London’s philanthropists recognise the long-term value they can generate

Fiona Woolf
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Lord mayors have been involved in philanthropy for many centuries, and my predecessors founded some of the greatest charitable ventures existing today – from schools and hospitals to water conservation and sanitation. They knew, as we do, that the sucesss of London and the UK depends on the strength and sustainability of our communities and workforce.

Although the expressions may have changed over time, corporate responsibility and sustainability were always there in one form or another. Today, there is renewed focus on the creation of long-term value by increasing sustainability and resilience, and this is very much at the heart of my lord mayor’s “Tomorrow’s City” programme – taking a long-term look at what will make the City as successful in the future as it has been in the past.

This was also the theme of the Inclusive Capitalism conference I hosted at the Mansion House in May. Bill Clinton, Christine Lagarde, Mark Carney and others met to consider, and commit to, a healthier and more sustainable capitalism which looks to the long term. Capitalism is rediscovering that it is about human capital, and not just financial capital, and that it exists on a planet that is reaching its limits.

With this in mind, we in the City of London Corporation hope that the new Institute of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, which I launched in July at Guildhall, will inspire business to transform its thinking and to raise its game. And it was fantastic to celebrate businesses who are already leading the way at the Lord Mayor’s Dragon Awards on Wednesday 1 October.

This year, we introduced two new awards categories: Strengthening the Third Sector, and Enterprise and Employment. The first celebrates initiatives that build capacity for charities – supporting back office functions such as IT, finance, marketing and HR, which are the backbone of any organisation. A great example of this effective co-operation is Hogan Lovells. The law firm won the Lord Mayor’s Award for Longstanding Achievement for its pro-bono work with female victims of domestic abuse and human trafficking. Victims of these crimes are often on the fringe of society and feel they are voiceless. By lending their expert advice, Hogan Lovells volunteers are helping to empower these women, not just from a legal perspective but also by supporting their engagement in skills and entrepreneurialism.

This year’s applicants together volunteered 166,000 hours, worth over £1m, to the community. The second new category recognises initiatives that promote economic regeneration through employability schemes and support for small businesses. This year, the applicants helped 3,000 people into work and gave nearly 4,500 people opportunities to gain professional qualifications. In fact, thanks to the efforts of all 2014 applicants to the Lord Mayor’s Dragon Awards, over 200,000 Londoners have been helped.

Earlier this year, the mayor of Istanbul said to me, “London has a responsibility to other cities” – which puts pressure on us to get it right. The world is looking to London for leadership, and the 2014 Dragons are a fantastic inspiration for innovative, responsible corporate-community investment – a priceless investment into our society.