Giving Back

Guy and Julia Hands have a longstanding commitment to give back to society through both their business and personal endeavors. They tell us about the importance of making a meaningful contribution and the causes closest to their hearts.

From a business perspective, how important is philanthropy?

Guy: Each of the charities we support plays a vital role in helping to build stronger, better communities. I believe that every business has a duty to strengthen society through demonstrating inclusivity, equality and transparency and giving something back to the communities they are connected with.

Julia: Education is a topic we feel very strongly about and is a good example where giving back can help to strengthen society. One of our key objectives is opening up opportunities for students who come from less fortunate parts of society; we were both lucky to go to Oxford in Guy’s case and Cambridge in my case. Both of us came from state schools and we want others from state schools to also have that opportunity, particularly those from deprived areas and ethnic minorities.

Can you explain a little more about your work in this sector?

Guy: Julia and I are proud to have worked closely with Mansfield College, Oxford University, for over 40 years. In 1999, the College focussed on pioneering work to encourage state school students to attend Mansfield. Today, 95 percent of undergraduates at Mansfield come from state schools, and importantly, the proportion of students from ethnic minority groups and the most disadvantaged backgrounds reflects the general population of Britain. It has taken 25 years to get to this point but we hope that it demonstrates to others that change is possible and we can all help to make Britain a more equal and inclusive country.

Julia: We both feel fortunate in what we have been able to achieve and education played a crucial part in that success. This is largely why helping students from all backgrounds to fulfil their full potential is very important to Guy and me. We would like all young people with sufficient ability to be able to attend Oxford and Cambridge or other great universities.

How do you support charities on your island home of Guernsey?

Guy: One sector of society that is often marginalised are those with severe learning disabilities. Grow is a wonderful local charity that offers occupational training and mentoring in a safe and stimulating environment to those facing such challenges, helping individuals learn the key skills required to be successful in a workplace and enabling them to participate in wider society with confidence. Grow’s work is particularly important as many of these individuals will get little to no support from government once they reach adulthood.

Julia: We were honoured to become patrons of this charity and supported them in raising £4 million to modernise and rebuild their facilities. Grow aims to offer far more than just training: it provides friendship, independence, and purpose. It is a fabulous charity and, because of the opportunities it provides, it is one of my favourites. It really is a wonderful example of the community working together to help those who may otherwise struggle to participate in society.

Your work takes you all over the world; how are you supporting charities beyond Guernsey?

Guy: The Ronald McDonald House Program project is one that touches us deeply. It operates across the globe, providing comfort, support, and resources that help keep families together when they need to travel far from home for their child’s medical care. As investors in the McDonald’s restaurants in the Nordics, our business supports the charity in all four Nordic countries. We also provide personal support and encourage our employees to be involved on a personal level.

Julia: For families facing the most unimaginable challenge of having a very sick child, this wonderful charity provides accommodation for the family to live together or close to their sick child while the child is undergoing treatment. Children who are extremely sick benefit enormously from continuing to be with their siblings and parents both mentally and physically, so it really does provide a much-needed lifeline.

How do you decide where to focus your philanthropy?

Guy: One of the lessons we have learned over our decades of working with charities is that if you want to make a positive difference and have a sustainable impact, it is vital to focus. We want the support we offer to be sustainable, helping people in tangible ways today while also ensuring fewer people are marginalised or disadvantaged in the future. We have gradually developed a real sense of the areas where we think we can help to effect the most lasting change and are choosing to spend most of our time and energy on giving in those areas.

Julia: We also value working in partnership enormously; wherever we are able, we try to work with others to help generate additional funds or encourage the charities we work with to collaborate with other organisations doing similar work. Good communication is essential to any partnership, and we have found this to be just as true with the charities we work with. It’s also important that we can see that an organisation has a strong plan for how they want to achieve their mission, and that they are financially sensible. If a charity can demonstrate their strengths in these areas, we are much more likely to consider supporting them.

What difference do you think businesses can make in society?

Guy: One of the most beneficial things any company can do to positively contribute to society is to focus on its environmental, social, and governance commitments. Not through greenwashing and making unrealistic claims but by focusing on making incremental changes that make a difference.

Julia: The same environmental, social, and governance commitments apply with Hand Picked Hotels. We understand we have a duty to care for our teams and the local communities where each hotel is situated, and we are passionate about making a positive contribution to all of these groups. Whether we do this through supporting local suppliers and charities or opening up new career opportunities, we know we are in a position to make a positive and lasting impact on the communities where our businesses are, and we are dedicated to doing so.

Finally, what advice would you give to other businesses on giving back?

Guy: It has to be something that people in the company can relate to and be inspired by; when they go to work each day, they need to feel that the company is doing something they also believe in. If that is achieved then the whole company can work together to achieve a step change in society.