Gym Login


Published in: Les Mills – Fit Business, July 2018

By Jak Phillips

Fitness and Corporate Social Responsibility – Running on empathy

Jak Phillips Global B2B Content Manager at Les Mills interviews Ray Algar, founder of Gymtopia, about the fitness industry’s approach and track-record on corporate social responsibility.

By its very nature the fitness industry supports a healthier planet, but in an age of heightened social awareness, growing inequality and intense scrutiny of business ethics, is this still enough? We spoke to fitness and philanthropy expert Ray Algar, who says that in order to truly thrive in a post-recession, the fitness industry must move beyond memberships and P&L, and strive for a greater social purpose.

As a big advocate of corporate social responsibility, how do you define it?

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is when social and environmental issues are strategically woven deep into the mission of a business and interactions with all their stakeholders. The business is economically viable but simultaneously aware of its wider social responsibilities. So we can picture three spinning plates – economic, social and environmental and a ‘responsible’ business is simultaneously managing all three.

By stakeholder, do you mean investors?

A ‘stakeholder’ is any person or organisation who impact or are impacted by the business. So, the narrow definition would be investors, customers and employees. However, a wider definition encompasses the wider community, journalists, suppliers, friends of employees and even competitors. John Muir the Pioneering preservationist once said: ‘When you tug at a single thing in nature, you find it connected to the rest of the world.’ I think this is a lovely metaphor for contemporary business. The most successful businesses recognise that stakeholders are inter-connected and that actions can quickly ripple from one group to another.

Can we describe charity-giving as summing up the essence of CSR?

There is probably a misunderstanding that charity-giving and CSR are one and the same thing. However, a simple donation to charity demonstrates how a business chooses to spend a part of its profits and not how they are first generated. TOMS, by contrast, is a very interesting business which has embedded CSR deep into its mission. Blake Mycoskie founded TOMS following a visit to Argentina where he witnessed that the lack of shoes was preventing children from attending school. With no experience in the shoe industry he created a for-profit business based on a one-for-one model – for every pair of shoes purchased, one pair is donated. Working with humanitarian organisations, TOMS has now donated more than 60 million pairs of shoes. These shoes are often sustainably produced in the country of need which helps to also create employment. TOMS has kick-started a global ‘one-for-one’ movement across many industries and has itself now also moved into eyewear – one bought pair of glasses funds one sight-saving surgery.

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Published in: Health Club Management, May 2018

By Tom Walker

Gymtopia founder and DataHub forge partnership to help fitness operators unlock the social value they generate

As part of the DataHub’s continued drive to enrich the sector’s understanding of the data it holds, a new strategic partnership has been agreed with Ray Algar, Gymtopia founder and Managing Director of UK-based Oxygen Consulting. The partnership is designed to help both private and public sector leisure operators more clearly define and champion the social value generated through their venues and programmes.

Founded in 2013, the DataHub is a virtual repository for sports and leisure data, holding information from more than 157 operators and their visitors at over 1,600 sites. By sharing up-to-date intelligence, those investing within the sector can benchmark and make more informed decisions. DataHub’s award-winning Social Value Calculator (SVC), created in partnership with Sheffield Hallam University, currently utilises more than 400 million visits worth of data to deliver benchmarks and key insights about the social value created by the sector.

Ray Algar, Gymtopia founder said: “The fitness sector is driven by an altruistic purpose; public, private and third sector organisations all exist to serve and support the health and wellbeing of their customers. However, the metrics used to quantify business success, especially in the private sector, are predominantly financial – profit is very often a key measure. I have long argued that the wider social impact health clubs create also needs to be consistently measured. I believe the DataHub’s new Social Value Calculator can help clubs to demonstrate in new and compelling ways the transformative social bearing they have.”

Such recognition can only be achieved if the sector is measuring clubs in a comprehensive, systematic way. “Having a consistent method for operators to measure and compare the social impact of their business will provide a greater understanding of the important role this sector plays in improving the nation’s health and wellbeing,” says Algar. “Over the past five years I have witnessed the DataHub build considerable support from public sector operators: I will be encouraging private operators to engage, and unlock new ways to measure and communicate their social impact.”

Algar will be working with operators to interpret and translate their social value findings and form important evidence for their corporate social responsibility strategy, helping to foster buy-in from potential investors, exploring revenue opportunities with new partners and enhancing reputation.

The SVC fits well with the themes captured in Oxygen Consulting’s Fitness Sector Social Good Report, which explores the idea that a business with a purpose beyond maximising its own self-interests will become a more valued and sustainable organisation, and will enable some of its recommendations to be implemented. Algar will also be exploring ways that his Gymtopia platform – a free-to-access website that gathers stories to show different ways the health and fitness industry is giving back to its local communities – can link with the DataHub to further drive engagement with operators.

About The DataHub
The collaborative DataHub project was launched in 2013 as a secure, automated way for all facilities across the health and fitness sector to bring their data together on a daily basis, align it with data standards and then access and share consistent business intelligence and best practice. All DataHub Club members (facility operators, NGBs and delivery partners) now have accurate reporting information, relative benchmarks and actionable operational solutions, based on a central and growing shared repository of 400+ million facility visits.

The DataHub allows partner suppliers (marketing, health and safety, customer insight, social return etc.) to leverage the centralised intelligence within their own specialist modules and services, creating a one-stop-shop that delivers simple, coordinated and enhanced customer, programme and facility outcomes. Never before have so many sector organisations been united under one umbrella with such a fundamental mandate, and with the technology to deliver this much-needed step change in how the industry uses data.

Published in: Health Club Management, October 2016

By Ray Algar, Chief Engagement Officer, Gymtopia

Calorie-powered membership – Holmes Place Portugal

Holmes Place Portugal has forged a partnership with the Portuguese Cardiology Foundation to raise the issue of inactivity among the national population. Ray Algar reports.

Month of the heart’ is how Portugal uses May to encourage its citizens to embed just a little more activity into their everyday lives. Like many Europeans, the Portuguese are failing to move enough – a European Commission study from 2014 reported that more than six in 10 adults never exercise or take part in sport, ranking the Portuguese 27 from 29 countries. By comparison, Sweden topped the table with fewer than one in 10 never active. Holmes Place – which operates 19 clubs and studios in Portugal – recognised an opportunity to join the national inactivity debate by partnering with the Portuguese Cardiology Foundation. The charitable foundation exists to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease, which accounts for three in 10 of all deaths in Portugal. The Foundation believes small lifestyle changes can nudge people towards a healthier future by reducing their risk of heart disease and stroke.

Movement against inactivity

During May 2016, the two organisations created the campaign ‘Movement against a sedentary lifestyle’. The core idea was to develop a mechanism for those already active to help others who were not. For this one-month period, all Portuguese citizens – along with Holmes Place members – were able to ‘donate’ their activity calories to support the Foundation’s work. Calories burned were converted into complimentary club memberships, which were gifted to the Portuguese Cardiology Foundation. One million activity calories was worth one six month Holmes Place membership.

People were invited to log any physical activity that raised their heart rate, from walking the dog to taking part in a group class. Calories expended during a Holmes Place class were automatically captured using data for an average participant, while other activity away from clubs could be logged by posting a photo on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag ‘darcalorias’ (givecalories).

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Published in: Health Club Management, September 2016

By Ray Algar, Chief Engagement Officer, Gymtopia

Project Walk – The Claremont Club

A health club in the US is being transformed into a world-class facility for people living with a spinal cord injury. Ray Algar reports.

Mike Alpert’s early career was as a Californian stockbroker with Shearson Lehman Brothers, but it was a move to Oregon that profoundly changed his life. He had been drawn to Oregon for the winter skiing, but soon after arriving decided with a close friend to create The Athletic Club of Bend, a new multi-use athletic, aquatic, tennis and social club. One programme they started was for children with severe physically disabilities called ‘US Able Oregon’ and Mike began twice-weekly warm water pool sessions with a 5-year-old boy living with severe spina bifida. Alpert was always struck by the joy these sessions brought to a boy who would never walk again and asked himself why the club was not doing more programmes like this. “I became somewhat obsessed with wanting to do more of these kinds of things. That 5-year-old boy changed my life and gave me meaning” Alpert says.

Alpert eventually returned to California where since 1997 he has been the president and CEO of The Claremont Club. Founded in 1973, the health club, fitness and wellness centre nestles in seven and a half hectares (19 acres) in the city of Claremont, around 52 kilometres east of downtown Los Angeles where it serves more than 10,000 members. The inclusive operating philosophy that Alpert embedded in his earlier Oregon club is evident here, which is why this year it was the recipient of IHRSA’s Outstanding Community Service Award. Each year, IHRSA selects one club making a difference in, and beyond, their community.

Living Well After Cancer Programme

“I feel like I am trying to run away from my cancer when I am on the treadmill” says Linda Johnson, a The Claremont Club member. Johnson used to describe herself as a ‘professional couch potato’ but that was before she enrolled onto the club’s ‘Living Well After Cancer Programme – private donations enable the programme to be delivered without charge. The programme is a collaboration between The Claremont Club and Pomona Valley Hospital’s cancer care centre where over 13 weeks men and women take part in fitness conditioning, nutrition workshops and support group meetings. 790 people (at June 2016) have now completed the programme, who experience higher self-esteem, become fitter and report their quality of life has been enriched. Due to its popularity, the club now offers a free one-year programme for children and young adults living with cancer.

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