Why we must make it our busi­ness to give some­thing back

Birmingham Post - - NEWS -

Top­man, who runs the his­toric Acme Whis­tles in the Jew­ellery Quar­ter.

Si­mon, a for­mer pres­i­dent of Birmingham Cham­ber, was among a group of busi­ness­peo­ple who gath­ered for like-minded dis­cus­sions the other even­ing.

The sub­ject of why busi­ness should be a force for good came up. In other words, while busi­nesses drive the econ­omy, gen­er­ate jobs and wealth for em­ploy­ees and pay taxes, should they be do­ing much more for the com­mu­nity?

There has been a gath­er­ing storm in some quar­ters where busi­nesses have been per­ceived as “bad” and anti-cap­i­tal­ist sen­ti­ments and demon­stra­tions have spread.

But on a daily ba­sis we see how that just is not true, while ac­cept­ing there are cases of bad prac­tice.

Si­mon’s is just one small but ef­fec­tive ex­am­ple of cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity (CSR).

An­other more ex­am­ple was that of the late Sir Adrian Cad­bury, who de­voted much of his later life to study­ing how busi­nesses should be­have and wrote sev­eral works about cor­po­rate gov­er­nance.

His Quaker fam­ily were fa­mous for look­ing after their work­force and even cre­ated the fa­mous Bournville es­tate for them.

To­day, we have many more ex­am­ples of firms be­hav­ing re­spon­si­bly and a re­cent study found that can­di­dates for jobs in a wide va­ri­ety of sec­tors were more in­ter­ested in their po­ten­tial em­ployer’s CSR poli­cies than the salary.

This change in em­ployer-em­ployee re­la­tions is a long way from Thomas Grad­grind, the char­ac­ter in Charles Dick­ens’s Hard Times, whose at­ti­tude to his busi­ness and later life as a school­teacher was pretty much that the flog­gings would con­tinue un­til morale im­proved.

Of course, busi­nesses can­not sur­vive with­out gen­er­at­ing prof­its and that must re­main the case. A fail­ing busi­ness is no good to any­one.

But at the Cham­ber, we daily see ex­am­ples of busi­nesses putting some­thing back.

In fact, our for­mer pres­i­dent, Greg Lowson, head of of­fice at global law firm Pin­sent Ma­sons, spear­headed the foun­da­tion of ‘CSR City’, a Birmingham project fo­cus­ing on im­prov­ing links be­tween busi­ness and schools.

I could cite many firms in Birmingham who get it – like Mon­delez and National Ex­press, which do ster­ling work in de­prived ar­eas of the com­mu­nity.

Also, take Birmingham Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal (BCH), where two huge busi­nesses have made huge con­tri­bu­tions. Wes­leyan pro­vides tai­lored fi­nan­cial advice and prod­ucts to se­lect pro­fes­sional groups, no­tably GPs, hos­pi­tal doc­tors, den­tists, teach­ers and lawyers. The firm, with­out much fan­fare, gave £1 mil­lion to cre­ate Mag­no­lia House for the use of hun­dreds of par­ents and fam­i­lies who re­ceive life-chang­ing news through this sanc­tu­ary built in the hos­pi­tal’s gar­dens.

Also in the grounds of the BCH, busi­ness­man Doug Wright, who owns 15 McDon­ald’s fran­chises across the West Mid­lands, was in­stru­men­tal in set­ting up Ronald McDon­ald House, which last year helped 1,183 fam­i­lies stay close to their chil­dren while they were in hos­pi­tal.

But Doug’s sup­port goes on. The house can ac­com­mo­date up to 90 fam­i­lies a night and re­quires £750,000 to cover an­nual run­ning costs – a fee Doug is con­tin­u­ally striv­ing to raise.

Just an­other ex­am­ple of how busi­nesses can and do con­trib­ute to the greater good. Paul Faulkner is chief ex­ec­u­tive at Greater Birmingham Cham­bers of

Com­merce

At the Cham­ber, we daily see ex­am­ples of busi­nesses putting some­thing back

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