The CSR program built to transform urban sustainability with Future Cities

Find out how Vía Célere created an innovative corporate social responsibility program and employee engagement initiative to tackle urban sustainability by matching 18 Vía Célere employees with innovative startups
corporate social responsibility program

Vía Célere want to solve a problem, and they’re not alone

Like many pioneers in the corporate sector, Vía Célere, a leading organization in the Real Estate industry, had identified a need to increase the role of social responsibility within their organization whilst also engaging their employees in an effective and meaningful way. 

To tackle that, they teamed up with Ashoka and Bridge for Billions to build the Future Cities program, a project that aims to promote the active participation of citizens and young people in the challenges that cities present today through transformative proposals linked to improving urban sustainability.

Having noticed the growing spotlight on entrepreneurship as a vehicle for innovation and social impact, the company sought an employee engagement and corporate social responsibility program to connect their CSR and HR needs whilst creating tangible positive outcomes for our ever shifting society.

In a landscape where companies embracing social innovation is no longer the exception but the norm, like many companies, Vía Célere wanted to implement a social responsibility program that not only hit their internal objectives but have real external impact. 

Over the past year, Covid-19 has only emphasised the need for companies to be a part of social impact and innovation. Organizations recognize the need to play a central role in the creation of a “new normal.” They seek to understand where they can best add value and get value in terms of social responsibility. 

At the same time, they’re also increasingly concerned with the changing demands of their employees. A large percentage of whom, like so many of us, want social responsibility to play an active part in their professional lives. 

Purpose is on the rise as one of the key components of employee satisfaction.

A focus on solving environmental challenges for “Future Cities”

Having identified their challenges in both CSR and HR, Vía Célere now needed to select a focus area for the social impact they wanted to generate. As leaders in the Real Estate sector, they felt a close connection to the environmental problems faced by urban areas today, and were also interested in building up a network with those actively involved in solving them

They knew that the challenge of urban sustainability was relevant not only to the Real Estate sector, but all of us. Currently, the Building and Real Estate industry consumes a third of all primary energies, 50% of raw materials and 20% of available water supplies. 

In addition to this, from a broader perspective, the environmental challenges associated with cities are becoming increasingly severe. After carrying out a study on air quality of cities in 2016,  the WHO shared some results which would shake every individual living in an urban area. They found that 80% of people living in metropolitan areas are exposed to levels of pollution which exceed the healthy limit. 

This of course is part of a global, systemic problem but Vía Célere wanted to understand how exactly they could become part of the solution. They decided to take on the challenge, with the goal to become a motor for economic and social change within the Real Estate sector while strengthening their commitment to social responsibility.

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The steps to building the employee engagement and Corporate Social Responsibility program

Partnering with Bridge for Billions and Ashoka

The next step for Via Celere was to seek a partner organization to help transform their needs into a structured program designed to help them meet CSR and HR objectives.

To do that, in 2018 the company partnered with Ashoka Spain and Bridge for Billions. Ashoka, a pioneering organization in the changemaking space with a mission to identify, connect, and accompany leaders of social innovation. And Bridge for Billions, a partner of Ashoka with in-depth expertise in supporting purpose-driven entrepreneurs and the creation of innovation and entrepreneurship programs to solve programs which truly matter. 

Together, the companies decided to build a program to work with young entrepreneurs with projects who could creatively develop solutions to guarantee the sustainability of our cities –  pioneers with a vision for cities which are inclusive, resilient and prepared for our changing world. 

Like many corporations, Vía Célere was interested in understanding how exactly to reach the most innovative startups in their industry and how to collaborate to ensure everyone involved got real value out of the program. 

The program structure

Bridge for Billions scouted dozens of projects related to sustainability through our ecosystem partners such as foundations and local government organizations. After a thorough selection process we chose 3 projects working in solutions related to water consumption, energy, recycling and much more to join the program.

The projects had goals like reducing the negative environmental impact of cities, promoting urban planning and a more sustainable and respectful building with the social and environmental environment, raising awareness and promoting responsible attitudes among citizens or the efficient use of resources and the fight against climate change.

Each of the projects got matched with a Vía Célere employee as mentor, and engaged in weekly mentorship sessions.

Vía Célere’s employees played a crucial role in guiding entrepreneurs and providing much-needed insights on the real estate sector, through their guidance they were able to shape the projects into businesses with real impact. 

During the 3-month incubation program, participants were able to develop and validate their social impact business projects through our step-by-step incubation program, from defining their value propositions to their 3-year growth and impact plans.

To foster the sense of community and make sure the learning was shared we hosted offline spaces in the form of workshops. We hosted spaces to talk about Fundraising for Social Impact Ventures and Systemic Change at Loom Huertas Madrid where we could share knowledge and train other young entrepreneurs in the sector.

All projects got visibility in press, social media, web and the opportunity to present their solutions in a final event in front of key stakeholders and ecosystem partners.

The 3 winning teams got up to €2,500 in scholarships to continue the development of their business projects.

corporate social responsibility program
The Vía Célere team alongside other Ocare award recipients

The results of the program

As pictured above, Vía Célere was awarded by Ocare, whose purpose is to disseminate and promote communication in Corporate Social Responsibility, for the Future Cities project.

As a result of the program Vía Célere supported 18 entrepreneurs across 6 teams, all with projects in urban sustainability. Projects such as Plant on Demand, a Foodtech platform allowing on-demand production of organic food, automation & traceability of the complete management cycle for producers, who, after completing the program went on to be funded by EIT Food Seedbed by The European Union and have recently partnered with Madrid City in their MARES program

Their success was not an isolated case, in fact 100% of the startups that participated say they will continue with their ventures post program. Amongst the program participants, Bluengin, a startup dedicated to technology for the sustainable use of water said:

“The program and our mentor allow us to design a profitable business model with a high social impact. Now we’re on the look for more partners!”
corporate social responsibility program
Pedro de Cea de Miquel and Francesc Bellaubi
Founders at Bluengin

What did the employees at Vía Célere think?

18 Via Celere employees participated in the program by mentoring the entrepreneurs and their sustainability based projects. Overall, those that mentored rated the experience a 4.8/5 for participant satisfaction.

Not only did they enjoy building a connection with the entrepreneurs, they felt that they grew professionally as a result of a program and were able to get an exclusive look into some of the latest innovation in the urban sustainability sector and, equally as importantly, be a part of creating it. 

A final note from the CSR Director at Vía Célere

“To be able to design a program like Future Cities with Bridge for Billions as a strategic partner has allowed us to learn about innovative solutions who are already working towards building sustainable and responsible cities. We were able to create our own innovation network with whom to continue to collaborate.”
corporate social responsibility program
Carlos Valdés
CSR Director at Vía Célere

Contact us if you want to create your own social responsibility or employee engagement program to create genuine impact

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