Best CSR Strategy 2014

Saffron Lane Neighbourhood Council is a charity based in one of the most deprived areas in the East Midlands, comprising large areas of social housing facing issues such as low income, unemployment and poor health.

The Saffron Acres Project was formed in 2006 to transform disused land into allotments and to enrich the lives of local people through the provision of education and volunteering opportunities. It teaches the local community how to grow and cook their own produce generate green energy and live healthier lifestyles.

The charity launched a collaboration with the Central England Co-operative last year to produce and market products as part of the retailer’s ‘Locally Sourced’ range. The first products, which were branded Saffron Acres, were a limited edition spiced plum jam and a limited edition spiced apple chutney, which appeared in 52 Leicestershire food stores in time for Christmas.

The charity involved the community in the project: 31 volunteers helped to harvest the fruit while 27 helped prune trees. And, in a partnership with Leicester College which runs a ‘Learning for Living Programme’, 15 young people with learning difficulties were taught how to produce the jam and chutneys in a professional kitchen. The students were also involved with the labelling and packaging, which were created by Central England Co-operative’s marketing team, helping them to gain literacy and numeracy skills.

The story of the partnership was captured on film, and shared via social media and in-store.

The initiative sparked more than 20 pieces of coverage and 750 jars of jam and chutney (priced at £1.89 each) sold out. And, as an unexpected by-product, sales of Locally Sourced products increased by 130 per cent on the previous five weeks.

The project was entirely self-funding. This year, Saffron Acres created a special strawberry jam for the stores.

As a result of the initiative, Saffron Lane Neighbourhood Council has established a social enterprise and secured £20,000 funding from a bank, who watched the video. It now has a permanent kitchen.

‘This was a very impressive initiative, particularly as it had no budget,’ said the judges. ‘It was resourceful, creative and original. And it met its objectives [to raise awareness and funds for Saffron Lane Neighbourhood Council].’