As a result of COVID, here in Northamptonshire there are signs of a sustained shift in collaboration between the public, private, charity and academic sectors – with a growing ‘multi-stakeholder’ approach being adopted by local businesses.
This is in line with national trends and also society’s growing expectations of business. Last month, a new cross-party initiative launched in Parliament – the Better Business Act campaign. It now has over 400 companies signed up to promote amendments to the UK Companies Act through the adoption of the following basic principles:
- Interests of society and environment to rank alongside shareholders
- Directors empowered to advance the interests of all stakeholders
- Businesses to report on how they balance people, planet and profit
If the above becomes law it will no longer be a choice to align the long-term interests of people, planet and profit but an obligation. To find out more see www.betterbusinessact.org
This column has addressed many of these issues over the past few months, with the Lieutenancy and the University keen to act as catalysts for positive change in our business community, helping businesses see and adapt to the latest trends.
In this vein, the fourth Lord-Lieutenant’s Leaders’ Forum was held in April, entitled ‘Co-creating Value for the Common Good’. Two keynote speakers – the leading academic in this area, Dr May Seitanidi of the University of Kent and a Visiting Professor at the University of Northampton, and the author, philanthropist and campaigner John Nickson – looked at trends in cross-sector working and their key success factors, sharing examples to inspire us all.
Activities of this kind are supported by the University’s Centre for Sustainable Business Practices (CSBP) which, along with the Lieutenancy, offers a non-political, non-commercial and evidence-based platform for research and action. With the backing of the Lord-Lieutenant, James Saunders Watson, CSBP is currently working on two innovative projects, one charity focused, the other centred on business.
Business – Build Back Better
CSBP is collaborating with a group of successful local businesses, all of whom are doing some great things in terms of CSR – corporate social responsibility. They have come together to share their experiences and act as exemplar case studies for others in the county. Build Back Better ‘Beacons’ as it were – but please forgive the alliteration!
Charities – Survival and Independence
CSBP is also engaged in a project to review the county’s charity sector – given growing concerns about its survival and independence. This project kicked-off with an Issue paper outlining the sector’s problems, and this will be followed by an Insight paper reviewing best practice nationally, then, as the project progresses, a Consultation or Green Paper offering some alternative ways forward. The final publication will be an Impact paper reporting our conclusions and recommendations for charities, businesses as well as local government policy.
At the same time, we will be looking for ways to bring the two sectors – the for-profit private and not–for-profit third sector – closer together and unlock much-needed innovation. This will help address the biggest social problems in our county – the county’s Hidden Needs as identified by the Northamptonshire Community Foundation, NCF, a partner in these initiatives – as well as generate new opportunities and benefits for business..
Call to action
Big, bold, hairy, audacious goals? Maybe – but the longest journey starts with the first steps!
COVID has accelerated not only the need but also the opportunity for positive and lasting change. These initiatives are examples of how an active Lieutenancy, working with an engaged and innovative University, can help the county and all citizens, charities and firms thrive and prosper.
If more local businesses and charities engage with us, we can raise the profile of Northamptonshire for all the right reasons – and in so doing generate a few more National Honours and Queen’s Awards, areas in which the county is under-represented and something the Lord-Lieutenant is keen to change.
CSBP now has a number of business, civic and charity leaders joining us as External Associates – and welcomes more. If you and your organisation would like to get involved, raise your profile and enhance your reputation as well as keep ahead of the latest CSR trends and key issues, please do get in touch.
Are you ready for the Better Business Act?
To find out more about any of the above, contact Adrian via firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07720 297402