Accepting the challenge: delivering inclusive growth through collaboration, ambition and leadership

Susan Fouquier is Regional Managing Director of Business Banking at Royal Bank of Scotland and Chair of the Scottish National Action Plan for Responsible Business (SNAP-RB)

Susan FouquierIn the spring of 2016, I met with Business in the Community Scotland to hear more about a new, initiative designed to make a positive impact on the lives of young people in Scotland and make the country future fit for business for generations to come.

It was called the Scottish National Action Plan for Responsible Business (SNAP-RB). The premise was simple: BITC Scotland wanted to convene Scottish employers with the support of government. This would create an infrastructure to focus the effort and resources of business, achieve impact at scale and lead the way in building a fairer society and a sustainable economy.

These ambitions resonate with our visions here at Royal Bank of Scotland so I immediately knew this was something that we would and should support.

Across all areas of the business the reaction was the same – this was something we wanted to be part of. We agreed to chair SNAP-RB for three years.

As a bank which supports organisations such as the Princes Trust and the STV Children’s Appeal, we see the harsh reality which some families and individuals in Scotland face.

SNAP-RB’s research makes the challenge and the hurdles many face even more acute. One in five children in Scotland grows up in poverty, impeding their ability to learn and achieve their full potential. Over 60% of Scottish households in poverty have at least one adult in work – so being in work is not necessarily the solution to being poor. 9.6% of Scotland’s population are Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET). 9.1% of people in Scotland were underemployed.

At every level this is wrong. Individuals, families and communities suffer, and so does our economy. We see a lack of diversity, a shortage of skills and talent and limited productivity in our workforce. A recent study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, one of SNAP-RB Leadership Group’s members, has estimated that across the UK poverty costs the economy £78 billion each year.

Such figures – and the opportunity to be part of something which could help address such issues, has struck a chord with businesses across the country. Following meetings with BITC Scotland Director Mark Bevan, over a dozen of Scotland key organisations elected to get involved.

We know that many employers, including all the members of the SNAP-RB Leadership Group, are working to address these issues. As one of our members eloquently put it: “we help a lot of people a little, or a few people a lot”. The bold ambition of SNAP-RB however, is “to help a lot of people a lot”. We want to have impact at scale and that can only be accomplished through working together.

At the Leadership Group’s first meeting we agreed that the mission of SNAP-RB would be “to improve the lives of families affected by poverty through the collective action of employers in Scotland”. To do this, we would have to collaborate, we would have to be ambitious, and we would have to be creative.

That’s exactly what we’ve seen. Over the past six months, the SNAP-RB Leadership Group has stepped up to the challenge with great dedication, energy and enthusiasm. We have established four sub-groups to focus our work on Education and Employment. We have met with other organisations, from Government, business and the third sector, to see where we can add value, where the gaps are and where we can make the greatest impact. We are currently finalising our KPIs so that we can measure our impact and achieve our ambitions. SNAP-RB is an inclusive challenge – every employer in Scotland can step up and take part.

Larger employers, like those who are sitting on the SNAP-RB Leadership Group, are challenged to do more in adopting the best practice in responsible business, from developing a diverse workforce to engaging with your community.

But we know that a significant proportion of business in Scotland is driven by SMEs – this sector is the lifeblood of our economy. As Regional Managing Director for Business Banking in Scotland I have the great opportunity to support an area which plays so critical a role in driving employment in this country. I am also proud to be part of this programme which offers organisations of all scales the chance to play a greater role in our society through community engagement. By collaborating with each other and sharing our insights, skills and experience, every business can help make a positive difference to our society.

SNAP-RB provides the perfect framework for SMEs to do just that. Over the next two years we will be establishing several Community Action Groups (CAPs) to take the activities developed by SNAP-RB, customise them for maximum local impact, and lead the way in developing new ways of engaging business in the community to build a stronger economy, a fairer society and a sustainable future.

Although it is still early days, we are already taking action. SNAP-RB is more than a think tank. This is an action plan with members who are keen to deliver meaningful change.

As we develop the plan and our activities, we will need support from every employer to achieve our ambitions. If you are ready to take up the challenge of BITC, to create inclusive growth for business, a fairer society and a sustainable future, visit our webpage and register your interest to be kept informed of developments and opportunities to engage and join us on twitter #goodgoodbetter!