BBA 2020 Winner Profile: Responsible Business – Barclays

Written by Sanae Samata
December 4, 2020


Photo credit: Calderwood Images in partnership with Sterling Content

Written by Sanae Samata
December 4, 2020

COVID-19 has made 2020 challenging for many but for those already struggling financially or socially pre-pandemic, this year has been particularly difficult. In response to the challenges of the past 12 months, British companies in Japan are among those that have stepped in to offer help, proving how resilient and supportive businesses can be.

At the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ) virtual 2020 British Business Awards on November 5, nine companies were nominated in the category of Responsible Business. Esteemed judges from the UK–Japan community awarded the hotly contested trophy to Barclays Securities Japan Limited for their “exceptional social programmes in Japan over the past 18 months.”

Barclays, a BCCJ Platinum Member, was recognised for its £100m COVID-19 Community Aid Package, a global initiative to tackle the issues stemming from the novel coronavirus. Colleagues worked across geographies where the bank has a presence to support vulnerable communities adversely impacted by the pandemic.

Kentaro Kiso, president and representative director of Barclays Securities Japan, says the team was delighted to join the programme, both to support those in need and raise awareness of the important work done by non-profit organisations.

“We’re very happy to be part of it and delighted to be receiving a British Business Award as it helps in getting more recognition for the organisations,” he says.

In Japan, Barclays gave financial support to Second Harvest, a nationwide food bank; Houkago NPO After School, a childcare service after school hours; and the Central Community Chest of Japan, a national coordinating body for local Community Chests that target community issues.

Renu Kumar, head of citizenship in Asia Pacific at Barclays, said the three organisations were chosen with the input of colleagues in Japan following a process of due diligence. The goal was to find ways to “lean in” to support local communities across the country.

“We wanted to work with a few select partners that do in-depth and impactful work,” she says, adding that the initial focus was to provide food relief, particularly during Japan’s state of emergency in the spring.


Second Harvest

Working with Second Harvest, Barclays served more than one million cooked meals and distributed dry rations to some 20,000 households. Financial aid also enabled activities to be expanded in Okinawa Prefecture, where children live in the highest rate of poverty in Japan.

According to Charles McJilton, CEO, Barclays’ support has been invaluable in tackling the lack of food security in the southern archipelago, which has only been exacerbated by COVID-19. Many recipients had experienced cuts in their working hours or were made redundant due to the pandemic, while others struggled to give their children lunch during school closures.

One recipient of a food bank in Okinawa said, “I cannot say how grateful I am for the help. As a single mother, no matter how much I work, we never have enough.” Another commented, “I almost cried with relief when I received the food supply. To everybody involved, thank you very much.”

By the end of 2020, Second Harvest is expected to have served 10,000 households while developing key relationships with local government and NGOs.

“We have made a one-year commitment [to supporting Okinawa] and will publish a white paper on food security in the prefecture. None of this was on the agenda until Barclays came forth with their generous support,” says McJilton.


Houkago NPO After School

For Houkago, too, the main concern was serving food to the children of healthcare workers during Japan’s “soft lockdown” when schools were closed, causing childcare to be needed for extended periods. With Barclays’ support, Houkago was able to respond by distributing 30,000 hot meals to these children, as well as 20,000 hot meals to other children at the facilities. Funds also enabled some 16,000 children to continue their schooling online.

Houkago estimates that Barclays’ support enabled as many as 2,500 healthcare staff and other essential personnel to continue to work during the state of emergency. More important, though, it ensured Houkago’s services could continue uninterrupted throughout 2020.

“We were seriously discussing the closure or downsizing of our childcare service, but Barclays’ offer of support instigated a timely and remarkable turnaround to keep our service intact,” says a representative of Houkago.


Central Community Chest of Japan

This Tokyo-based organisation consists of 47 prefectural Community Chests that serve as district offices, providing hands-on, on-the-ground support to people in even the most remote areas of Japan. Barclays’ aid mobilised the estimated 200 paid staff and two million volunteers to provide wide-ranging services to those most in need due to COVID-19.


Moving forward

In recent months, partners have reported that food is no longer a major concern. Help is most needed to get those made unemployed by COVID-19 back into work. In response, Barclays Japan has been transitioning from providing relief to aiding recovery.

Kumar expects long-term recovery in communities will be the bank’s focus in 2021. She says ongoing efforts can dovetail with Barclays’ existing programmes: Connect with Work, which empowers mothers and people with disabilities to return to, or stay in, employment, and Unreasonable Impact, which unlocks the potential of entrepreneurs who wish to solve social or environmental issues.

Kiso is confident that the COVID-19 Community Aid Package will continue to resonate with Barclays colleagues not only in Japan, but around the world.

“Community work is a cornerstone of what we’ve been doing since Barclays’ early days. It is part of our DNA. And this programme is about intervening at a time when the community needs us the most,” he says.

Moreover, Barclays continues to strive for sustainability in its programmes by encouraging colleagues to embrace volunteer efforts in the long-term.

“In our citizenship efforts involving partners and colleagues, we at the corporate level get things started. Then, with a bank-wide push, our colleagues on an individual level will become more aware of the issue and get involved,” says Kiso. “The effort will then have its own life.”