Virgin Media Unveils ‘Meaningful Connections Plan’

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Virgin Media has unveiled a comprehensive five year plan which sets out how the company will support and connect communities across the UK, reduce its impact on the environment and continue to become a more inclusive employer.

The ‘Meaningful Connections Plan’ is a bold and far-reaching strategy with ambitious five year goals spread across three key areas: people, planet and communities.

As part of the strategy, Virgin Media will use its connectivity and presence in towns and cities nationwide to support projects which address loneliness and create greater community belonging. In addition, it will take steps to employ more people from underrepresented groups, and is committing to achieve net zero carbon operations and zero waste operations by the end of 2025.

Virgin Media is also joining forces with the charity, Carers UK, for a five year strategic partnership which will use technology and innovation to address the loneliness experienced by eight out of ten unpaid carers, and will work together to connect more carers to each other and to their communities.

Lutz Schüler, Chief Executive Officer at Virgin Media, said, “With the country beginning to look towards recovering and rebuilding, we believe it’s vital to use this moment to bounce back in a better way.

“As a major UK employer and investor with a presence in communities across the country, we know that we can make a positive impact. Our Meaningful Connections Plan will use our purpose, people and products to create lasting change in the towns and cities we serve, drive greater diversity and inclusion into our business and see direct action taken to help tackle climate change.

“This plan spans across our whole business and is backed by bold and ambitious goals which set a benchmark and provide focus for what we want to achieve over the next five years, starting right now.”

The Meaningful Connections Plan

Virgin Media’s ‘Meaningful Connections Plan’ has been created following extensive research and insight from its customers, employees and experts around the role the company should play in society over the next five years.

This highlighted that Virgin Media should use its purpose, people and products to bring communities together to address the issue of loneliness and the erosion of community belonging.

This has been backed by further independent research of 5,000 people where more than two fifths of people said that the wellbeing of their community is more important to them following the pandemic. Almost two thirds say they feel lonely when they do not have time to connect with friends or family in person, while two fifths say they feel lonely when they do not have time to connect with their communities in person.

Virgin Media’s research has also found that more than one in five of its 5.6 million cable customers in the UK is an unpaid carer – the equivalent of around 1.2 million customers – with 58% saying they have felt lonely or isolated.

An unpaid carer is someone who looks after a loved one, friend or neighbour who is older, disabled or seriously ill, offering practical, emotional support or hands-on care.

Virgin Media found that the issues of loneliness and isolation are exacerbated for the 6.5 million unpaid carers across the country – as they are seven times more likely to be lonely compared to non-carers.

According to Carers UK, the pandemic has compounded these issues as carers now have little or no time for themselves or the opportunity to connect up with loved ones or their communities.

Communities: 1.5 million people more meaningfully connected

Virgin Media will use its people, brand and connectivity to help end the loneliness experienced by carers, and to bring communities closer together: its goal is to connect 1.5 million people to their communities and each other.

Virgin Media will use digital technology, innovation and the power of its people to support carers and communities. This includes helping one million carers to access more digital services and platforms to build support networks and friendships; collaborating with community groups to provide skills, training or funding; and using Virgin Media’s network of local workers to support projects which create a greater sense of community belonging.

To ensure this goal is shared across the business, Virgin Media is boldly increasing the number of annual paid volunteering days for its people to five – the equivalent of around 450,000 hours per year across its 12,000 workforce. Employees will be encouraged to take time regularly to support projects – either in-person or digitally – which build meaningful connections in their own community, including micro-volunteering opportunities that have a more sustained impact on their local communities.

Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said, “Carers UK’s new five year partnership with Virgin Media is exciting and transformative, enabling us to connect with many more unpaid carers and critically raise awareness of the issue.

“We know now more than ever millions of people are looking after someone and through this partnership we aim to reach them sooner and create better connections so that they are supported, leading to a reduction in loneliness and isolation.

“As Carers UK also embark on our new five-year strategy this partnership really underpins our ambitious plans to make life better for carers – we can’t wait to get started!”

Lutz Schüler continued, “We’re supporting communities with a long-term plan to tackle loneliness and isolation.

“We know that our connectivity, combined with the power of our people, can have a lasting impact and bring people together.

“With our new partnership with Carers UK at the heart of our plan, we will use digital technology and innovation to make life better for one million unpaid carers, creating meaningful connections to each other and their communities.”

Planet: reducing our impact

Virgin Media is stepping up action to tackle climate change – with a goal to achieve net zero carbon operations (Scopes 1 and 2) and zero waste operations by the end of 2025.

Virgin Media will continue to reduce its impact on the planet by becoming more energy efficient, cutting emissions, sourcing renewable power supply and reducing waste by increasing reuse of materials across its products and operations.

By the end of 2025, Virgin Media aims to achieve:

Net zero carbon operations
o Reduction in Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions by 25%, sourcing 100% renewable electricity and investing in carbon removal offsetting schemes for remaining emissions from 2025 onwards

o Transition fleet to electric vehicles with full completion by 2030

Zero waste operations
o Ensure 95% of all operational waste is reused or recycled and that customer products, such as set-top boxes or routers, contain at least 75% recycled plastic content or be a refurbished product, which is expected to save more than 5,000 tonnes of materials

o Reuse or recycle 100% of all returned customer equipment and mobile handsets

o Use 100% recyclable customer packaging with no single-use plastic

TV content
o Virgin Media has signed up to the Media Climate Pact, an industry-wide initiative where it will use its TV platform to promote programming which highlights the effect of climate change to help educate and inform viewers

People: creating a culture of belonging

Virgin Media is continuing to take steps to become a more inclusive employer so that the company represents the communities it serves and creates a culture of belonging where all of its people – no matter their background – can be themselves at work and achieve their potential.

This includes creating hundreds more employment opportunities for people from underrepresented groups, and ensuring projects and products are equitable and are developed with all of its people and customers in mind.

This builds on the existing measures Virgin Media has introduced to become a more inclusive employer, such as launching five employee networks representing underrepresented ethnicities, gender equality, disability, neurodiversity, and LGBTQ+ communities, as well as rolling out specialist equity training across the business.

Lutz Schüler concluded:

“A diverse business is a better business. It’s critical to our growth that we have a culture where no-one is left behind and all of our people feel valued, heard and can be themselves.

“We’ve already taken action to create greater representation across Virgin Media, and will use this momentum to drive further positive change to become a more inclusive company.”