With Christmas just around the corner, it is that time of year for goodwill to all. Christmas is the peak season for charitable donations and volunteering, a time when we think of others less fortunate than ourselves. The response of local business leaders to join in a charity karaoke and sing for local children’s charities has been widespread and enthusiastic.
Thinking of others should not just be for Christmas, though, as there is great need in our community all year round. And charitable activities do not have to be only individual acts of kindness and generosity. Business has its role to play in enhancing the wellbeing of the community from which it recruits and into which it sells. And there are growing signs of a willingness of local business to engage far more closely and deeply with local community needs.
There is certainly a growing pressure on business to do more. This pressure comes from government (including the Tories, the party of business), the press (even the Financial Times, the self-acclaimed ‘World’s Business Newspaper’) as well as employees and customers, especially younger ones, looking for business to have strong values and a purpose over and above profit maximisation. More and more of us want to know what the companies we engage with are doing for, with and to the world.
In the past few months the Lord-Lieutenant of Northamptonshire David Laing, with the support of the University of Northampton, has initiated a new local Leaders’ Forum. This has led to a series of events involving local business, civic and charity leaders around the theme of ‘responsible capitalism’. In March the Leaders’ Forum heard Timothy Henry talk about the ‘Conscious Capitalism’ movement. In November, Deb Oxley OBE, CEO of the Employee Ownership Association, spoke about ‘inclusive capitalism’, both times to full houses.
And in between, the Lord-Lieutenant has held workshops on how business can engage more effectively with the community, and address some of the priority issues – issues like those reported in the thought-provoking and worrying ‘Hidden Needs’ report published by the Northamptonshire Community Foundation. There is much to be done. By their own account, local business leaders scored themselves as being at just 4 out of 10 in terms of their potential impact on local issues.
This gap – or opportunity - was reinforced by research undertaken for Grant Thornton by the University’s Faculty of Business & Law and a team of its MBA students. The group studied the Top 100 companies based in Northamptonshire and found that just 50% were reporting any CSR - corporate social responsibility – initiatives, and of those that were, just 27% were locally based. None reported any engagement or dialogue with local community stakeholders.
There is clearly a need for closer contact between local businesses and community organisations, and support needed to ensure more effective communication and mutual understanding. So far, more than ten local companies, including All Things Business, have said that they would like to develop their knowledge, skills and impact in generating social value through ‘strategic corporate citizenship’. Why not join them?
The Lord-Lieutenant is keen to continue this work in 2020 and invites all local business, civic and charity leaders to get involved in his Leaders’ Forum and the associated workshops, to share best practice and explore how to generate greater social impact - all year round, not just for Christmas!
If you would like to join the Lord-Lieutenant’s Leaders Forum, please contact David Laing at Lord-Lieutenant@northamptonshire.gov.uk
29th April 2020 from 5.30-7.45pm
The Future of the Corporation
At the next Lord-Lieutenant’s Leaders’ Forum, Oxford Said Business School’s Prof Colin Mayer will share the results of a major research project on the purpose of business and its role in society.