Poverty affects a huge number of people, from those living in it to those indirectly affected by it. On a personal level, it affects child development and life chances; on an economic level, it reduces productivity, resilience and profit for everyone.
Scottish Government figures for 2013-14 show that around 18 per cent of Scots are living in poverty – that’s around one in six people – while more than a fifth (22 per cent) of children are trapped in poverty.
These depressing statistics represent a staggeringly high proportion of our society.
Responsible employers know that education and employability are two key ways in which they can have a significant, positive effect on the lives of those living in poverty, and by extension, on the Scottish economy. For this reason, Business in the Community Scotland’s groundbreaking Scottish National Action Plan for Responsible Business (SNAP-RB) couldn’t be more relevant right now. SNAP-RB is a key focus for us in Scotland.
A business-led charity, Business in the Community, convenes the resources and intelligence of businesses of all sizes and sectors to drive change in workplaces and society. Responsible business is about how companies make money, not simply how they spend profits. It is how business operates as an employer, supplier and customer, and how, as neighbours, a company can help to create vibrant communities where people can flourish, regardless of their social or economic backgrounds.
By growing the responsible business movement in Scotland, we aim to achieve our vision for every business to operate responsibly and secure a more sustainable future for all.
This week we formally launch SNAP-RB. Led by a group of responsible business leaders, and chaired by The Royal Bank of Scotland, its aim is to enable businesses to lead on creating a fairer society, stronger economy and more sustainable communities in Scotland with support from government and the third sector.
The Leadership Group is the driving force behind SNAP-RB, playing a pivotal role in helping us realise our mission of improving the lives of families affected by poverty through the collaborative actions of employers across Scotland.
The Group has now determined the first set of priorities for SNAP-RB and these will have education and employability at their core, as a means of significantly reducing poverty.
These priorities will set the framework for reducing poverty through improving educational experiences of all young people in Scotland and to increase employability to encourage wider understanding of the skills and behaviours needed to futureproof the country’s workforce.
Through education we must ensure our children and young people have the skills they need as our future workforce – wasting the potential of a single individual, never mind the life chances of a significant part of the next generation, is simply not an option. And beyond that, we need to enhance employability, allowing individuals to plan to achieve their dreams and reach their full potential. An early part of our plans will see us establish a national business open day to enable employers to engage with our communities as talent pools. We want employees who have been supported into the labour market to continue to progress and develop professionally.
We will develop a Community Action Plan (CAP-RB) framework which will be rolled out in the first quarter of 2017 to encourage collaboration across Scotland from employers of all sizes across all sectors.
This is critical for delivering the sustained and transformative change necessary for building stronger and more resilient communities, which in turn are necessary for enabling business growth. Responsible business behaviour is no longer marginal, it’s central to the future. BITC Scotland is creating the circumstances and framework in SNAP-RB for the next decade of sustainable growth by enabling a new collaboration between government and business.
Jane Wood is Managing Director of Business In The Community Scotland, www.bitc.org.uk/ scotland