The Pavers Foundation was launched in 2018 with an incredible initial donation of £2.25 million from Pavers Shoes and the private estate of the late Catherine Paver, to enable charitable giving by the business and its 1,500 employees. Paul Andrews spoke to Jason Paver and Mark Granger to find out more.
As Jason Paver, Joint Managing Director and third generation of the Pavers family explains, “It was my father who initially suggested we launch the Foundation in memory of his mother, my grandmother, who had recently passed away. We wanted to do something to retain her legacy, and a charitable Foundation focused on issues important to everyone in the business felt appropriate. As a family we made a conscious decision to shift our focus from purely commercial success where it was all about making profit, to a more balanced approach which also valued social impact.”
“We were, and remain, a very driven, entrepreneurial business, partly because of my grandmother who was extremely passionate and hardworking! That said, whilst exploring the potential for the Foundation we recognised the need to think in a slightly different way and the Foundation was created in part to help balance our goals and provide a wider sense of purpose for both the family and everyone in the business,” continues Jason.
Mark worked with Catherine and agreed with Jason that she was a real powerhouse and pioneering in business in many ways. As he adds, “she was probably the most driven person that I have ever met, or worked with, and when she arrived in a room her presence was really felt. She founded the business and saw it grow successfully and had an absolute belief in everything that Pavers stands for and the Foundation is certainly a great way to remember her legacy too.”
The Pavers Foundation is dedicated to making a meaningful impact on the communities around them. Each year the family business, Pavers Shoes, gives 2% of net profit, alongside the total profits from the sale of carrier bags in stores, plus returns from the endowment to ensure the Pavers Foundation can continue to make effective and positive changes in local communities and beyond and to date has donated over £900,000 to good causes. These causes tend to be associated with the core three pillars of their philanthropic strategy relating to health, education and the community.
As Jason continues, “There is a clear strategy in place for the Foundation that we took significant time to define. We thought as a family about what issues were important to us and to our people, and part of the governance of the Foundation is making sure that we remain focused on these three areas and that we give equally across all three. This can sometimes be difficult as some fields are easier to attract grant requests for than others.”
As Mark adds, “I chair the Foundation and there is a committee comprising family, and colleagues to consider all applications submitted. Our objective is to ensure the applications fall within our 3 pillars and we distribute the available funds as evenly as possible. Each year there is a ‘Charity of the Year’ which is initiated by the committee and voted for by our colleagues, in addition we encourage employees to support grant applications for causes close to their hearts that are aligned to the three pillars.”
Employees have embraced the opportunity to be involved with donations that include £500 for a community project in Shrewsbury that creates and delivers Christmas gift boxes to the elderly to donating £65,000 to fund one full time and one part time Admiral nurse working for Dementia UK.
When looking at how the Foundation has developed since it started there are obvious steps that they took to ensure success. As Mark continues, “The research we did up front has really paid dividends – talking to other families who have created their own Foundations, learning best practice and what works well – enabling us to create the right framework for us, whilst taking on board the lessons learned by others. The power of the family business community and in particular people at the Matthew Good Foundation and the Institute for Family Business really did put us on the right path.”
Jason is in full agreement adding that “other families with their own philanthropic endeavours were incredibly generous in giving their time to point us in the right direction. Their shared knowledge really helped shape our journey.”
In terms of this journey, recent events have reminded the Foundation of the need to remain conscious of current affairs, as Jason discussed: “as an organisation we are female founded, employ a majority female workforce, and sell the majority of our products to female customers, so we are well aware of the current challenges facing women in the country today and are increasingly taking a lead in supporting causes aimed at tackling some of the challenges faced by women in society. We expect this to be a growing area of the Foundation over the coming years.”
The Pavers Foundation has already made an impact but there are several milestones and achievements that really stand out. For Jason, “one of the things that makes me proud of our collective achievements is the fact that the Foundation has been set up and shifted the underlying nature of the business from just being about pure profit generation to more of a business that is about profit with a purpose. I am also immensely proud that we have achieved Carbon Neutral status and remain the only major footwear retailer in the UK to enjoy this accolade.”
As Mark adds, “We are rapidly approaching another key milestone, the £1 million donated since our formation which will be an incredibly proud moment for us all and will provide a perfect opportunity to reflect on what has already been achieved as part of the legacy of our founder. Going forward we have a three-year strategic plan for the Foundation that is approved by the family which essentially refers to us doing more of what we are doing well, but also ensuring that we stay on top of current issues and include them in our activities when it is right and appropriate to do so.”
Jason continues. “The Foundation remains very much at the heart of what we do. One of the core challenges for me now is generating as much cash as we can for the Foundation with a goal of donating £500,000 to the Foundation annually within the next three years!”
The Pavers Foundation is integral to the family business but does not define it and has not just been created without due thought. It is an intrinsic part of the Pavers ethos and makes a real impact on the family, the business and the employees. It has helped to create a change in the culture to become an organisation that now makes money to do good and everyone has an outlook that can continue to make a difference and drive positive change.
As Jason explains, “There are some great benefits to the family too as the Foundation affords the opportunity for the next generation to get involved without having to get involved directly in the business. This helps to raise awareness of the work the business is doing through the Foundation and promotes broader opportunities to get involved that might be of interest to them in the future.”
It has not all been plain sailing and there are a few things that looking back they may have done differently, and both Mark and Jason are happy to share their learnings to help others thinking of doing something similar.
As Mark explains, “the challenges around communication are ongoing and as an organisation with 1,500 employees of which 1,300 are geographically spread it is important to plan how to communicate with them effectively. We do everything that you would expect in sharing the news and updates but recognise that there is always room for improvement.”
This is a great example of a family that have created a Foundation with real purpose, that researched thoroughly before starting out and have clearly made a difference in the short time that the Foundation has been in existence. In three years, they have donated nearly £1 million to good causes and continue to make a meaningful impact to communities throughout the UK and beyond.
This is a family business that is really driving profits that have a real purpose too.