JTI UK - The Power of Friendship

Good for society
The Experian Building Stronger Communities Award, in recognition of Sir John Peace, Highly Commended, 2016
  • 665 socially isolated older people have been reached by the programme and 75 new monthly tea party friendship groups have been created.
  • Of the friendship group attendees surveyed, 77% reported feeling happier and less lonely and 85% said they’d made friends.

Japan Tobacco International (JTI) is helping tackle loneliness amongst older people, by creating monthly face-to-face tea-party friendship groups for over 75 year olds who live alone.

Good for business

JTI logo

JTI is a leading international tobacco company and has over 26,000 employees and operations in 120 countries. 

Working alongside Contact the Elderly, the national charity which combats social exclusion among the elderly, JTI and its employees have been supporting the tea groups since 2008.

The project has brought friendship and happiness back into the lives of isolated, frail, often immobile, older people across the UK including those living close to JTI’s office in Weybridge and Distribution Centre in Crewe. 

Loneliness is a significant issue for the elderly and more than two million people aged over 75 live on their own; almost a quarter of those go for days without any human contact.  Two fifths of all older people say the television is their main company and around a million are termed ‘chronically lonely’ at any given time.

JTI (Japan Tobacco International) is a leading international tobacco company and has over 26,000 employees and operations in 120 countries. 

To date, 665 socially isolated older people have been reached by the JTI supported tea-party programme and 75 new monthly tea party friendship groups have been created. 

Employee engagement is a key part of JTI’s community investment programme and from 2008 to 2015, 222 JTI employees volunteered for Contact the Elderly. This is 30% of the total workforce based in England.

JTI, previously known as Gallaher, has been operating in the UK for over 150 years and has a significant number of former employees – 6,500 – who are now pensioners living across the country, giving the company a particular interest in the wellbeing of older people.


The company’s community investment activity is underpinned by an employee volunteering skills programme - Give Get Grow – which enables employees to volunteer with Contact the Elderly as part of their personal development. It has also supported the local Weybridge and Crewe community as employees regularly host tea parties for socially isolated residents.

Joint management

JTI and Contact the Elderly have created a Partnership Management Process involving key staff from each organisation. As required by JTI’s governance structures, a project plan has been created to establish inputs/outputs/impacts and an agreed monitoring process. This plan was approved through JTI’s formal business approval process. 

There is regular contact between all levels of the JTI management team and the Contact the Elderly delivery team with formal review meetings, rigorous project progress assessment, employee engagement planning and written programme reports.

As part of JTI’s successful journey to achieve BITC’s Community Mark accreditation in 2014, the firm realised that the programme was too focused on measuring outputs (no. of older people reached) rather than impacts. As a result JTI has worked with Contact the Elderly to put in place mutually agreed ways of measuring the actual impact on those who attend the friendship groups.

Working together on the ground

Contact the Elderly takes the lead when it comes to working out where to hold new friendship groups and how to reach the isolated older people.

The tea party friendship groups are delivered by a network of 976 Contact the Elderly volunteers. This network is managed by Contact the Elderly Regional Development Officers (RDOs) who work from home across the country. JTI’s donation includes support for the employment of RDOs who recruit volunteers to set up new friendship groups and help maintain friendship groups already in existence. 

JTI has now been supporting the UK registered charity Contact the Elderly to expand its services for eight years. 

What JTI UK's Managing Director said:

“Our long-standing partnership with Contact the Elderly has brought friendship into the lives of so many socially isolated older people across the country. 

“I am proud to partner with a charity that has developed such a simple yet such an effective means of reaching people in need.” - Daniel Sciamma, Managing Director UK, JTI

  • 30% of JTI employees based in England have improved their skillsets through volunteering with Contact the Elderly.
  • 83% of employees said they felt pride and a greater level of commitment to JTI as a result of its community investment activities.
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