Responsible businesses all have one thing in common – an ambition to make the world a better place while supporting communities.
It was upon this principle that national charity Business in the Community (BITC) was founded some 40 years ago, and today the not-for-profit organisation is another step closer to helping UK companies become truly responsible businesses.
BITC’s latest tool – the Responsible Business Tracker – is aimed at driving change and will help prevent businesses from falling into a new era of “purpose-washing” after its pilot found that responsible business is still not embedded into the core of many UK companies to the required extent.
The tracker, trialled this year ahead of its autumn launch, measures businesses against an aspirational set of desired outcomes and actions from BITC’s Responsible Map, the organisation’s definition of responsible business.
The map has been designed to contribute to the United Nation’s 17 Global Goals, aimed at addressing global challenges such as poverty, climate and inequality by 2030.
As the largest measurement of its kind in the UK, BITC’s tracker included 64 pioneering businesses from across 24 sectors, with a combined turnover of approximately £105 billion and more than one million employees.
It found that while 94 per cent demonstrated CEO commitment on responsible business, only 17 per cent have successfully linked this purpose statement to responsible business.
And while 72 per cent have formally engaged employees and leaders to identify priority responsible business issues, only 16 per cent have integrated these into the risk register or consulted externally.
Sponsored by Sky and supported by Lloyds Banking Group’s Centre for Responsible Business at the University of Birmingham, the tracker also recognised that although most businesses have a champion for responsible business and can point to how this leadership is communicated, few have functional targets across the organisation.
The Responsible Business Tracker Insights Report warns that such gaps between purpose statements and integration can leave a company unaligned to its purpose and effectively “purpose-washing”. BITC wants all individuals in an organisation to understand how responsible business applies to them by 2030. Amanda Mackenzie, chief executive of BITC, says: “As the tracker grows in participation, its influence and importance will become greater. In future, the tracker will identify best practice and make change happen.”
Glasgow-based WildHearts Group is a global business-to-business social enterprise which is dedicated to creating societal change, both locally and globally, through the profits it generates.
The group comprises a business supplies company, WildHearts Office, which has more than 35,000 products available from stationary to workwear; WildHearts Horizon, a document management business; and WildHearts Talent, a corporate entrepreneurial training programme.
Large companies such as Amey, Barclays, Nestlé and Johnson and Johnson, among others, have switched to WildHearts for their office materials supply and use its other services to both help their businesses and improve lives and communities across the world.
The foundation has a range of social initiatives, from equipping young people with key employability skills, to addressing the lack of social mobility in the UK, to helping raise awareness of gender inequality issues in the developing world.
One initiative created by the WildHearts Foundation is the Micro-Tyco programme, the world’s largest values-driven entrepreneurship competition, and it is recognised by leading entrepreneurial education institution, the Babson Social Innovation Lab in Boston, US.
To date, more than 45,000 young people across 25 countries, including the UK, have benefited from the programme. School children in the UK began with just £1 before finding ways to maximise profits, which are invested into micro-loans for people starting their own business in the developing world.
WildHearts Group is also working to address more than 50 per cent of the UN’s Global Goals and recently achieved its own highly ambitious goal, set in 2017, to transform one million lives by the end of 2020.
Michaela Stephen, who works in partnership development at WildHearts, says that the most valuable aspects of the BITC tracker is sharing experiences of responsible business with other participants.
She says: “As a company that is in a period of growth, we always have our eyes on the horizon to see what’s coming next.
“The Responsible Business Tracker was the perfect tool for this.”
As one of the UK’s largest infrastructure companies, Robertson Group demonstrates a thorough understanding of its duty towards responsible businesses and a commitment to such practices.
The family-owned business, which has offices in Stirling, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen as well as south of the Border, was supported in its delivery of the company’s common purpose “to assure a sustainable future”, as a forerunner of Business in the Community’s Responsible Business Tracker.
The construction firm has developed a robust responsible business strategy, mapping nine actions aligned with the aims of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – and is the only BITC forerunner working in the construction sector to do so.
Each of those nine actions, which are designed to provide a positive impact so that people and communities thrive, falls within three areas identified in the strategy:
People – cultivating a healthy, diverse and empowered workforce
Partners – creating social value by engaging communities, implementing a sustainable supply chain and delivering quality projects
Planet – minimising the business’s carbon footprint by supporting sustainable initiatives.
The plan extends to the local communities where Robertson is delivering construction projects, including those designed to engage local businesses, SME providers and young people. Most recently, Robertson ran the Introduction to Construction programme for a dozen S4-S6 pupils in Clackmannanshire, where the company is the main contractor for the council’s £15 million Tullibody South Campus project, which will see two new primary schools and a nursery built.
The programme included six sessions on careers, skills and employability and a project which saw the creation of a hut that will be used by future pupils of the campus. Robertson also gave workshops on social media and digital footprints, and a presentation on the industry’s professions and trades. At the end of the programme, four work placement opportunities were offered.
Using the BITC recommendations, Robertson Group has stated that it will continue to focus on the measurement and evaluation of its strategic activity to closely analyse the aggregate impact on both the company and society to ensure that it remains a responsible business.
The firm was commended for its efforts by Maria-Jose Subiela, director of Global Goals, Business in the Community, who said that the assessment team had found great practice within Robertson’s submission, particularly around the group’s work with SME enterprises in the supply chain.