Almost a hundred years ago, a former Barclays director, William Carruthers, delivered a speech on the responsibility of everyone including the Government and businesses to rebuild society after the First World War. In that speech he said “responsibility differs in degree but not in essence. Each one is under some obligation, and to the extent to which he falls short the whole community must suffer”.
The spirit of Carruthers’ statement is as true today as it was a century ago. If businesses are to thrive in the 21st Century then they must have a broader social purpose, above and beyond their financial results. Companies cannot compromise between performance and values: each and every one of us has an obligation to think beyond short-term profits and embed responsibility into everything we do, so it becomes part of our DNA.
As a business, we no longer evaluate performance purely on what has been achieved. We now place equal importance on how it has been achieved. In practice, this means we measure and reward our employees, not just on commercial results, but on how they live our values and bring them to life every day.
We take responsibility, at every level of the business, to lead by example, be transparent and accountable for our actions. It is about helping people achieve their ambitions in the right way whether they are a customer, a colleague or a shareholder.
Two recent experiences reinforced the importance of this for me and how, we as an organisation, can have a real, positive impact on our communities through our core business activities, bringing value to all involved.
The first was taking part in the Leader’s Quest, a leadership development programme which brings leaders together and challenges them to make a positive change. Among the many organisations and businesses we visited as part of this was a small community centre in Stratford, east London. As well as providing community support it serves as a hub for local start-ups. I saw how mutually beneficial our actions can be: on the one hand we were supporting the local community and at the same time, providing tangible advice and support to a new generation of businesses. It really brought to life how important it is for businesses such as Barclays to connect with its communities and help them grow and prosper.
A second example is the fantastic work our Global Corporates team from Ghana, South Africa and the UK did to increase the use of locally sourced produce in Ghana by one of our large global clients. By connecting thousands of small farmers, the team helped the individual farmers and their families, our client and the local agriculture industry while generating long-term benefits for Ghana’s economy. A commercial opportunity which helps a client, a community and supports economic growth is fundamental to what culture and values mean at Barclays.
I am proud to say Barclays’ employees are continually finding new ways to demonstrate how social and commercial opportunities can go hand in hand.
As an organisation, we are passionate about leaving things in a better position than we found them and finding ways to positively impact the communities we interact with and serve. In today’s climate, business should not only be about immediate achievements but, should place equal importance on the value of sustainable progress.