City Matters: Why we need to reward the City of London’s hidden talent – for doing good

Fiona Woolf
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FOR THE last three decades, the Lord Mayor’s Dragon Awards have recognised outstanding corporate community partnerships by businesses across the capital.

London is one of the world’s leading financial centres and is home to some of the most innovative and dynamic businesses in the world. Many of these companies utilise the skills and enthusiasm of their workforce to put an enormous amount of effort into engaging with the community through a variety of corporate social responsibility programmes.

I feel passionately about our role in recognising those businesses that are contributing an outstanding amount to the community. There has been a constant debate since the global financial crisis about the value of the financial services sector to society, and whether the City is out of touch and failing to fulfil its obligations to society.

This is not a new charge; in a press release for the launch of the awards in 1987, we noted that “the City has recently been charged with a lack of care, and for not becoming involved in the problems of inner cities existing on its door step”. Whether or not that was true then, it is certainly not true now: the City of London Corporation is passionate about the many communities it supports across London, through our charity the City Bridge Trust, our outreach and education programmes, and the Dragon Awards, which remain as relevant today as they did in 1987.

City businesses are committed to community engagement programmes – as evidenced by the 130 Dragon Awards that have been given out since the awards began. This encompasses firms of all sizes that are doing their part in engaging with corporate social responsibility – from small, local businesses to large multinational corporations.

This year, for the first time, we have introduced a new category – the “Strengthening the Third Sector Award”. We want to celebrate the type of capacity-building volunteering initiatives which I championed in the recent City Action Awards. These initiatives have a powerful multiplier effect – for example, businesses helping charities to improve the infrastructure of their organisation through IT, finance, marketing and HR investment. This can be transformational for their organisation, and can maximise the return they can deliver.

London is the world leader in many of these areas, and London businesses from all sectors care deeply about helping charities to benefit from this expertise. We wanted to reward that enthusiasm, and I hope that this award will show just how important community engagement is to so many London businesses.

The City has many faces and many hidden talents; the Dragon Awards offer just one opportunity to reward those companies who demonstrate leadership in their community engagement. Applications for this year’s awards opened last week and run until 23 May, and I hope that as many businesses as possible take part in these inspiring awards.

Fiona Woolf is lord mayor of London.