On top of the financial support we provide to our charities and the fundraising our people do for them, we have focused our efforts on using our unique professional skills to have the greatest impact.
The pandemic has exaggerated gaps in wealth and digital access. We recognise that sharing our skills is one way we can help address this important problem of social mobility. While the lockdowns impacted face-to-face volunteering - and therefore our total community contribution - the proportion of volunteering that was skills-based increased to 59%, the highest it has ever been.
Our two main charity partners, Crisis and Hospice UK, have been at the forefront of the national response to the pandemic. Much of our volunteering effort served to help them meet the increasing demands being put on them. For example, we helped upskill their teams on desktop business tools. We supported and tested a gaming and streaming community dedicated to ending homelessness for Crisis, and our Learning Lab team provided Hospice UK with a training platform for staff.
In parallel, our own teams at PwC have benefited from Homlessness Awareness Training that Crisis have put on for staff, and Bereavement programmes from Hospice UK.
In one of the flagship activities in our annual volunteering and fundraising day, One Firm One Day, more than 50 of our people took part in virtual coaching sessions as part of our Black Entrepreneurship Programme (BEP). We set up the BEP last year in partnership with the School for Social Entrepreneurs, as one of a number of initiatives renewing our commitment to tackle racial inequality. We were able to share our skills and insights with some extraordinary social enterprises facing a number of specific challenges.
One Firm One Day overall had a strong wellbeing and sustainability focus this year, with more than 500 staff participating in environmental activities organised online. These included seed planting, a bug hotel building challenge and clothing upcycling.
2021 saw the fifth anniversary of the Buy Social Corporate Challenge, of which we are a founding partner. We support 350 social enterprises, spending £1.3m this year, and £81.5m since 2016. All of the social enterprises we work with have a positive social and environmental impact: they empower communities, promote social inclusion and mobility, and are catalysing the transition to a low-carbon and circular economy.
One of the brightest moments in the year was the reopening of Brigade after lockdown. Our continued commitment to Beyond Food enabled them to continue to support 103 trainees through their six programmes, even though Brigade, the social enterprise bar and restaurant where they train and work, had to be closed for much of the year.
Our support also meant they were able to engage further with the local community during lockdowns. This included providing 1,000 packed lunches to food banks and 500 after-school meals at Brigade for children in Southwark during the October half term.