Community engagement: how we contribute to social and digital inclusion

by Okke Boonen - Employer branding and Corporate Responsibility
| minute read

Every day here at Sopra Steria Benelux, our employees proudly contribute to our Group’s Corporate Responsibility commitments. To put those social, environmental, ethical, and community commitments into concrete action, we have developed a formal Corporate Responsibility programme, which is closely and firmly integrated into our Group’s activities. Community engagement is one of four pillars that support and shape this programme in the Benelux.

Through our community engagement activities, we aim to contribute to the social and digital inclusion of vulnerable groups by giving them access to education and employment, among other things. Needless to say, we also try our best to foster openness to digital technologies among these groups, as we believe that closing the digital divide is not just one of the greatest challenges of our time, but also presents one of the greatest opportunities.

To achieve those goals, we not only count on the support of our own Sopra Steria volunteers but also on our select partnerships with a number of charity organisations and NGOs. Working in close collaboration with our entire ecosystem, we focus our community engagement efforts on some choice projects in the following four domains:

Access to education

For over ten years already, Sopra Steria has been committed to an education programme in India that is specifically designed to combat poverty and reduce inequality. The programme is aimed at children from poor rural areas, in particular girls, who are now able to attend public sector schools located close to our company’s sites. Over 70,000 children in 60 schools from primary to secondary level have already benefited from it.

Sopra Steria has also developed a major scholarship programme to provide financial assistance to bright young children from these same schools in India, so they too can pursue a college or university education. Our Benelux branch supports this India Scholarship Foundation with regular donations derived partly also from the sale of honey from our own two beehives, acquired in 2014. (More about BeeOdiversity, a Belgian company we’ve joined forces with to protect bees and their ecosystem.) So far we have already supported 20 students who otherwise would have been left with no option but to drop out after completing their secondary schooling.

Access to employment

Even highly educated migrants do not always find their way easily on our labour market. Most often it is their sheer lack of knowledge of our Belgian work culture and of the way our job market operates that prevents them from finding good employment opportunities.

To help lower the threshold to employment for that specific group of unexperienced job seekers, Sopra Steria Benelux has entered into a partnership with RiseSmart. As part of Randstad Group, the largest HR service provider in Belgium, RiseSmart offers free job coaching trajectories to familiarise these unemployed yet highly skilled migrant workers with our job market and work culture, professional codes and sectors. Our Benelux employees can volunteer to act as coaches or mentors in these trajectories, assisting and guiding their mentees during a period of a minimum of 6 months.

Access to water

Sopra Steria Benelux also supports Join For Water, the only NGO in Belgium that focuses solely on promoting and protecting the right to water, for human beings and nature alike. Join For Water strives to improve access to, as well as the management of, drinking water and sanitation. It also strives for a more conscious and sparing use of the world’s precious, finite water resources, not only in developing countries but also here in the West - including the Benelux, of course. By raising awareness about this important issue, which is one of the key challenges to face humanity over the coming decades, the NGO ultimately hopes to reduce people’s water footprint.

Apart from acting to improve the use of water resources within our own facilities in the Benelux, we also promote education and sustainable water solutions in countries in need. The donations we make to Join For Water are used specifically for projects to provide access to clean, safe drinking water and basic sanitary needs, such as toilets and showers, to thousands of people in Uganda

Digital inclusion

As an IT services company, we evidently feel very strongly about an issue like digital inclusion: it is where our main expertise lies. The key objective of our digital inclusion projects is to close the gap between the IT literate and the IT illiterate, starting with the education of children but not forgetting to also reach out to the elderly.

A good example of one such project, directed specifically towards children, is our participation, for the fourth consecutive year, in ‘Internet Safe & Fun’. The goal of this awareness-raising campaign run by the Belgian NGO Child Focus is to prepare children for safe and responsible use of the internet and other digital tools. You can read all about it in our previous blog post.

Eager to learn more about these projects as well as all our other Corporate Responsibility initiatives? Check out our website!