Business leaders convene in Tower Hamlets with the aim of improving social mobility - Business in the Community

Business leaders convene in Tower Hamlets with the aim of improving social mobility

  • Business leaders from across the UK visit the London Borough of Tower Hamlets to understand the challenges facing people living and working in the area, and the business benefit through taking action.
  • The visit comes as research shows that a quarter of children living in Tower Hamlets live in poverty.
  • The visit was led by Paul Drechsler CBE, President of Society of Chemical Industry (SCI).

Business in the Community (BITC), The Prince’s Responsible Business Network, brought CEO and Board level business leaders to Tower Hamlets, under the leadership of Paul Drechsler CBE, President of SCI, to understand the challenges faced by those living in the Borough, leading to high levels of deprivation, low social mobility and a high proportion of children living in in relatively low-income households. Business leaders convened to discuss how business can engage and make a positive difference.

The visit comes as research shows that one in four children in Tower Hamlets live in relatively low income households – 6.4% higher than the UK average, and over 10% higher than the London average.[2] Research also shows there is a strong correlation between child poverty and educational outcomes, with children from lower-income households less likely to achieve in education than children from higher-income households.[3] In addition, the proportion of young people aged 16 to 17 who are not in education, employment, or training (NEET) in Tower Hamlets is 3% – higher than the average NEET rate in England.[4]

Business leaders visited London East Alternative Provision (LEAP), which works with students who have joined alternative provision as a result of their previous school placement having broken down, whether through ill-health, behaviour issues or other difficulties. Business leaders also visited Mulberry School for Girls, a comprehensive girls’ secondary school, to understand the challenges and opportunities facing students in traditional education settings.

The visit was attended by CEOs and Board level business leaders from a range of companies, including Enterprise Rent-A-Car, UPS, Hogan Lovells International LLP, Aldermore Group, Experian and Simplyhealth Group.

Paul Drechsler CBE, President of SCI, said:

“BITC’s Seeing is Believing visit to Tower Hamlets highlighted the challenges that so many young people face, which if left unaddressed, can lead to unacceptable levels of deprivation. Business leaders have a duty and value the opportunity to work together, alongside governments and community groups, to provide solutions so that no child or young person is living in poverty. I know today’s visit will act as a catalyst for faster change and leads to impactful action to support young people who are living and working in the area.”

Mary Macleod, Chief Executive of Business in the Community, said:    

“Business leaders understand that they have a responsibility to step up and work together to address societal issues impacting people and communities across the UK. BITC’s Seeing is Believing programme is designed to create action – business leaders driving change. Business leaders get immersed in communities to understand the interventions they can take that will have the greatest impact. BITC works with employers to support people into work around the country, lifting up those most in need, transforming lives and helping communities thrive. We will continue to work with businesses to inspire them to do even more.”

The Seeing is Believing programme was established by the then Prince of Wales in 1990. The programme, supported by Salesforce and Linklaters LLP, was born from a simple but powerful belief that the best way to close the gap between the boardroom and the community was to take business leaders out to the communities and, through the power of experiential learning, to inspire and challenge participants. The visits are designed to encourage business leaders to think strategically about the implications for their own businesses and the practical actions that can be taken in response, leading to meaningful and sustained impact for both businesses and communities. To date, over 25,000 business leaders have taken part in the Seeing is Believing programme which has led to various initiatives being set up including Career Ready, Ban the Box and mentoring circles in collaboration with the Department for Work and Pensions. 


Notes to editor 

  1. Photos of the visit are available upon request.
  2. Department for Work and Pensions: Children in low-income families: local area statistics 2014 to 2023.
  3. Child Poverty Action Group: ‘There is only so much we can do’ – school staff in England | CPAG.
  4. Department for Education: NEET and participation: local authority figures 2023.