Our history

9,000 senior business leaders have taken part in The Prince's Seeing is Believing Programme


In 2014, across all our community programmes 66,711 employee volunteers contributed more than half a million hours between them.

We have so far trained and placed 140 full time Business Connectors, secondees from business in 83 locations leveraging £17.6m into deprived communities.


Our education programmes have supported almost 65,000 young people through school partnerships and mentoring.

Early beginnings

The Business in the Community story begins in 1980 with an Anglo-American conference on corporate community involvement. Taking place at Sunningdale Park, it was jointly hosted by the then Minister for Local Government, the Rt. Hon Tom King MP in the Department of the Environment and the US Ambassador to the United Kingdom, H.E. Kingman Brewster. 

The conference was attended by senior executives of major firms in the United States and the UK, together with those from the US with direct experience at the most senior level of private sector initiatives within the community. The aim was to explore the concept of corporate social responsibility and to provide the opportunity for an exchange of experience between the two countries, particularly for individuals working outside Government with an interest in greater community involvement by large firms.

It was agreed at Sunningdale that the private sector had to play a bigger part in revitalising communities and that this could not simply be done through charitable gestures. So it was decided to press ahead with the formation of Business in the Community as a way of stimulating discussion and action to achieve a more innovative approach for business in contributing resources to urban renewal.

The Sunningdale conference had taken place just a few days after the outbreak of rioting in Bristol, and the shadow of early 1980s inner-city riots in places such as Toxteth and Brixton provided a powerful stimulus to the responsible business movement, and creation of BITC. 

By 1982 BITC was formally established with the support of 30 initial companies and by 1985, the year that HRH the Prince of Wales became President, the number in the movement had grown to 108.

Business in the Community’s first chairman Sir Alastair Pilkington wrote in 1984, “Collaboration has to be the way forward. Not only collaboration between major employers, the government and the voluntary sector at the national level, but active partnerships to stimulate joint initiatives at the local level. The barriers between public and private sectors, between local institutions and the local community have to be crossed for the sake of common concerns.”

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The Phases of BITC

Professor David Grayson has described three phases of in the development of Business in the Community so far. The first was in the 1980s, when Business in the Community predominately championed corporate community involvement through business support of local enterprise agencies. This was pursued as a way of business helping to regenerate local economies depressed by corporate closures. 

The second phase took place during the 1990s, when Business in the Community championed the wider agenda of corporate community investment, including how business should better organise their involvement and how there is a return to the business for doing so.

The third phase, during the 2000s, saw Business in the Community and its members embrace corporate responsibility or responsible business as it is now known. Here the driver has shifted more to the competitive advantage for individual companies and the pressure of sustainability as a business challenge.

Following the global financial crisis in 2007, business’ understanding of CSR further evolved. Business now saw this agenda as an integral part of their future businesses success.

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HRH The Prince of Wales as President

Today, Business in the Community is the Prince’s Responsible Business Network and is one of the Prince’s Charities, a group of not-for-profit organisations of which the Prince of Wales is President. 

The Prince of Wales became President in 1985, in keeping with his belief that business can be an actor of change to support the regeneration of deprived communities.

As one of The Prince’s Charities we work alongside other charities in the group to promote the unique role that responsible business has in creating a fairer society and a more sustainable future.

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Further reading

Further information about Business in the Community and its role in shaping Corporate Social Responsibility can be found in Business-Led Corporate Responsibility Coalitions: learning from the example of Business in the Community in the UK – An Insider’s Perspective – Business in the Community, Doughty Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility and the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard.


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Become a member

For more information call Cynthia Marks (neé Fry), Campaign Manager
E: cynthia.marks@bitc.org.uk

Key documents