TheGuardian recently published an interesting blog post which I wanted to share. David Cameron put responsible business back at the top of the news agenda last week. He argued at the Business in the Community annual conference that business is "the most powerful force for social progress the world has ever known". He cited BT and Starbucks as examples of companies that actively pursue social good – that walk the talk – rather than donating money to ethical charities to do good works on their behalves.
The Community Footprint, a new report by the Royal Society of Arts, finds that business can be at its most responsible and socially valuable when it focuses its CSR activities on local retail spaces and uses frontline staff rather than business leaders as their CSR champions. Working with DIY retailer B&Q, the report found that investing in local communities and people, for instance, by having a staff member who is dedicated to helping customers learn new skills or develop stronger local support networks, was one of the most powerful means of living ethical values in practice. This is real business in the community.
At B&Q, local stores work directly with social landlords to provide repair materials and support local independent businesses through the Tradepoint initiative. An important by-product of such initiatives is the positive brand benefits that businesses accruing with both existing employees and with customers. Almost half (47%) of jobseekers say they are more likely to join or stay with a company that addresses social issues and 70% of customers say they will remain loyal to a brand that demonstrates local social value, even in a recession.
Responsible capitalism needs to move out of the boardroom and into our communities. Political rhetoric continues to focus on supply-side, high-level initiatives but neglects the people and places closest to businesses. This needs to change.