Date: 12 November 2013
Speakers: Stephen Howard, Chief Executive, Business in the Community
David Francis, Head of CR and Alternative Business Models, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Tony Manwaring, Chief Executive, Tomorrow’s Company
Chaired by Business in the Community and hosted by Fujitsu, the event looked to outline the context of the UK Government's Framework for Action on CR before it is finalised ahead of publication in December 2014. It was attended by business leaders and other stakeholders who had responded to the Government's consultation on CR launched earlier in the year.
This call for views was initiated to help the Government support companies' CR activity and help them to raise their standards collectively.
David Francis from BIS presented an overview of the outcomes of the business consultation which received over 150 responses from a wide range of stakeholders including businesses (large and small), representative bodies, charities, educational bodies and individuals.
One of the shared concerns identified by David in the consultation was a call for the business case for corporate responsibility to be made more clearly through case studies as well as setting expectations and directions through leadership.
Tony Manwaring of Tomorrow's Company explored the evolution of the CR landscape and what the future may hold. He echoed the view of the consultation that there is a clear 'tectonic shift’ in business attitudes taking place with CR professionals having to forge new roles.
On the theme of forging new roles he discussed the concept of the CEO as a ‘Chief Purpose Officer’ and the responsibility of such a role to focus on shared value creation. He continued to ask whether there is a greater need to define ‘the business case for business rather than the ‘business case for CR’.
Stephen Howard of Business in the Community talked about the evolving landscape of responsible business, with the focus on how you earn your profits, not how you spend them. Stephen commented on the shift towards integrated thinking, reporting and the important role of leadership. Focusing in on the role of government, Steve said it is a complex issue and worth considering a flexible role that looks at legislation, incentives and collaboration.
Following the presentation there was a question and answer session. Points raised included:
The role of investors and how CR’s greatest allies lie in investor relations departments and the rollout of integrated reporting is set to enable more joined up thinking.
The role of SMEs, as much of the language is pitched at a corporate level.
The objective of the framework, with attendees saying it is not the role of government to prescribe how business delivers CR but it can have a positive role to play in helping unite different sectors and drive local development.
Some companies are wary of one-size-fits all approach by government towards business as consumers are already driving businesses to be switched on and connected.
Government procurement processes have a tremendous role to play in shaping the corporate landscape and can help tendering companies compete on a level playing field.
The main objective of the framework should be to re-establish public trust in business
There are numerous examples of voluntary codes have collapsed under the pressures of red tape. Are there opportunities to encourage responsible behaviour in other ways such as championing best practice more publicly?
The framework for action will be published in December 2013.
Copies of the slides are available for BITC members.