What is a business’ responsibility to the community in which it is based?

I am convinced that maintaining business reputation in our wider society is a defining issue for today’s business leaders. CBI research has shown a decline in reputation through the recent deep recession and although the shift has been greatest in some sectors, most notably in financial services, the challenge is for business as a whole. Our economy is highly interconnected and therefore success or failure is largely a shared outcome.

So what can be done? CBI research has also shown that one of the most significant factors in building reputation and trust is local community impacts, most notably helping to reduce youth unemployment.

In my own business we have moved to integrate local community needs into our corporate decision making. We actively seek win-win outcomes with our communities where business objectives are delivered in a way that matches community needs. We have agreed a set of business driven socio-economic objectives with our communities and these are embedded in our decision making process.

For example our responsible procurement approach, for the £1 billion we spend annually, places value on the development of local skills and participation of SME’s and rewards delivery of these by our larger sub-contractors.

“It’s not about altruism, it’s about delivering a set of objectives within the local community that meets the business needs while delivering benefit to the community.”

Our direct recruitment approach now includes targeting local unemployed and under employed people providing focused support to help them into a job with us or our supply chain. This on top of a highly regarded and long established apprenticeship programme.

It’s not about altruism, it’s about delivering a set of objectives within the local community that meets the business needs while delivering benefit to the community. Alongside the given of good governance and responsible ethical behaviour, I’m convinced that operating our business in a way that also delivers positive outcomes for our local communities will rebuild business trust and reputation.

George Beveridge is Chief Business Officer and Deputy Managing Director of Sellafield Ltd, having spent 25 years in a variety of roles in the UK nuclear industry. He is a founding Director of the Cumbria Inward Investment Agency, current Chairman of the Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership and Chairman of CBI North West.


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