On Thursday last week it was my privilege to hand out 16 gold awards at Number 10 Downing Street.
These weren’t your usual prizes for film idols, sports stars or literary luminaries. Instead the recipients were 16 public and private sector organisations who’ve gone the extra mile to help our Armed Forces personnel. These organisations embody the spirit as well as the letter of our Armed Forces Covenant – the nation’s promise of fair treatment to all those who serve.
So what have these winners done to deserve such praise?
First, they’ve provided invaluable support to service men and women, veterans and families by offering job advice, travel discounts and cadet work placements.
Second, they’ve assisted our Reservists: recruiting them; giving them time to train and mobilise; and providing spouses with flexible leave when their partners’ deploy.
These business aren’t just supporting our people out of the goodness of their hearts. Nor are they simply ticking a Corporate Social Responsibility box. They’re backing the Covenant because they believe in the bottom line. It’s sound business sense to make use of individuals who are full of drive. Their leadership training alone would cost thousands to replicate. And let’s face it, if you’ve coped in the heat of operations, chances are you’ll manage that early morning meeting.
Our 16 gold award winners aren’t alone in recognising the benefit that backing our people brings. Almost 800 businesses large and small have now signed up to the Covenant. Many are CBI members. Many are now admiring the framed bronze or silver award certificate hanging on their office wall. Yet I imagine many are also still greedy to go for gold.
So how can you make that jump?
Today I can reveal the secret, exclusively for CBI members. You need to become our advocates. That means using your influence to get the word out about the value of the Covenant. Advocates are, what we call in the military game, force multipliers. They inspire others to follow in their footsteps. That matters enormously.
As I write, our Armed Forces are out there: taking on terror in the Middle East; policing our skies; protecting our sea lanes; putting our allies through their paces; and supporting our citizens in severe weather.
Yet, the world is becoming a far more dangerous place. We’ve recently seen terror attacks in Jakarta, in Istanbul and closer to home in Paris. As those dangers grow, we’ll be demanding even more of our people. So we must also keep pulling out all the stops to help them lift their load.
For all those who step up, there will be public recognition and a business benefit.