(3 minute read)
While exploring my new home region the other day I discovered Spice.
Who are they and what do they do?
Spice is a charity which develops spend partnerships with public, private and voluntary sectors that enable individuals to access a wide range of positive activities using a concept of Time Banking. Their website describes what they do as follows:

What this means in practice is that corporate partners sign up to accept Time Credits for activities and services they provide on an hour-for-hour basis. People volunteer their time on local community projects and earn Time Credits. They can then spend those credits on activities or services. Some of the opportunities I have seen range from outdoor activity centres to foot care specialists.
What makes this sustainable?
Many organisations would refer to this type of approach as corporate social responsibility (CSR), and they would be correct, because CSR is a term which covers a good chunk of sustainability principles. Time Credits allow businesses to support communities as part of a wider network by:
Supporting volunteer recruitment;Growing cross-sector networks; Developing more co-produced services; Increasing individual well-being and building community capacity.
What’s the business angle?
While noble in and of itself I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t talk about the business benefits of this type of approach. Luckily the Time Credits website sets the business benefits out clearly. Partner organisations can benefit via a range of mechanisms by:
Attracting new and more diverse audiences (potential customers/clients); Marketing their brand locally and nationally through the Time Credits website and word of mouth; Gaining exposure to Time Credits customers (e.g. local authorities, housing providers, schools and other businesses); Meeting CSR aims and engagement targets and turning spare capacity into advantage by generating secondary spend.
The network is UK-wide so business partners are gaining exposure to a market outside their local community.
There are no tax implications to earning or spending Time Credits and they are not required to be declared, but business can benefit from any space, time or expertise given to the Time Credits programme through declaring as a charitable donation in kind. This is of course something which businesses should consult their tax advisors on.
Final thoughts
I love this programme for a broad range of reasons but the three key ones are:
SMEs often have opportunities in this area but don’t have the resources, or the expertise, to run it themselves. This programme links a wide network together and provides SMEs with the opportunity to broaden their customer base and market their business through partnerships. Think of it like selling products and services through something like ItIsOn but with the added satisfaction of knowing the people you’re selling to have given valuable time and expertise to help their local community and have chosen your business to spend their hard earned credits with.

Anything that encourages communities to volunteer is a good thing in my book and providing ‘payment’ which can be redeemed at a range of locations is a fantastic way to do this. People are busy and volunteering can often be a thankless task. This provides that extra incentive for individuals to give up their precious free time. I know from personal experience that volunteering is a hugely rewarding experience and I have met a lot of friends and contacts through volunteering over the years, but people won’t know that until they try it. By providing the incentive this is helping to open up the volunteering market to individuals who may not have considered it before. Many of our most valuable volunteers in the UK are retirees, who give their time selflessly to help their communities. Retirement is financially very difficult for many people and these time credits can reduce some of the burden by providing opportunities that may not have been open to them before due to financial pressures. Time Credits can also be given as a gift, which is a fantastic way of covering Christmas and Birthday presents.

The good news is that businesses wanting to embody sustainability principles and do good in their community have plenty of help to do so, meaning there is less of a cost and time burden. The great news is that doing good in the community can have significant business benefits.
I am a sustainability coach with 10 years experience in the sustainability sector. I can help you and your business understand how to start mapping out a path to a more sustainable, profitable, business model. Contact me at emma@greenarchconsulting.com for more information.