"Can business build a better society?" breakfast seminar in summary

Our recent research Corporate Giving by the FTSE 100 2018 shows that although 98% of the FTSE 100 give to charity, only a third of the public actually think they do.  At a time of low public trust and confidence in business leaders, CAF came together with the CBI, as part of their Great Business Debate series to ask “Can business build a better society?”

Chaired by FT Business Editor Sarah Gordon, a panel of experts, including our clients Barclays, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Weil Gotshal & Manges, together with the CBI and Institute of Business Ethics debated this question in front of over 60 corporate responsibility and business leaders.


Our chair kicked off the debate with the thought that corporate responsibility is an area where traditionally “talk is cheap” but action is harder.

Our panelists put forward several points including “it is important to do business ethically rather than just do ethical things", "business has not only a local and national role as an employer, philanthropist and taxpayer but also increasingly an important global role in social change since, unlike almost all other institutions, it transcends many boundaries” and “the private sector should have incentives to see a better society as a business opportunity and responsible business as a competitive strategy.” 

The discussion covered the need for a common framework and stronger and more encompassing roles for non-executive directors, including taking a longer term view with responsible business central to a sustainable business strategy.



In conclusion, the panelists agreed that business needs to play an increasingly important role given the scale of challenges we face, for example, engaging with the newly announced UN global Sustainable Development Goals.

Audience questions sparked discussions about where disruptive innovation might come from in the field of corporate responsibility and the role of business social purpose in attracting and retaining talent. Panelists agreed that an enlightened approach would see corporate responsibility as a source of competitive advantage. The final question covered the issue of government regulation in areas such as charitable giving and gave the example of businesses operating in India being required to donate 2% pre-tax profits to social causes.

The debate only scratched the surface but did agree that corporate responsibility is definitely an important force for social change and that more needs to be done to embed the right practices into business behaviour. 

We are committed to raising awareness of the benefits of corporate philanthropy, highlighting trends, best practices, innovative ideas and presenting challenging thought provoking debates. Again, we would like to thank the valuable contribution of our panellists, and our partners at the CBI and the support of Weil, Gotshal and Manges for their generous hospitality.

Our Corporate Philanthropy services

If you’d like to find out more about how we can support your corporate responsibility approach with our specialist corporate advisory services and corporate giving vehicles, please contact us on 03000 123 207 or e-mail corporate@cafonline.org.