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A look at company purpose with Lily’s Kitchen

Georgina Cameron, HR Director at Lily’s Kitchen, tells myGrapevine magazine about the company’s purpose and wanting to ‘make an impact for pets, people and planet’…

Words by Sophie Parrott

 

A look at company purpose with Lily’s Kitchen

Georgina Cameron, HR Director at Lily’s Kitchen, tells myGrapevine magazine about the company’s purpose and wanting to ‘make an impact for pets, people and planet’…

Words by Sophie Parrott

Words by Sophie Parrott

 

Georgina Cameron

HR Director

‘Purposeful work’ is a phrase that’s increasingly cropping up in HR communities as it continues to top the employee wish list. Workers are looking for their job to be more than something that just pays the bills, as in many instances, salary isn’t considered to be the top priority anymore. In fact, research from BetterUp’s 'Meaning & Purpose at Work' report found that over 90% of staff would be willing to forfeit some of their earnings throughout their lifetime in exchange for more purposeful work. Additionally, Glassdoor’s 'Mission & Culture Survey 2019' found that more than 79% of adults across the UK, United States, France and Germany would consider an organisation’s mission and purpose before applying.

A willingness among staff to forgo a portion of their salary to carry out more meaningful work is just one part of this. In fact, other surveys have showcased the extent that a company’s purpose or mission can have on retention and turnover levels. For example, PwC’s 2016 'Putting Purpose to Work: A study of purpose in the workplace' report – cited by Forbes – found that Millennials with a strong connection to the purpose of their organisation are 5.3 times more likely to stay with their employer. Finding purpose at work has become so important that some staff would actually vote with their feet if they felt they weren’t getting it. According to OfficeTeam data – reported on by PR Newswire – 12% of staff said that they would leave their current role to find an organisation with a higher purpose or stronger mission. With this in mind, it’s clear just how important company purpose is to staff, but also, how employers can reap the benefits of an engaged, retained workforce, if purpose is genuinely at the core of everything that they do.

Ultimately, if you were to cut us all apart, it’s that purpose that runs through our veins and we all are aiming towards

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Strong roots

One firm that appears to have a strong purpose deep-rooted within the business is the pet food brand Lily’s Kitchen. The London-based firm, which employs just over 70 employees, was founded by Henrietta Morrison back in 2009. Although the company has been around for a few years, Georgina Cameron, HR Director at Lily’s Kitchen, explained that the firm’s pet-focused purpose has remained the same since the company began. In an exclusive interview with myGrapevine magazine, she said: “Our ultimate purpose is to make pets’ lives better by inspiring pet parents to feed pets properly and have fun doing it. For us, it’s always very much been about proper food for pets and that’s where our history has evolved from and still today it’s the same as it was right from when Henrietta founded the company.”

About Lily’s Kitchen

  • CEO: Nicola Magalini
  • Founded: 2009
  • Employee headcount: 71
  • Head office: London
  • Lily’s Kitchen was the first pet food company anywhere in the world to earn B Corp certification
  • Lily’s Kitchen offers three days ‘paw-ternity’ leave for those who have welcomed a cat or dog into their family

People, pets & planet

While Cameron admitted that “inspiring pet parents to feed pets properly,” is the firm’s primary purpose, she said that another important aspect for them is that they are a B Corporation. For those that are unfamiliar with the certification, “Certified B Corporations, or ‘B Corps’, are companies verified by B Lab to meet high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability,” according to the B Corporation website. Cameron went on to say: “We were one of the founding B Corporations when it transferred over to the UK in 2015 and we have just re-certified again in 2021 with our highest ever score of 92.3 points. I use that [example] because I think, actually, it’s a very big part of the fact that we joined the B Corp movement because we want to use our business as a force for good. It very much aligns with what we are doing out there in terms of making an impact for pets, people and planet.”

It appears that this deep-rooted purpose – and wanting to have a positive impact for pets, people and planet – is embedded into many areas of working life at Lily’s Kitchen. One aspect of this can be seen in some of the various benefits that the company offers, with many of them tying into the firm’s purpose. Some websites have suggested the critical role that rewards and benefits can play in connecting people to the purpose of their organisation. For example, a 2020 article from Reba explained that benefits can help to play a pivotal role in connecting the workforce with the purpose because they “reinforce your strategic narrative and help integrate your values, mission and ethos into your culture”. Therefore, the article said that to ensure that employees are living and breathing the values, and also understand the ‘why’ element behind what they are doing, having a benefits strategy that aligns with this is key. With this in mind, when it comes to these benefits, Cameron said that this is split into three areas: pets, people and planet – the three main focal points for the pet food brand.

 
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‘Paw-poseful’ perks

She explained: “From a pet perspective, one of the key benefits that we offer is we’ve introduced 'paw-ternity' leave. We allow paid time off for any team member that either rescues a cat or dog or brings a new puppy or kitten into their home…Pets are very much considered part of our family and such an important part of our purpose [so] its only right that we support pet parents as much as we do human parents,” she explained.

Another part of this offering is that, when they are back in the office, staff can have their four-legged friends with them as the office is set up to accommodate dogs. She continued: “Obviously, dogs are well-known for their therapeutic benefit but also just getting out and about and taking them out for walks. [Also] it’s a reason to encourage walking meetings, just that connection again.”

Given that it is a pet food brand, another of its pet-related benefits centres around giving staff discounts on its products. “Even for employees that don’t have pets we have an ability to be able to share that staff discount or share discount codes with other external friends, family and connections so we can share the love of proper food,” Cameron added. From a pet perspective, it is clear that many of these benefits marry up with Lily’s Kitchen’s purpose of wanting to improve the lives of pets. With Reba’s article suggesting that benefits play a big role in connecting staff to the purpose, then having benefits like this will help to them to reinforce their ‘strategic narrative’ and also help them to ‘integrate their values’.

Pets are very much considered part of our family and such an important part of our purpose [so] its only right that we support pet parents as much as we do human parents

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People-centric initiatives

From a people perspective, Cameron said that the benefits very much centre around being a force for good for their team, and being able to give back to their workforce – a sentiment which clearly aligns with the firm’s overarching goal of wanting to be a force for good. Lily’s Kitchen’s HR lead explained: “Mental health and wellbeing is a big part of that. [One, it] is part of our purpose and [two, it is] very much a part of being a B Corporation, so we put in place initiatives like buying extra holiday. So, we can do holiday purchase, meditation classes, discounted gym memberships through our private health insurance, cycle-to-work schemes, so that’s all about their physical [health].” From a mental health perspective, the firm’s HR lead said that they have participated in Mind’s Wellbeing Index to ensure that they are improving “the mental health and wellbeing credentials that we have already got in place”.

Aside from this, the firm also offers staff the chance to work flexibly – something that is increasingly topping the employee wish list post-pandemic. In fact, research from EY’s '2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey' found that over half (54%) of employees from around the world would consider leaving their job post-pandemic if not given some flexibility over where and when they work. “We have always been really flexible. We’ve always had things like part-time working as an option. We do come-back coaching for people that have been out of the business for a long period of time or maternity returners, job sharing. Working from home was always in place even prior to the pandemic and I think we are now ready to be fully flexible. We’ve got a hybrid/ blended working policy sorted and [are] ready to activate as soon as we think that’s the right thing and we are comfortable, where we can work around what works for the individual.” Putting the individual staff needs at the front and centre of the business – and enabling them to work flexibility and in a way that suits them – ties in with the firm’s want to have a positive impact on people. According to a 2010 study from Durham University – reported on by Astute Technical – flexible work arrangements that “increase worker control and choice” had a positive impact on sleep quality and mental health, as well as ‘secondary’ outcomes such as increasing a sense of community at work. Therefore, benefits like these could help have a positive impact on people.

 
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Giving back to the community

From a community and planet perspective, there are several benefits that tie in with the firm’s purpose. One of these is giving staff four paid volunteering days so that they can help out and give back to the community. Employees are also empowered to get involved in ‘Workstreams’ where they can use their skillsets or passion points in other ways beyond their current role. This, according to Cameron, can be anything from D&I, mental health to volunteering. “We have a volunteering Workstream that helps encourage that, that bangs the drum about that to give options and ideas. For example, they have connected us with probably our most local community project which is a soup kitchen that a number of us go and support in the Tottenham Court Road area which is the closest proximity to our office,” she added. Volunteering days at work are actually something that employees are increasingly looking for. For example, research published by Pilotlight round that 21% of UK workers are already putting their skills to use on a voluntary basis, and that a further 50% would like to volunteer using their professional skills. Additionally, a 2021 report called 'The Value of Volunteering', funded by the Bank of America, looked at some of the HR benefits that can be reaped, revealing that employers who support their staff to volunteer in schools and colleges found that participating staff are more motivated, more productive and have a better sense of wellbeing.

Charitable donations, both from a company and employee perspective, is another aspect to the planet and community strand. “For example, at Christmas, as much as we wanted to be able to celebrate the festive season and give to our team to say ‘thank you’ and ‘happy holidays’, we also wanted to give back. So, everybody gave donations of children’s toys, books, toiletries so we could give them to women’s refugees and hostels or children that didn’t have very much,” Cameron added. The pet food brand also works with the New Forest when they get the chance to celebrate achievements or team members. “For example, with the re-certification of B Corp, we planted 92 trees for every point that we got with B Corp. Last year we also planted a tree in celebration of every team member that we had, so we will use that opportunity every time we want to celebrate, to make a difference to our planet and our community as well.” As Cameron previously stated in the interview, Lily’s Kitchen wants to use its business as a force for good. Therefore, getting involved with things such as volunteering days, and giving charitable donations not only makes a positive difference to the community, but also reinstates the company’s desire to use their business as a force for good.

 

Georgina’s ingredients for purposeful success

1. Empower your team
When employees have an opportunity to contribute their ideas or opinions on how things are done, and even effect change within the business, they feel invested and – more importantly – valued. Through our B Corp Champions programme, our staff have introduced positive change to the business, such as mobilising the team for volunteering days and instituting our Diversity & Inclusion programme.

2. Flexible working
We adopted a flexible working policy a few years ago because we recognise that everyone has different commitments – and not everyone is an early bird! We have core hours, but the flex in the working day allows individuals to adopt a work-life balance that suits them, while ensuring that work still gets done.

3. Mental Health as a priority
Good mental health is just as important as good physical health. We have a team of three mental health first aiders who provide support for colleagues who might need someone to talk to when things are tough. We’ve also been awarded Silver in the Mind Workplace Wellbeing index. Checking in with the team is important too – whether that’s a chat over a coffee, or sending a happiness package to let people know they’re appreciated. If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that staying connected and looking after each other is essential.

 

The power of purpose

It’s clear that Lily’s Kitchen has many examples of benefits that align with the company’s purpose. Aside from data showcasing the extent that benefits can connect employees with the organisation’s purpose, other data has pointed towards the way that this can support the HR strategy. Cameron explained: “Ultimately, [purpose] helps us perform better as a company. We have that purpose-driven approach to it and so, as a result, we have got more engaged, driven and motivated employees. It also leads to a point where we have a greater and more loyal customer base as well, so I think you’ve got a multiple impact there of why purpose drives that.” Cameron’s thinking, about the importance of purpose and how it can benefit the HR agenda, dovetails with a wealth of data. For example, Deloitte’s 'Culture of Purpose – Building business confidence; driving growth 2014 core beliefs & culture survey', reported on by Inc, found that 73% of employees who feel that they work for a purpose-driven company said they are engaged. Additionally, TINYpulse’s 'Employee Retention Report' found that employees who feel their firm has a higher purpose than solely profits are 27% more likely to stay at their companies.

Additionally, Lily’s Kitchen’s HR lead said that while individuals embrace their own style, interests and skills, the firm’s purpose “is that point of connection that brings us all together”. She added: “It’s our guiding star, if you like. It’s the area that gels us all together so we connect over a passion for both pets, but also having that force for good and being able to make a difference for those three areas: pets, people and planet. So, it is really that connection for us that we can embrace the diversity of having lots of individuals within the team but, ultimately, if you were to cut us all apart, it’s that purpose that runs through our veins and we all are aiming towards. As a result of that, for me it’s a big driver that feeds into our overall culture.”

Keeping purpose at the heart

In many aspects of life at Lily’s Kitchen, it is clear that the organisation’s purpose – to feed proper food to pets – is at the core of everything it does. However, as an organisation that has joined the B Corp movement, it is clear that they are trying to use their business as a force for good, and one that has a positive impact on pets, people and planet. From the various benefits that are offered to staff – whether this is ‘paw-ternity’ leave, flexible working options, or volunteering days – it is clear that the firm's purpose, and it’s desire to be a force for good, is embedded into many elements of this. As Cameron explained, “[purpose] helps us perform better as a company”, and can have many follow-on benefits for HR, regards engagement, talent attraction and retention, as well as increased financial success.

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