Last Tuesday, along with 58 other UK CEOs and leaders,  I swapped my suit jacket for an apron and cooked dinner for hundreds of school and hospital workers alongside Jamie Oliver. As an enthusiastic amateur cook, it was great to use my passion for food to help a great cause.

At Salesforce our culture is rooted in ‘Ohana’ - the idea in Hawaiian culture that family members are responsible for one another. One of the ways we practice this is following the 1-1-1 philosophy – contributing 1% of our equity, employee time and products back into the community.  

Salesforce employees are able to take up to seven days off a year to volunteer for a worthy cause.  Amazingly, in our UK office, employees have collectively volunteered more than 120,000 hours, creating a lasting impact in their communities. So it’s no surprise that I wanted to sign up for this event.

The CEO Cookoff

The 59 of us came together with one goal: to help equip our kids for healthy futures. In the UK today, nearly one in three children under the age of 18 are overweight or obese - in many cases, because they’ve been eating the wrong things.

The CEO CookOff that I was part of on Tuesday evening is a global initiative, started in Australia by social entrepreneur Ronni Kahn, and focuses on three key issues facing our youths today: obesity, malnutrition (and surprisingly, the two often go hand-in-hand), and reducing the amount of wasted food. I was shocked to learn that the UK alone wastes 11 million tonnes of perfectly edible food and drink each year.  

In the lead up to the big day, I worked with our Salesforce colleagues to raise over £15,000 for the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation and newly formed UKHarvest. The money raised will go towards improving food education for 13 million children in the UK, will save edible food from being buried in landfill and will help to redirect food to those who don’t have enough. And it wasn’t just Salesforce - I was impressed by the number of influential chefs, business leaders and celebrities who took part in this worthy cause.

As well as the benefits for the local community, fundraising and volunteering with colleagues certainly reinforces our culture and is linked to higher employee engagement levels. Many younger employees in particular are interested in being part of a company that shares their values. According to the Deloitte Millennial Study 2017, among the factors a candidate evaluates before accepting a job, a ‘sense of meaning from my work’ and ‘the impact it has on society’ are both ranked at the top.

But the benefit for the workplace extends beyond this. Volunteering gives employees unique experiences they can learn from and use to drive creativity back in the workplace. For my part, I was absolutely inspired by the conversations I had with the everyday heroes we served dinner to, from NHS workers to police officers and firefighters. I was honoured to share and learn from their insights and experiences, and of course, had a great time cooking too.

A huge well done to Jamie Oliver and the CEO CookOff team for a brilliant evening - the event has raised more than £500,000 so far. And for me, the takeaways were more personal. The CEO CookOff showed me the importance of tackling obesity and food waste in the UK and the huge, positive impact that this campaign can have on our local communities. I’ll be practicing my cooking for the next one!

Interested in supporting? You can find out more on the CEO Cookoff website.