Should businesses support the communities in which they operate?

Published On: November 14, 2022

Is the business community doing enough to support wider society? This was the question I recently discussed with Richard Tunnicliffe, Confederation of British Industry (CBI) regional director for the East of England, in the first of a series of podcasts we’re producing at Norse.

Norse Group has its head office in Norwich and employs over 9,000 staff across the UK. We place great emphasis on added social value – our mantra is “improving people’s lives”.

Therefore, we wanted to hear from the UK’s leading business organisation on the role of businesses in looking beyond profit.

We both acknowledged that the business world is often thought of only in terms of bottom line and returns to shareholders. However, security of employment, social value, public interest and environmental impact are rising higher on the corporate agenda.

Organisations small and large are embracing more far-reaching objectives in the emerging environment, social and governance (ESG) business standards. We looked at a range of issues surrounding what businesses’ impact in these areas is – and what it should be.

We also discussed the importance of underpinning the successful delivery of ESG principles with a legislative framework. Richard emphasised the CBI’s involvement in encouraging its members to think about the challenges in quantifying and delivering an ESG agenda and, significantly, the importance of businesses communicating their achievements.

Because of our own help with deliveries of medicine, food, PPE and vaccines during Covid, potential employees now ask about our social value initiatives as much as the job itself.

The issue of local communities telling us about their needs, to help companies deliver better social value, also came up. The success of specific examples, such as businesses, communities and various social services coming together during the pandemic, made it clear to us that building closer social value ties is a two-way street.

Has the support mobilised during the pandemic carried on into the interaction of businesses with their wider communities? Has the value of responsibility for staff welfare outside work become embodied in corporate culture? Is the business world’s social conscience sufficiently responsive to the impact of the financial crisis?

These are questions that we believe the business world needs to continually ask itself.

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