It’s all on the Map

Stephen Farrant, Director of Sustainability, Innovation and Sectors on why purpose-driven leaders are essential. 

It seems as though map reading, much like driving cars and writing letters, is rapidly becoming a lost art.

Which is ironic, given that rarely has it felt like the world has needed a clear path forwards as much as it does now. From the advent of fake news and the rise of populist politics to the intractable complexity of Brexit. From rampant social inequalities and a glaring gender pay gap to plastic pollution, water stress and climate refugees; clarity and confidence in our collective road ahead doesn't come cheap these days.

The good news is that we do indeed now have a Map for the Responsible Business Movement, building on all of Business in the Community’s insights and knowledge over the past 35 years and distilling the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals  (or “Global Goals”) for a business audience.

Based on the principle of leaving no one behind, the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals aim to tackle poverty, climate change and inequality. The Global Goals represent the largest ever call for collective action by governments, institutions, businesses and citizens. To achieve the Global Goals and so build a sustainable future for everyone, it is essential to develop the positive impacts of business and mitigate the negative.

Central to the Responsible Business Map is the need for purpose-driven leaders, who will be able to navigate the turbulent operating environment and maintain a consistent course; as the saying goes, it is the trees with the deepest roots that will weather the storm.  Purpose-driven leaders are essential if we are to restore our natural environment to good health through smart growth, to create healthy communities right across society, and to continue to ensure a human face to the digital revolution.

I remain a firm believer in the power of enlightened business leaders to create our best chances for positive change in society. But, as the Edelman Trust Barometer reminds us year on year, trust in business, government and charities remain stubbornly low.  It is a sobering realisation that none of the change that we all want to see – and that the Responsible Business Network is perfectly positioned to lead – will be possible in the absence of trust.

And trust, as we all know, is an outcome of the sum total of our collective actions over time, not a message. So how do we begin to track meaningfully what the Responsible Business Network is achieving year on year? Well, the further good news is that BITC’s new Responsible Business Tracker® (powered by Sky), currently in development and to be taken to market in September 2018, is designed precisely to measure how far any individual company is on its responsible business journey, and to provide a clear quantification of progress, impacts and the road ahead. The Responsible Business Tracker will help to cut through the fog and show what good looks like - for our members and ultimately for UK plc. Because if we are to see change at scale, we will need employees, customers and investors all on board.

So, it seems that in this new era of discontinuous change, social media and fragile trust, even having a map and knowing how to read it is not enough. Beyond simply embracing the spirit of responsible business, we’ve all got to act like we mean it - and prove it through actions not words.

For that, we need leaders at all levels. It's all on the Map.