Tuesday 27 September 2016 4:30 am

City Giving Day: Community investment is a win-win for business and society

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UBS has operated a community investment programme in London for over 30 years. Never has it, and others like it, been more relevant.

The relevance is driven by need; by the state of the UK and indeed of the world today; and by the now demonstrable proposition that companies undertaking such activity benefit both themselves and wider society.

Don’t just take my word for it. In the last few months alone, GlobeScan’s Corporate Responsibility Radar and Edelman’s Trust Barometer have shown how corporate responsibility is highly attractive to employees: 80 per cent report increased loyalty and motivation as their company becomes more socially responsible. Employees working for socially-engaged financial services companies are far stronger advocates for their firms than those employed by less engaged businesses. Enhanced retention, performance, delivery of strategy and customer service all follow.

At UBS our own experience strongly supports this and helps us meet the requirement the Financial Reporting Council reiterated only last week that companies build a “culture that serves the needs of wider society”, a “connectivity to society” leading to “enhanced integrity, confidence, long-term success and ultimately trust”.

80 per cent of UBS employees who volunteer report improvements to their drive and commitment. 82 per cent say that it increased their communication and impact, 96 per cent that they put the UBS behaviours of “integrity, challenge and collaboration” into practice. Like many, we see a correlation between “good performance” and staff engagement through a community investment programme. The widely heralded cultural change sought and promoted by millennials in the workplace is well underway.

City Giving Day – taking place today – is itself a manifestation of the trend to promote, coordinate and encourage this activity. By involving so many companies along with the lord mayor and Corporation of London, it illustrates how much more powerful this activity can be if brought together. It must be brought together with the core activities of companies. And by bringing together those who engage in community investment, it celebrates and advances how partnerships with government, charities and clients can further impact on pressing social needs.

Read more: How entrepreneurs can gain from CSR

City Giving Day marks its third anniversary today with increased momentum. That reflects need and desire – and the hard work, planning and success of last year (as noted by the editor of this newspaper). In a post-Brexit UK, it may also reflect the increased need for business to connect with society, and help those who feel excluded by many of the developments of the last two decades.

But the argument for community investment is not a negative one. It is not pursued to avoid a dangerous outcome; rather the activity has proved itself of real benefit to firms and society.

Community investment now routinely focuses on where it makes a difference and where its impact can be measured. In so doing, it is driving the push to create financial products for socially-minded investors; it is making the best use of the talent that resides in City firms; it is meeting the expectations of society more broadly (interest in corporate responsibility is at its highest ever level – in 10 years of monitoring – with both the public and government).

London’s pre-eminence in financial services is based on many factors, but without doubt the skills, resources and re-built trust in its workforce will always rank high among them. We need, want and must promote a system of social mobility, based on merit, that shows business as a route to success and as the facilitator of that within society. Capitalism must be inclusive. Values matter.

A long-term, strategic, impact-focused programme of community investment, a growing number of which are being celebrated by City Giving Day today, is a powerful provision of resource by companies, a clear statement of intent as to their commitment to addressing the pressing needs of society, for the benefit of business and of everyone.

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