LONDON: Many UK brand owners are forming tie-ups with the Government and small businesses as part of their corporate social responsibility programmes, which now have an increasingly broad remit.

O2, the telecoms provider, has set up the O2 Learn web platform, through which teachers can upload clips where they talk concerning various subjects on the national curriculum.

This scheme is backed by the National Union of Teachers, and O2 has also distributed financial rewards to individuals and schools yielding the best material, Marketing Week reported.

Gav Thompson, O2's head of brand innovation, said this approach could represent "the future of brand marketing" by allowing brands to demonstrate their values and build up trust organically.

Elsewhere, Wickes, the DIY chain, is supporting small construction firms with an online hub offering business free advice, after finding 40% of traders never sought out guidance on such matters.

"It is in our interests to make sure the construction industry is well assisted and as strong as it can be. It has also helped us learn more about our customers, which is vital," Tony Holdway, Wickes' brand director, said.

At an even more local level, Unilever, the FMCG group, is distributing information to small firms near its headquarters in Surrey covering areas like discounted gym subscription packages or new insights into healthy eating.

"The biggest challenges facing most SMEs when trying to embark on healthy workplace initiatives - or any initiative outside their core business focus - are a lack of time and dedicated resource," Alan Walters, Unilever's VP, human resources, said.

Unilever has also been joined by Mars, the food group, Diageo, the spirits manufacturer and JD Wetherspoon, the pub chain, as members of the Department of Health's Responsibility Deal, pledging to contribute to improving public well-being.

"We and other drinks retailers have always had a slight guardedness about what we can do in the education field ... because we were not sure what response would come from schools or colleges," said Nigel Connor, JD Wetherspoon's head, legal affairs.

Meanwhile, Mars has created a health and wellbeing trial programme with 11 SMEs close to its head office in Slough as part of the Government's Change4Life public health scheme, distributing relevant advice to these firms.

"We are working with the Department of Health and local businesses to assess the impact of the pilot scheme," said Lee Andrews, director of corporate affairs at Mars.

Data sourced from Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff