In my role as policy chairman, it’s important to know what businesses in the City and wider London are doing to give back to society – to make an impact, make a difference.
I am seeing more and more inspiring examples of firms connecting with the community, supporting diversity in their workforce and finding innovative ways to reduce their environmental impact.
Being a responsible business is increasingly important to companies of all sizes and in all sectors.
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.
This month, Heart of the City, a charity funded by the City of London Corporation and City Bridge Trust, invites SMEs to kick-start their responsible business schemes by joining its flagship Newcomers programme – a one-year foundation course on responsible business practice which begins in January, offering the first 60 places for free.
Heart of the City is the UK’s largest responsible small business network. It acts as a membership hub, giving the capital’s companies the tools to develop their corporate social responsibility programmes.
While larger companies tend to have more established community engagement programmes, smaller firms can lack the time, money and the expertise to know where to start. SMEs however, make up 99 per cent of all UK businesses, and, as Heart of the City has demonstrated, can have a big impact.
The charity teams up with 100 large businesses, which donate their expertise and resources to support companies just starting on their responsible business initiatives.
I sit on the charity’s governing Council, alongside the lord mayor, Bank of England governor Mark Carney, and many senior City leaders. We all recognise the importance of the support that it offers to help City firms develop some really life changing programmes, and are inspired by achievements of companies who are new to the field.
More than 650 companies have completed the Newcomers programme, achieving remarkable results. In 2016, 23 companies contributed more than £510,000 to charities, and an estimated 1,340 hours of volunteering; 32 per cent had integrated social and environmental issues into their supplier selection process, and 74 per cent had developed waste reduction initiatives.
Companies of all sizes recognise that doing business responsibly can enhance the level of trust which customers have in their business and in business in general. It can benefit firms in practical ways too, from increasing staff morale and retention, to aiding recruitment, reducing costs and improving efficiency.
Businesses are not always recognised for the enormous contribution they make to the community. That’s why, at our annual Dragon Awards this week, we will celebrate the contribution of companies that are new to responsible business in our dedicated Heart of the City Dragon Award. This award recognises the impressive activities of firms which have developed a strategic programme within the last three years.
Responsible business can make a real difference. It is vital that we recognise the massive potential to address regional inequality and spark change and growth – not just in London, but in the whole UK.