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Trading for Good

What we're talking about...

What it takes to be a responsible capitalist...

10th December 2014 By Kay Allen in Small Business News


Giving back to society makes sound business sense

We are living in a changing world where consumers expect more from business and businesses are under unprecedented levels of public scrutiny. It is no longer good enough for today’s modern business leaders to just have their eye on the profit and loss account and balance sheet.

The most successful CEOs in the world also look to create a lasting legacy for the future and have a clear set of business values, which run through every vein of their business.

Too often, responsibility is driven by individuals at the top – meaning that that social conscience ends when the CEO leaves. When responsible business is synonymous with the brand, it is almost impossible for any new CEO to reverse the ideology.

For example, no CEO will ever take over at John Lewis and attempt to change a culture of employee ownership and pride and even the Coop - with its massive financial challenges - has not abandoned its core values.

This idea of being a responsible business is just as important for small business owners as it is for CEO’s of large corporates.

For me, being in business is all about having a strong purpose and passion – making a difference, as well as a profit. That’s why I am really proud to have last week been the recipient of a prestigious FIRST award for responsible capitalism (pictured below) in memory of Lord Dahrendorf.

Kay Allen OBE being presented with her award by Rt Hon William Hague MP

Being responsible in business is instinctively the right thing to do to attract customers and ensure sustainable growth. With instant public scrutiny and the speed of social media, there is no place to hide bad business practice and no gain to be had from behaving irresponsibly.

Small businesses owners do so much in this space of responsible capitalism. Working with Philip Green over the past 3 years, we have come to realise that Britain's small businesses are truly amazing and do so much that goes unseen and unrecognised - this is why we founded Trading for Good.

Every day, thousands of small business owners are doing their bit for their local communities whether through supporting projects, giving up their time for charity or helping young people get on the jobs ladder.

The bottom line is that giving back to society makes sound business sense – regardless of whether you run a global conglomerate or a nail salon. Healthy and vibrant communities underpin and grow a strong local economy and that’s good for everyone.

We are not talking about imaginary businesses – these are thriving enterprises such as the All in One Company in Newcastle which is designing for Macmillan Cancer Support, Rade Digital in Ipswich which has donated over £5,200 to charity, JD Partnership in Salford which has helped to plant trees on the local common and Churchview Joinery who do so much to help inspire apprentices.

The economic environment for business has been toughest for a long time and consumers are even harder to reach and engage. So it is more important than ever for successful businesses to have a social conscience as well as a sustainable business model.

Responsible capitalism is not just an ideal. It is a reality that can benefit the whole of society and its time business leaders and business owners everywhere should step up to the challenge.

The world needs innovation - creating more environmentally aware processing, green products and using scarce materials in a more sophisticated way, we need to inspire the next generation as well helping society today - so we need British businesses who are not afraid to push boundaries and who want to do good as well as make a profit.

Kay Allen
About the Author

Kay Allen

Kay is the Founding Director of Trading for Good. She is a consultant on Responsible Business advising clients including Fujitsu, who won Responsible Business of the year with BITC in 2015. Previously a Non-Executive Director DWP Pension Disability and Carers Service, Kay is a well networked, high profile ambassador for equality and social action with a proven track record as an outstanding innovator in the private and public sector.

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