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Eva Astreinidou

Content Writer
Charities Aid Foundation

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E: companiesinfo@cafonline.org

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A NEW ERA OF RESPONSIBLE BUSINESS


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BUILDING AN ECOSYSTEM FOR SOCIAL GOOD

Positive relationships with employees, diverse working environments, and a long-term mission to carry out ethical practices.

These are all things that businesses need to embrace in the new era of responsible business, according to Government’s civil society strategy.

Published in August, the strategy outlines goals that civil society organisations and businesses can work towards to strengthen a growing ecosystem for social good.

The new strategy outlines the significance of responsible business, and the importance of creating partnerships between civil society, business, and the government.

It reads: 

“Corporate social and environmental responsibility should be an integral part of how our businesses operate and how they plan for long term success, including managing risk and sustaining trust in their goods, services, and brands.”  

 

CAF AND RESPONSIBLE BUSINESS

The idea of responsible business has been around for ages, and it is encouraging to see that CAF is already supporting a lot of these goals through its products.

According to the strategy, a defining feature of a responsible business is one that aims for positive interactions and relationships with its employees, shareholders, customers and suppliers.

And one of the many ways we enable companies to engage with their employees is by offering out our Give-As-You-Earn facility. And thanks to this service, over 2,500 companies and 200,000 staff give over £69million to charity each year.

Another quality of a purpose-led and responsible business is that it is open and communicates what it does for society and the environment; at CAF, we offer our clients impact reporting as a way of evaluating successes and also a way of identifying areas of improvement.

We have also commissioned research with the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) to examine how some companies are going above and beyond their traditional role to protect civic space and deliver social good, through our very own Beyond Integrity report.

And our CSR work is not just growing in the UK but worldwide too, with CAF Southern Africa (CAFSA) paving the way for employee volunteering schemes, offering  a database with over 500 validated NGOs worldwide that companies can help contribute to and form partnerships with. In addition, the team at CAFSA performs due diligence checks on beneficiary organisations to ensure volunteer contributions are properly invested.

GOALS FOR BUSINESSES TO WORK TOWARDS

Government has shown support for responsible businesses, but the civil society strategy takes that further, exploring new opportunities and enabling civil society organisations to hold businesses to account.

Some of the goals they have outlined for businesses are:

  • Clean Growth Strategy – Although this has been around since 2017, this is becoming more and more embedded in the Industrial Strategy – in other words growing the UK’s national income while cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Addressing Grand Challenges – these are a list of challenges set out in the Industrial Strategy that are set to transform industries and societies around the world – these include artificial intelligence and data economy, clean growth (see above), the future of mobility, and ageing society. Other challenges laid out include mental health work and transition to work for young people.
  • More inclusion and better representation of the UK population, improving gender balance in business leadership and targeting barriers to participation and progression by black, Asian and ethnic minority people.
  • Realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals – acting to counter climate change, guarding against modern slavery in supply chains, or supporting diversity and fairness in the workplace.
  • Ethical supply chains and employee welfare – As an example, companies can sign up to the Anti-slavery and Human Trafficking Policy, to evaluate and assess their supply chains and help take action against modern slavery. At the moment, only companies with a turnover of over £36m have to make a statement on the actions they are taking.

Speaking to CAF, Hannah Young from anti-slavery and human trafficking charity Unseen UK, said: “There is a review of the modern slavery act coming up this year. And there is a chance that the legal requirement of a statement starts applying to companies with a lower income. What if in two years this encompasses businesses that have less than £15m in turnover? This will mean a lot more businesses will have to map out their supply chain and provide a statement of their work to safeguard their workers. It could potentially be a huge body of work.”

So, why not start early?

  • Leadership Group – a new committee will be created to lead the debate about the role of business in society and to develop actions to support businesses to fulfil this role. The group will comprise senior business leaders, investor leaders, and social sector representatives. It will be established by the end of 2018.
  • Purposely – a tool that enables social entrepreneurs to embed purpose into their business’s DNA. Government wants to expand and develop this tool further.

BUSINESSES AND THEIR SOCIAL VALUE

Nowadays, people want businesses to not only be responsible and carry out social good, but also to have a stance on social issues.

According to a study carried out by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), it is not just in action that people expect businesses to act, with more than 9 out of 10 people (92 per cent) saying that businesses should take a stance on social issues, such as immigration, climate change and inequality. In fact, 72 per cent of the public are prepared to champion companies which stand up for what they believe and challenge politicians.[1]

What next?

The government has the right vision with businesses, but it is worth noting that change takes time.

At CAF, we know that there are so many more untapped opportunities that we can facilitate. We of course all have some way to go, but by forging strong relationships with businesses or high net worth individuals, and tapping into our charity contacts and resources, we can facilitate giving and bolster responsible business as well as philanthropy.

As with the example of the modern slavery act being renewed this year, businesses can and should act quickly.

By taking simple steps, businesses can engage further with stakeholders, help motivate their staff, build trust with the general public, and help work towards a sustainable and ethical future.



[1] http://bettersociety.net/CBI-public-opinion.php

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