Businesses have been highly active in helping after the disaster in the north-east, but more can be achieved, writes Mark Bevan
The impact of the recent unprecedented rainfall and flooding across Scotland will take many weeks to truly calculate and for many individuals, businesses and communities it will take many months to recover. That recovery can be hastened, and for some it is essential that it is if the economic damage is to be contained.
The Business Emergency Resilience Group (Berg) – an initiative of His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales – has been highly active in Scotland in the past days and weeks. BERG convenes the resources and intelligence of large businesses to support smaller business and communities to prepare for, respond to and recover from events such as the recent floods as well as cyber and civic emergencies. The Berg membership, which is representative of insurance and financial services, construction and clean-up as well as retail and public bodies, has been incredible at bringing its resources to the assistance of those affected by flooding as recently as last weekend in the north east of Scotland as it has done previously in Perthshire and the Scottish Borders.
In their response, giving practical, on-the-ground support as well as advice and financial support, Scotland and the UK’s big businesses have shown their authenticity and the power of responsible business in action. They answered the very real and present need for support from businesses and communities and it has been our privilege at Business in the Community Scotland (BITC Scotland) to co-ordinate our members’ action.
Our members Adler and Allan supplied expert advice to householders and businesses on clean-up and repair in Ballater and Aboyne, and replenished flood defence materials, which had been provided to the Scottish Flood Forum to replace stocks but which were exhausted in the emergency in the Scottish Borders. Asda provided supplies of food, clothing and toiletries for evacuees in communities as well as literally cleaning up in people’s homes; John Lewis provided beds for vacant, new build houses in Grampian to be made available to evacuees; Jaguar Land Rover provided 4WD vehicles to support the recovery effort, including to the local Reverend in Ballater so that he could distribute essential supplies and visit the vulnerable and isolated; Marsh and Aviva supplied insurance surgeries to local businesses and residents.
It is time for honest, authentic, embedded responsible business behaviours such as Berg’s activity in recent weeks to prevail throughout Scotland, filtering down from the decision-makers through our communities and impacting on the lives of our citizens. We strongly believe that the old model of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is dead; the antiquated, vaguely philanthropic, departmental add-on that was part public relations and part box ticking is no longer enough for business community engagement.
In the past year, at BITC Scotland we have witnessed positive efforts in Scotland to move towards embracing a responsible business agenda through government initiatives such as the Business Pledge and the Living Wage.
While commendable in spirit and ambition, we believe that there is a more effective option available. We would like to see a movement created by business, the third sector and government collectively – but at its heart driven by business. In effect, we want to see the establishment of a National Action Plan for Responsible Business in Scotland.
Our ambitions are long-term and deep-rooted. Often we have seen well-intentioned projects and initiatives unveiled with great fanfare only to splutter out. This is not the answer. Like the outmoded CSR model, short-term thinking is not sustainable. We need to be aiming for true transformative change; setting long-term goals and coalescing our resources around the vital issues which in concert Scotland’s business community can resolve.
We must use our unique sense of community in Scotland to pull together all those who can contribute to, and implement, this plan of action for responsible business. I believe Scotland could be a world leader in responsible business because we are small enough yet our institutions are expansive enough to embark on a co-ordinated, balanced, collective approach armed with a shared sense of Scottish culture, decency, respect and the values which lie at the heart of our ambitious and forward-thinking plan.
Embedding the principles of responsible business would ultimately improve our economy and thus the employability and lives of our people.
Every Scot would benefit from an inclusive economy. It will take much discussion and a degree of trial and error but if we can begin by agreeing in principle to the foundation of a National Action Plan for Responsible Business then that would be a very good thing to come out of such a devastating start to 2016.
• Mark Bevan is operations director & deputy chief executive of Business in the Community Scotland. For more information, visit: www.sbcscot.com