What are the benefits of being a responsible business?

Vision Voices: We asked people from a broad selection of sectors to describe in their own words the biggest impact acting responsibly has had on their organisations.

Lorna Jack by © Jamie Williamson
Lorna Jack by © Jamie Williamson

Lorna Jack, Chief Executive, Law Society of Scotland

As the professional body for Scottish solicitors, acting responsibly is in our DNA.

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Solicitors go through a rigorous qualification process and are expected to meet the highest of professional standards.

We set these standards and provide training and support to ensure that our 12,000 members can meet that expectation.

We act responsibly when we investigate situations where this may not have been the case.

We act responsibly when we set financial and anti-money laundering rules for Scotland’s 1,100 law firms, working with them to ensure compliance.

We act responsibly when we help members of the public find solicitors to help with legal problems.

We help parliamentarians to make better, workable law. We help attract talented individuals to the legal profession.

We established the Lawscot Foundation to support young people from less advantaged backgrounds throughout their legal education journey, encouraging a strong and diverse profession which reflects our wider society.

That is us acting responsibly.

Geraldine Higgins, Development Manager, Family Friendly Working Scotland

We work with a whole range of employers across Scotland and many of them have a great approach to flexible working, which means their employees benefit from a better work life balance and are generally happier at work – and guess what? As a result the business is also more productive.

If you consider the fact that most of us will work on into our late 60s, possibly 70s, the idea of following a traditional Monday to Friday 9-5 working pattern is not good for the 

Our recent you.gov poll (October 2018) revealed that 62 per cent of millennials ranked flexibility at work above salary. Also 66 per cent of older workers would value more flexibility over the hours they work.

If employers are truly mindful of employee wellbeing, committed to achieving gender equality, agile in thought as well as practice and keen to attract and retain the best talent, then creating a more flexible working culture is a must for any responsible business.

David Watt, Executive Director, Institute of Directors Scotland

The simple fact is that for a business, acting responsibly makes complete business sense. Long gone are the days when an organisation’s corporate social responsibility programme needed to be called out to plug whatever environmental, community or workplace gap there might have been.

Nowadays, while these areas should continue to have a place and consideration somewhere within the business, it doesn’t need to be an add-on. Instead, it is vital that businesses see these programmes as a matter of course.

After all, the act of being responsible for a business can help build and strengthen relationships internally and externally, as well
as reflect positively on its 
reputation – to the extent that the act of acting responsibly has 
the added benefit of securing investment and building credibility with customers.

Iain Gulland, Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland

To Zero Waste Scotland, acting responsibly means practising what we preach by taking proactive action to reduce our environmental impact.

Every business in Scotland has the potential to make simple changes that won’t cost the earth. Indeed, businesses could save a total of £2.9bn by adopting circular economy business models.

We actively monitor our monthly office carbon impacts covering waste, energy and water use, and report on this quarterly to our staff and the board, then set annual objectives to reduce these impacts.

Our dedicated Green Team, which comprises of staff volunteers, is charged with finding new ways to reduce our environmental impacts.

Each year, we conduct a staff survey to quantify the impacts of staff commuting and identify areas where we can encourage lower-carbon options like cycle to work challenges and car-pool schemes.

We are always looking for ways to reduce our printing and take processes paperless – over the last three years we have reduced per capita paper use by more than 50 per cent.

Christine O’Neill, Chairman, Brodies LLP

As part of Brodies’ commitment to the communities in which we live and work, we support initiatives aimed at opening up the legal profession to talented candidates, including those who may have no background or history in the profession.

Since 2011, we have been involved in PRIME, a work-experience programme, which is intended to give young people an opportunity to experience life at a law firm.

We are delighted that next year one of our first PRIME candidates will return to the firm as a trainee, to begin her legal career – a proud moment for her and for us.

The biggest impact of participating in worthwhile projects like this has been on our people.

It is a highly fulfilling experience for our staff, who have embraced the opportunity to encourage and support students through 
the delivery of information sessions and taking on 
mentoring roles.

All my colleagues recognise the importance of creating opportunities for those coming into the profession and encouraging inclusion and diversity in our firm.

Iain Findlay, Director, Aurora Consultancy

Acting responsibly in business hasn’t so much had an impact on our business as much as it is our business. And by making sustainability - ecological, social and by extension, financial - what we do, we have accessed a new and exciting world of opportunity for ourselves and others.

After working for two years with the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation we are now building the North of Scotland Climate Innovation Hub.

We are building a cleantech ecosystem of innovators in Scotland whose impact will become global and made our work rewarding and full of potential.

It means accessing support from the Scottish Edge and Unlocking Ambition programmes.

Scotland is a great place for innovation. It means collaboration and from that emerge unanticipated opportunities.

Embracing insights from brilliant thinkers and innovators of new business models and frameworks that embody the principles we believe in can deliver competitive advantage in a world that desperately needs the old ways, that are past their sell by date and well past their use by date, to give way to the new.

It is time to change.

David Gow, Director, Acumen Financial Planning

Acting responsibly comes with the territory for Acumen Financial Planning, one of the leading independent financial planning firms in the UK.

With more than 1,300 client families across the UK, the team of 44 provide clients with their financial plans for now and the future.

We build strong relationships with our clients to build trust and establish their goals to deliver the most appropriate advice for them throughout their lifetime, so they achieve their goals and ultimately never run out of money.

The result of which has a huge impact on clients’ lives; for some clients, we help them retire earlier than expected, plan their legacy, achieve their dreams or ensure there are adequate plans in place for unexpected life events.

The biggest impact from acting responsibly for Acumen Financial Planning has been the development of the firm.

An Accredited and Chartered Firm, the firm were recently awarded the prestigious Accredited Firm of the Year Award, for the second time.

Eric Carlin, Director, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems

As director for SHAAP (Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems), for the past few years I have been campaigning for effective alcohol policies alongside friends and partners in the medical and health care sectors and, most importantly, with people who have been touched by alcohol harms in their own lives but we know can recover.

We all recognise that alcohol is a drug and has to be controlled by effective regulations. We hear a lot about ‘responsible drinking’, which emphasises individuals’ responsibility to control and manage their drinking.

However, it’s the big companies who constantly market alcohol, including in the most inappropriate places, such as sporting contexts, who need to be more responsible.

In sticking with Minimum Unit Pricing, the Scottish Government has acted responsibly, intervening in the market to try to prevent the 22 deaths a week that we have in Scotland due to alcohol.

That is politicians acting responsibly and I salute them for that.

Graeme Allan, Managing Partner, Anderson Anderson & Brown LLP

Being responsible means many things to our business but the biggest impact we have experienced is through the work our charity – the Anderson Anderson & Brown Charitable Initiative (AABi) – does.

AABi was introduced as our staff expressed a strong desire to engage even more with local charities and good causes in the communities in which we operate.

All of this activity is now channelled through AABi through which we seek partnerships with charities and invite applications for donations, grants and volunteer time.

We see first hand the impact of the volunteering programme and the funding which not only benefits the charities and good causes, but it has also increased staff engagement across the firm. Our team are given a day of volunteer leave per annum and they also raise all of the grant funding which we donate.

Without their commitment and dedication, the great work we do through AABi simply wouldn’t be possible.

This article appeared in the Winter 2018 edition of Vision Scotland. A digital version can be found here.