Natwest: The Importance of Responsible Business - Business in the Community

Natwest: The Importance of Responsible Business

How Natwest has been working with Business in the Community (BITC) to help organisations across Wales become more responsible.

NatWest is the largest business and commercial bank in the UK. Gemma Casey, NatWest Cymru’s Ecosystem Manager for Wales, has seen the bank make great strides to become a model example of Business in the Community’s (BITC) Responsible Business Framework and the benefits this has had on the environment and the businesses NatWest works alongside.

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The Importance of Being a Responsible Business

A responsible business is a healthy business. This means creating healthy communities and environments in order for businesses and employees to thrive. BITC’s Responsible Business Map focuses on six core areas: Health & Wellbeing, Employment & Skills, Diversity & Inclusion, Nature Stewardship, Climate Action and Circular Economy.

As the NatWest representative for BITC’s Wales Leadership Board, Gemma has seen first-hand how the synergy between NatWest and BITC works to help more organisations across Wales become more responsible. She elaborates: “We have a real focus on helping businesses and also our wider communities. BITC supports us with that work and helps us to share best practice.”

Healthy Communities

Creating a healthy community is all about engaging with others and ensuring everyone has a voice to achieve optimal employee and organisational happiness. NatWest is particularly passionate about the ‘Health & Wellbeing’ pillar of its BITC membership and, as a result, co-hosted an in-person event with BITC on health and wellbeing in relation to the cost-of-living crisis.

The event, held last autumn, entailed sharing best practice and discussing what businesses were already doing to support their colleagues, customers and wider communities through the cost- of-living crisis. Around 50 businesses joined the event, which was used to raise awareness of the resources that BITC had made available through its own cost of living campaign, as well as signpost to Welsh Government support and NatWest resources, for example, around workplace and financial wellbeing.

Gemma continues: “The cost-of-living crisis came hot on the heels of a series of other crises, therefore many businesses of all sizes were struggling and feeling the pressure. We heard from the likes of South Wales Police, Wales & West Utilities and the Open University about some of the work that was already going on in those early days of the cost-of-living crisis to help businesses.” During the event, attendees heard some innovative ideas from the panel that showcased that by working in a quick and agile manner to address community issues, businesses can also work with each other to gain support and advice.

Another key area of focus for NatWest is ‘Diversity & Inclusion.’ To help promote diversity and inclusion to the businesses they work with, NatWest held another event last summer around diversifying supply chains and supporting ethnic minority led businesses. The event resulted from a piece of research that NatWest commissioned from Aston University called the Time to Change Report. The report looked at the barriers facing ethnic minority business founders, both when they are starting businesses and also scaling businesses. Gemma explains: “BITC has a big focus on supporting its members to support their own supply chains. So again, this is a perfect example of the synergies between NatWest and BITC, where we could come together and support others and share our combined knowledge on how to make sure people are being fair and equitable in their support.”

Healthy Environment

NatWest is also determined to sustain a healthy environment in line with BITC’s Responsible Business model. Gemma is Chair on behalf of NatWest Cymru of the Wales SME Taskforce, a collaboration which aims to help SMEs see climate action as a priority and a key part of resilience planning.

As well as NatWest Cymru, Wales SME Taskforce is made up of the Federation of Small Businesses, Cynnal Cymru | Sustain Wales, ACCA Cymru, Business Wales, British Business Bank and BITC.

Gemma said: “We identified from listening to our customers and members that they knew that climate change ought to be a key focus for them, but that they often felt it wasn’t today’s crisis. For SMEs it can feel that there are far more pressing issues to be dealing with in the here and now. But we recognise that building climate resilience into planning can avert a crisis for those SMEs a bit further down the line.”

It also became clear that SMEs often found it difficult to know how to benchmark what their carbon emissions are at the moment, as well as knowing where to go for support. Wales SME Taskforce held a ‘soft launch’ event, bringing together 40 SMEs so they could learn more about building climate resilience into their company and providing signposting to resources.

This was so well received that Taskforce members felt that similar and ongoing support was needed for the SME community as a whole across Wales. The result is a partnership with media organisation Business News Wales to create a ‘one-stop-shop’ of resources for SMEs, which sits on the platform. Daily news content is complemented with case studies, videos, audio interviews and written resources to inspire SMEs on their climate action journeys. With the help of the Taskforce and signposting to helpful resources, more and more businesses will have access to the support they need to start making a big difference right now and not when it is too late.

The Outcomes of Being a Responsible Business

As a result of its work with BITC Cymru, NatWest has been able to help and support countless SMEs and larger businesses on their own responsible business journey. This means more organisations across Wales will be incorporating or improving upon their policies and actions to support their people, their communities, and our planet.

The partnership between NatWest and BITC has also brought greater awareness of the vast amount of help and resources that are out there for businesses looking to improve their impact on communities and the environment, as well as to further promote the benefits of being a responsible business.

It can seem quite daunting to start the responsible business journey, but as Gemma explains, it is all about taking it one step at a time. She continues: “Sometimes, if you’re looking at a business that has made massive changes, or huge leaps in this direction, it can look intimidating to a business that has yet to start on that pathway. But by just taking it one step at a time, it becomes a lot more achievable. BITC have a huge range of free resources and that’s something that we, as a leadership board, are always really keen to get across. BITC has an offering for SMEs, not just larger organisations, so I would advocate getting involved and talking to people and asking questions, because in my experience, everybody is always really willing to share best practices.”