The Prince’s Seeing is Believing brings together senior business leaders, enabling them to gain first hand insight into pressing social and environmental issues. Richard Flint, Chief Executive, Yorkshire Water and Kelda Group, led a small group of Senior Business Leaders on a Seeing is Believing visit in Leeds, to bring to life the actions that can be taken by businesses to bring about change.The day highlighted how a more strategic approach to responsible business can act as a competitive advantage in the marketplace, and considered the role that business leaders can play in tackling some of the most pressing issues facing society today.
In Britain and beyond, challenging market conditions have taken hold, with drastic changes in employment, technology and consumer behaviour. Businesses need to adapt their approaches continuously. A growing number of CEOs (79 per cent) are realising that sustainability and purpose practices lead to increased competitive advantage in their industry. Harvard professors John Kotter and James Heskett found that purpose driven companies generated revenue four times faster compared to their counterparts over a ten-year period.
Responsible employment and future employees
Over breakfast, the first session of the day demonstrated the reality of the skills gap, the need for responsible recruitment and for investing in future employees and customers. According to a CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey in 2015, 45 per cent of businesses believe there won't be enough people with the right skills to fill their future high-skilled jobs. Delegates gained insight from senior representatives from both NG Bailey and PwC who spoke about the their apprenticeship programmes, as well as talking first hand to apprentices who have directly benefitted from these programmes. Following on from this, some BITC ‘Ready for Work’ clients spoke to the group about their experiences of the programme that supports some of society's most disadvantaged people to enter employment. It was clear to everyone that there is a genuine need and advantage for investing in future employees and customers.
Responsible Business Practices
During the second session, delegates heard how businesses are adapting and responding to the changing market conditions, and behaving socially and commercially in a transparent, fair and connected way. The group broke into groups to hear from two exemplar BITC member companies - Yorkshire Water/Kelda Group and We Are Vista (winner of the Small Responsible Business of the Year 2017) - on their responsible business journey and how BITC have supported them through programmes and initiatives.
Responsible Business and a competitive advantage
The third session built on the first and second sessions to establish the business case for taking action and how a strategic approach to responsible business can act as a competitive advantage in the marketplace. The group heard from Marshalls and Land Securities, two long standing, established BITC members, about the connection between responsible business and how that has a commercial advantage.
The day concluded by highlighting the importance of collaboration and networks. There was a general agreement from delegates that for business to prosper, they need to act responsibly. Business needs to work with peers and organisations such as Business in the Community to deliver business strategies with responsibility at their core.
Richard Flint, Chief Executive, Yorkshire Water and Kelda Group
Ant Warrington, Director of Insight & New Propositions, Yorkshire Building Society
Chris Daly, Chief Executive, Chartered Institute of Marketing
Gerry Wareham, Chief Crown Prosecutor, Crown Prosecution Service
Helen Connolly, CEO, Bonmarché
James Clarry, Chief Operating Officer, Coutts
Julian Gill, Partner, Bond Dickinson
Martha Silcott, Founder, Fablittlebag
Martin Payne, Chief Financial Officer, Polypipe
Paul Ellis, Chief Executive, Ecology Building Society
Peter Hogg, Chief Operating Officer, Liberty Speciality Steels
Richard Risdon, Director, JN Bentley and MMB
Roger Hutton, Joint Managing Partner, Clarion Solicitors
Sarah Miles, Group People Director, Conviviality Retail