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Being Good Pays Off

July 31, 2007 -

Being Good Pays Off

House of Travel was selected by Prime Minister Helen Clark to receive the inaugural Prime Minister's Social Hero Award at the Robin Hood Social Hero Awards held at the weekend.

The supreme award was selected from 16 companies who were shortlisted as finalists following their involvement with not-for-profit organisations in the area of corporate social responsibility.

Founder and managing director of House of Travel Chris Paulsen says the decision to partner with hospice had been a unanimous one by the owner operators and the executive team.

"Most importantly we wanted to partner with a charity that had similar values to ours. Our research showed that people did not have a clear understanding of what services hospices actually provide and that there was a doom and gloom association with people dying.

"Of course there is a very real link with hospice and death but the connotations of it being a depressing and sad place, and once you check in you never check out are totally incorrect."

Mr Paulsen believes by his 1100 staff having a day off work to work in and for their local hospice that they have not only become advocates regarding the services hospice offer to their community, but gained a perspective regarding how precious life is.

"As a company we work very hard and with a large percentage of our staff being young there is a tendency to let life get out of balance. Our partnership with hospice has been a great reminder to us all just how precious life is and not to get hung up on the small things that annoy us."

Research put out by Nielson Media Research Panorama and Nick Jones and Associates Limited shows that 1.5 million New Zealanders are part of a growing global trend of consumers who are taking an increasing interest in how companies are behaving socially, environmentally and culturally. While many companies try to use sponsorship as a way to raise their brand, Mr Paulsen says they had taken a different tack with their involvement with hospice.

"You must do it for the right reasons and if you are hell bent on your investment driving sales then forget it. A social partnership is exactly that – a partnership. Initially we thought we had so much to offer hospice but the reality has been that as a company we have benefited significantly from hospice in ways I never imagined."

Mr Paulsen talks of staff recounting stories to him of their involvement with hospice motivating them to do something they have been putting off.

"We do pride ourselves on being a great New Zealand company but I am convinced our partnership with hospice has made us an even better one. It is not something we do in isolation, it has become part of our business, part of what we do. You know it's working when your IT department suggests when we upgrade our computers that we check to see if hospice might like the old ones."

In many outlets the t-shirt, designed to signify House of Travel's relationship with hospice, is part of the uniform for staff. Customer reactions to the shirts lead them to form a partnership with Ezibuy Corporate making it available on for the public to purchase. A donation of $10 from each sale goes to the hospice of the buyer's choice.

Hospice New Zealand chief executive Mary Schumacher was delighted with House of Travel's success, saying it deserved recognition for the amazing relationship that has blossomed between the two.

"It is a reflection of the hard work put into the partnership and recognition for everyone at House of Travel who has embraced working with hospice. We are so proud of them."

Robin Hood Foundation chief executive Jude Mannion said after five years of campaigning to see corporate social responsibility move from the margins of business dialogue into the mainstream, the board decided it was about time that businesses investing socially should be applauded and acknowledged.

Ms Mannion said House of Travel was up against some tough competition but the judges noted its partnership with hospice had demonstrated a willingness to go into a sensitive area.

"There were two reasons. One is that hospice is a difficult area to delve into – it's not like dealing with sick puppies or little babies. Staff had to overcome some fears and do a whole lot of learning. Secondly the partnership couldn't be mandated. It relied on each and every one of the 90 House of Travel outlets to put their hand up and say 'we'll do this'."

The House of Travel Group has forecasted turnover in of $750m for 2007, it has 90 retail outlets (with specialist corporate, adventure and leisure and group travel outlets) throughout New Zealand, its own award winning aggregated booking website and two wholesale companies (both inbound and outbound). It employs in excess of 1,100 people and is privately owned (by New Zealander Chris Paulsen) and operated since it was established in 1987. Since the hospice partnership began in September 2005 House of Travel has raised more than $500,000 a year for hospice. House of Travel provide Hospice New Zealand with an annual donation each year, scholarships to allow hospice staff to travel to conferences internationally, trips to reward hospice volunteers and each hospice is supported by at least one House of Travel outlet, who are committed to raise a minimum of $5,000 annually for their local hospice.

The following companies received awards at the Robin Hood Social Hero Awards:

- IBM and Kids Smart – Fairfax Award for Education Partnership

- The Professionals Real Estate Group and Child Cancer

– The More FM Award for Youth Partnership

- BNZ and Preventing Violence in the Home – The Robin Hood Social Hero Award for Family Support

- BP and Surf Lifesaving - Robin Hood Social Hero Award for Sustained Partnership

- Progressive Enterprises and Red Cross

- Robin Hood Social Hero Award for Inspiring New Partnership

- The Prime Ministers Social Hero Award – House of Travel and Hospice


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