Published On: Wed, Jun 6th, 2018

A sense of community

Cornwall Glass celebrates 40 years in business this year. We find out how it’s giving back to local communities. 

A lot of big businesses pay what often amounts to little more than lip service to support for charity. Glass and window and door companies, have by contrast, an enviable record of fundraising and genuinely making a difference. This is epitomised by glass processor and IGU manufacturer, Cornwall Glass. It was founded as a small family business, Dave Mitchell Glass & Glazing, in Truro in 1978.

Celebrating its 40th year in businesses this year,  it has headed North along the M5, through a series of acquisitions, giving it new reach across Southern England and the Midlands. Acquisition has been accompanied by investment. This saw £5million alone, invested in Cornwall Glass Plymouth in its state-of-the-art IGU facility. Having opened in 2016 it has capacity to manufacture more than 2,000 units each day, including over-sized units, which it supplies to retailers, commercial installation businesses and developers,  across southern Britain.  

But if  Cornwall Glass is hi-tech and acquisitive in its approach to growth, it hasn’t forgotten where it has come from. It’s strategy may on paper mirror that of a VC but culturally it couldn’t be further away from it. The  values that defined the company 40 years ago as a small family owned and run business, still define it today. Cornwall Glass is at its heart a West Country business, if a far from ‘sleepy one’. What it’s done is to grow by being , well, ‘nice’.  

“Culturally we’re little different”, says Kati Bawden, Marketing Manager, Cornwall Glass, one  of 300 ‘colleagues’, now employed by the Group. 

She continues: “That difference is apparent in how we work with each other, in our approach to customer relationships and also in the genuine dedication to the communities in which we work.

“There’s a very clear commitment to respect as well as doing the right thing and that comes from the very top, Mark Mitchell, our Chairman and the other directors of the business.” 

This manifests itself in a number of different ways. There’s the approach to colleagues. All get an individual annual training budget and one-to-one appraisals with Mitchell. 

It’s there Cornwall Glass’ Apprentice Journey and it’s partnership with Exeter College, which is currently putting 18 apprentices through training and qualifications in glass processing. 

But where it’s most apparent is in Cornwall Glass’ commitment to the communities in which it is based and in its support for those groups and charities who serve them. 

As part of its 40th Anniversary celebrations it’s running a ‘£400 for 40’ campaign in which it’s committed to awarding grants of £400 each to 40 community groups. These are made from the Cornwall Glass Fund, which has donated more than £60,000 to 65 community projects throughout Cornwall, since it was set up in 2009. 

Kati continued: “What we’re trying to do is to reach out to as many grass root group and organisations as we can. We want to give as many as possible the opportunity to apply. To try and catch the ones that may usually slip through the net.

“While we’re using social media to promote the campaign, we’ve also been working closely with parish councils and other organizations to try and be as inclusive as possible. This has included working with them to reach older members of the community who may not be quite as tuned in to social and other channels. 

“We want everyone to have an opportunity”, she adds. 

And while the mention of Cornwall may conjure up images of idyllic coastline, in common with many other parts of the UK, it is not without its problems, with 17 neighbourhoods ranked among the worst (most deprived) 10% in England [ONS Indices of Multiple Deprivation]. 

“Cornwall is predominantly rural, we have wonderful coastline and countryside but we also have challenges including isolation and breakdown of community, which is why we have made community the underlying theme for our campaign”, says Kati. 

Cornwall Glass has also actively engaged staff in the giving process, with awards made and prioritized by an employee panel against a criteria which weights them on how they bring communities together. 

“It’s quite an involved process but it really allows colleagues to have ownership of the project and to make a difference. I sit on the awards panel with a number of other colleagues and we really do give every application really detailed consideration because we know it can make a real difference to someone”, Kati says

“What it also allows all colleagues to do is to feel good about who they work for,  it encourages buy-in and engagement and that’s also something which has been very positive for the business as a whole, while giving something back”, she adds. 

This is a theme also picked up on by Cornwall Glass Chairman, Mark Mitchell. “We feel very privileged to be in a position where we’ve grown as a business. We’re doing pretty well for ourselves and our communities.

“We founded the Cornwall Glass Fund which is manged by the Cornwall Community Foundation in 2009, as a way of putting something back into the local communities in which we live and work, also giving to Community Foundations in Devon and Somerset.

“In our 40th year in business this year, the 400 for 40 grants programme allows us to mark what is for us a very significant year and to do something very meaningful as part of that by helping community groups and organisations to  bring people together.” 

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