

Mike Mullaney, Area Director for Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “The day was a fantastic opportunity to get out of the office and give something back to our local community. It was not only a chance to meet other North East businesses and learn new skills, but to work with the children and young people who will benefit from the facilities at West Boldon Lodge in the years to come.”

The NE volunteers were among more than 15,500 from UK businesses who headed out to help 144 local communities on May 15 for the world’s only day of employee volunteering, organised annually by BITC.  The total value of staff time invested in the day’s volunteering throughout the UK is estimated at more than £1.9million.