Whilst the term ‘Corporate Responsibility’ may be a relatively new expression, the principles behind it have anchored Barclays from its earliest origins. From Quaker roots to contemporary citizenship, Barclays has been involved in a number of charities, causes and social developments for the greater good.
Early ledgers held at Group Archives are testament to the spirit of corporate responsibility. The private ledger of Barclay, Bevan, Tritton and Co for 1848 and 1849 details payments made to several charitable enterprises, including the Metropolitan Free Hospital, the Jewish Poor Charity, the City of London National Schools, and the Poor of Allhallows Parish. And in the first meeting after the formation of Barclay and Company Limited in 1896, charitable giving was placed high on the agenda. Minutes from the meeting state that:
It was resolved that all Directors and Members of Local Boards be authorised during the pleasure of the Board to continue to pay out of the funds of the Company on behalf of and in the name of the Company with the addition of the name of the Local Branch all subscriptions to charitable and other funds and institutions which have hitherto been paid out of the funds of the several Banks over which they have control and that each Local Board shall as soon as may be bring before the Board for approval a list showing the nature and amount of all such subscriptions and that any future subscriptions or donation in excess of £10 be submitted to the Board for approval.
From this beginning, charitable giving became a more formalised process. Towards the end of the 20th century, Barclays initiated a proactive social responsibility programme to enhance the positive impact and sustainability of the projects it supported. A social responsibility committee was established in 1985, to oversee allocation of the donation budget, and formulate a social responsibility policy for the Barclays Group. They managed annual subscriptions to groups such as the British Red Cross and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and the implementation of grassroots community programmes, allowing for sustainable growth. When necessary, the Group has also responded to charitable appeals, funding relief work after the 2004 tsunami, and the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
One area which has benefited from Barclays’ strategy of responding to urgent need whilst recognizing the need for longer term strategies has been the arts. By taking a leading role in arts sponsorship, Barclays has helped to bring the arts to a wider audience, whilst also developing new talent. During the 1970s, the Bank sponsored a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Othello, and saved the D’Oyly Carte Opera Trust from closure.
In 1989, Barclays New Stages was established to encourage and promote fringe theatre companies. Six years later, Barclays Stage Partners, a partnership between the Bank and Arts Council England, advocated for collaboration between theatre companies to ensure more people were able to see the best creative work happening on stage. Barclays has also taken a leading role in nurturing emerging artistic talent, with programmes such as the Barclays Art Award, which awarded £10,000 to young artists, and the Barclays Youth Theatre Award, the first arts sponsorship programme aimed specifically at schools.
More recently, programmes like Music Potential engaged 16 to 25 year olds who were not in full-time employment, education or training to help them develop skills for employment in the creative and music industries, demonstrating the Bank’s commitment to engaging with young artists, and fostering their talent for future success. In 2013, more than 1,000 young people were assisted by Music Potential, with many moving onto education, training, or employment within the arts.
Barclays has also embraced its role in caring for and supporting colleagues and this spirit can most clearly be seen in the development of programmes to support the staff during periods of war.
During World War Two, the bank established a War Fund which was used to fund relief work, provide financial support for staff who suffered injuries, send packages to those on active duty overseas, and cover the cost of hospital treatment for injured staff. In 1940, the War Fund stood at £8,160 19s 10d. With donations, subscriptions and interest, by 1945, it had reached £41,350. The Bank also operated a Widows’ and Orphans’ Fund in order to help those who had lost family members in the war effort.
After the war, both Barclays and its staff contributed generously to the creation of a Roll of Honour for those who had lost their lives in World Wars One and Two, which can still be seen today at the global headquarters in Canary Wharf. Post-conflict, Barclays recognised its responsibility to those returning to civilian life, and in 1945, under the leadership of Chairman, Edwin Fisher, established a training school, Chester House, which provided refresher courses to employees returning from service. Chester House then became the venue for the Bank’s permanent training schemes.
This commitment and support to the Armed Services has continued to this day. Since its launch in 2010 by the Ministry of Defence, Barclays has participated in the Armed Forces Transition Employment and Resettlement (AFTER) programme, providing work placements, employment opportunities, CV and interview training, and money management sessions. In addition, Barclays has supported the wider military community by providing specialised reviews for mortgage and loan applications, and providing free calls to Barclays for serving members of the military. Through AFTER, Barclays has reached over 2,000 ex-service personnel.
Support for staff has also extended onto the playing field. During the twentieth century, sports and social activities became a vital part of the life of the bank and its staff. Launched in 1926, the staff magazine ‘Spread Eagle’ demonstrated the breadth of activities staff could get involved in, from the rugby to the rifle club.
More recently, Barclays has invested in grassroots and community activities, recognizing the potential in transforming lives through sport. From 2001 until 2004, Barclaycard Free Kicks invested £1.5 million to support football in deprived communities, helping 200,000 children, and forging strong links with the Football Foundation. In 2004, Barclays Spaces for Sport was launched, a global grassroots sporting programme that gives disadvantaged young people a space to harness the positive values of sport to make meaningful progress within their lives. Since its launch, Barclays Spaces for Sport has invested over £40 million globally in grassroots sports, and operates 200 community sports sites in the UK, which are visited by 53,000 people every week.
To this day, Barclays continues to be at the forefront of community initiatives. ‘Make a Difference Day’ encourages staff across the entire Barclays Group to stop working for a day and help with a community project. It has seen an ever increasing financial investment in communities (from £5.1 million in 1986 to £46.5 million in 2006), resulting in increasingly ambitious projects, from working with women with HIV/Aids in Nairobi to funding schools in India. Alongside this, the Bank recognizes excellence in its staff with annual Citizenship awards that recognize the valuable work these individuals do. In 2014, Gerald Maithya was awarded a Citizenship Award for his funding efforts in helping disadvantaged girls access secondary education in Kenya. Efforts such as Maithya’s join a history of community support and corporate responsibility that the Bank has demonstrated since its very formation.