The most important part of my role as lord mayor of the City of London is to represent the UK’s financial and professional services industry.
Since my election last September I have been regularly meeting employees, employers, entrepreneurs and opinion-formers from across the UK – and one thing is increasingly clear: as a nation we expect our businesses to benefit society.
Responsible business is today more important than ever. Firms who go the extra mile for their communities are stronger, more sustainable and more relevant to society, giving them a competitive edge over their rivals.
These companies are an example of how the private sector can make a huge beneficial difference. This work needs to be encouraged to make sure more businesses follow a similar path.
It is a two way street for these firms – a win-win situation. Businesses want to attract motivated, focused individuals to their workforce and many young, talented people want to work for firms that are taking steps to benefit society – from schemes that create employment opportunities for disadvantaged Londoners to projects providing free advice which helps local organisations to grow.
The Lord Mayor’s Dragon Awards, in their thirtieth year, are now open for businesses to enter. The Awards recognise and celebrate firms which go beyond their normal work to make a positive social impact.
Some areas of London have the highest levels of unemployment and social exclusion in the UK and responsible businesses can play a leading role in tackling these issues.
Last year the Dragon Awards Community Partners Award was won by Tower Hamlets Education Business Partnership for founding a partnership with Lloyd’s of London, which now includes 54 companies from across the Lloyd’s market, all of which volunteer through the programme to support young people to prepare for the world of work.
Businesses can make a tremendous difference by identifying gaps, pioneering new policies, and working with under-represented groups.
Last year’s applicants supported nearly 500,000 Londoners, creating over 14,500 jobs and investing over £10m in their communities and local enterprises.
These figures are impressive and showcase an amazing portfolio of community work. But this great work isn’t always celebrated and communicated as it should be, especially with businesses facing increased scrutiny and often a lack of public trust.
So more than ever businesses understand that connecting with the communities in which they operate is critical to their success and long-term performance, as well as to the health of our economy.
The UK’s responsible businesses are a national asset and their impact goes way beyond headline-grabbing figures like the £71.4bn in tax that British financial services firms contribute each year. It is vital that we recognise the massive potential to address regional inequalities and spark change and growth not just in London but in the whole of the UK.
The world is changing rapidly and the capital is an incubator of great innovation, whether in business, technology or finance, as shown by the success of our burgeoning fintech sector. London has the experience and talent to continue to create new, positive business ideas that will help our economy and our society to flourish, now and in the future.
Visit www.dragonawards.org.uk to apply.