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Business in the Community’s (BITC) AGM and Leadership Summit

The results of BITCs consultation and survey on business engagement in local communities, a central theme in the Government’s Big Society agenda, were announced at Business in the Community’s (BITC) AGM and Leadership Summit.

The consultation and survey combined received responses from the UK’s most senior business leaders – from small and local businesses to multinational corporations. The Summit is all about hearing those recommendations, which will be put to the Prime Minister, and hearing his response.

BITC now has over 800 members and runs many programmes and campaigns – and one that Amplified is very fond of, the Work Inspiration programme which has enjoyed huge success in its first year (for more details see www.amplifiedevents.co.uk/workinsp for our live coverage in September – 1 year on from the start of the campaign, and for full details http://www.bitc.org.uk/workplace/work_inspiration/index.html).

BITC President HRH The Prince of Wales and the Prime Minister will be speaking at this AGM & Leadership Summit later today. (We also covered the IBM Start Summit in September – a project of the HRH The Prince of Wales, see #ibmstart).

In his address to members, Stephen Howard, CEO, said:

“The whole social contract that we have with society is changing… …social media has changed the pace of that change”

Leadership teams of BITC have helped transform people, and communities. We are focused on creating a sustainable future.

We were shown a video, presented by HRH, who says:

Leadership teams of BITC have helped transform people, and communities.

“Companies that invest in long term relationships with their communities can build a stronger business”

Being a responsible business today is a two way relationship with the community (bi-directional).

We have learned how to support community entrepreneurs, how to work with the community – our task now is to take this knowledge and drive it forwards – and to continue to collaborate. Public, private, voluntary sector…

We’ve learned how to work with the community. We’ve learned that volunteering in all shapes and forms – from board level to a few hours a week – is invaluable.

Our Ready for work programme gives people confidence, to help them get back in to work. (Other BITC programmes: the Mayday Network, Sustainable Marketplaces, Start Engaging the Consumer, the Visioning Project, Working Internationally)

“It is [long believed that] if business brains could understand the issues in the community, they could come up with practical solutions to them”.

The power of businesses using their brands is immense. And when they collaborate with other businesses in communities – the results are even better.

HRH Prince Charles challenges “large business and brands to use their marketing muscle to create positive change…”

The role for business leaders is to really believe in the importance of their role in the community, and to drive that value through their business.

Stephen Howard: People – Planet – Performance

The journey towards sustainability: what is our role as businesses in the community?

“What kind of country do we want to live in?”

“Work hard, dream big” Stephen Howard

People, Planet:  “sustainability… moving beyond just ‘use less’ ”

(The Responsible Business convention is in March next year).

Capitalism 2.0: is there a compelling picture we can paint together of what a sustainable future might look like? We need to bring together creative talents to develop a compelling vision of the future.

Stephen invited Amanda Sourry, Unilever, to the stage.

“We need to grow differently – we are consuming resources faster that the planet can replenish them” {based on WWF figures}

If we all consumed at the rate of the UK we would need 3 planets… we only have one.

Amanda Sourry, Unilever, spelled out how they are putting sustainability at the heart of their business plan.

It is no longer enough just to put our own house in order. Unilever is committed to doing more in this area.

We have a massive opportunity to positively influence our future. We cannot do this alone – we need everyone to collaborate. Organisations like BITC are key players in making this happen.

Amanda finished her address by urging the audience to look at the 2011 Business in the Community awards – encouraging both small and large businesses www.bitc.org.uk/awards

Stephen thanked Amanda Sourry. We were then invited to stand to receive HRH, The Prince of Wales:

HRH the Prince of Wales: “Thank you for joining us – even through this snow – for my 25th AGM. You have been long suffering to put up with me – if you want to get rid of me please say so!’

HRH chaired his first meeting of the BITC at Lloyds Bank 25 years ago…

“I would like to say a word of thanks to the Prime Minister for being here today. His schedule has certainly been busy…” (Prince William, David Cameron and Davd Beckham have just arrived back from the FIFA bid announcement; HRH the Prince of Wales’ eldest son has given him insider knowledge, he said, of the hard work and lengths to which the UK bid team went to).

Reflecting on changes since the early days of BITC: the importance of the people in the workplace, CSR… and more recently the changes of what CSR means:

“Helping to tackle social issues is an essential part of building a long-term business” HRH Prince Charles

“In this room today are companies who have shown themselves to be far sighted and responsible businesses, in disadvantaged areas” HRH the Prince of Wales.

“We need more companies to join this campaign. 79% of business leaders feel they can do more to engage other businesses to join. Imagine the impact we could have…”

HRH talks community champions and social enterprise:

Remarkable community champions – Dick Atkinson, Borstal Heath, to name one. So often it is the very practical help from businesses that helps social entrepreneurs do their amazing work in their communities.

Meddling or mobilising: business leaders working together can achieve real practical solutions in ways that have eluded the rest of us.

Teach First, for example, of which HRH is a patron, will next year be the largest recruitment programme to get our brightest graduates in to the schools who need them.

There is much more to do: so many places have been left behind in this country – where hope and aspirations have diminished.

“My challenge to you: Together we should identify a few of those places and see what we can do. How can we galvanise those places… build more social and community capital” (HRH).

HRH urges leaders to consider “social value and environmental value, as well as commercial value” in business decisions.

“Severe environmental challenges face us: we must change. We have to change. If we fail the earth we fail humanity. We cannot ignore what confronts us. Britain should be leading the way” (HRH).

Choose something specific that your business can make an impact on, then engage in making a positive difference.

Over the years there has been many examples of outstanding leadership: Two stand out to HRH and those are Sir Phillip Green (Efficiency Report), and Steve Holliday (Skills & Talents).

“Each and every one of you here today has played a part in this. Working together we will achieve so much more. This means collaboration between businesses, charities, NGOs. With your help – we will not fail. Thank you” (HRH).

Sir Stuart Rose thanks HRH Prince Charles for his support:

“Thank you all for taking part in our survey: the overwhelming message is that there is still more to do. However our members agree that businesses should step up… and they want to do” (SR).

“Collaboration is essential in addressing the challenges ahead. Our members want to do this.. they are committed to doing this. We would like the Government to commit to removing obstacles, the red tape – in moving forward”.

Sir Stuart Rose speaks specifically about competition law, and making it more amenable to sensible co-operation.

He then welcomes, the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon David Cameron.

Prince William was inspiring at the FIFA bid, says PM David Cameron. He shook many hands, tried to persuade people to the very end… “you must never not try to get something because you fear failure.”

“Ever since becoming PM I have wanted to make a speech about the role of business in developing Big Society …

BITC has been the great champion of Big Society. Once again they are leading the charge… the survey demonstrates this.

Cameron names Ed Davey MP Corporate Responsibility Minister.

“If you aren’t on the pitch, you can’t play the game” (very apt football reference from the PM).

“Regaining the sense of shared responsibility” PM David Cameron continues, “shared responsibility” is a core value of the Big Society.

Shared responsibility drives our determination to build a bigger, stronger society. This is the thinking behind the big society. But what does it mean and how do we get there?

The PM outlines three key areas:

  1. Decentralising Power
  2. Public service reform – best providers, best service, transparent information
  3. Social Action – people giving their time and action

On decentralisation: we are changing the planning rules. “We want to give people the right to take over local assets”

On public service reform: anyone can offer to provide them. We want the best to come forward… and for those services to be transparent.

On social action: (we want to) foster a culture of philanthropy, of volunteering, a culture that enhances social capital.

“Community empowerment, public service reform and social action: how dow we take these forward? And what is the role that businesses play?” (PM David Cameron).

“Businesses have some very clear asks of Government so that they can continue to do what they do best (innovate, deliver). Let us cut that needless red tape, cut corporation tax, we will stand up for business. That is our commitment. But we need to be honest with each other”

“Businesses ask for less red tape, lower taxes… we [Government] will stand up for business, but we will also stand up to business.

“However we have to reduce the demand for those (barriers): we need the commitment, creativity and innovation to help us to tackle those problems that face us – such as obesity.

“If business is prepared to do that, government can go further in helping businesses”.

What exactly is the deal? what do we want from business? The PM will not be prescriptive… but our asks of you:

Uphold the law, treat employees fairly…

“If we remain silent in the face of these issues we do an injustice”.

“CSR is much more than businesses avoiding doing harm. It is about contributing to a better society’. (PM David Cameron).

BITC asked for consistency and clarity from and across Government about what Government wants from business.

The commitments published by the PM today in the Every Business Commits initiative “applies to every business of every size. The people in this room are probably doing this already – our challenge is to take it further”.

Every Business Commits – 5 points:

Reduce carbon

Improve skills

Support your community

Improve quality of life and wellbeing

Support small and medium-sized enterprises

(on small business support :- “pay on time, mentor others, use small/local business).

There are still huge barriers in the way: Government will do everything it can to help whether that is CRB checks, helping previously unemployed people back in to work…

PM: “My challenge to you; is to scale up the good work – lead by BITC. To generate 1000 business connectors in the poorest areas. To ensure that business in those areas that need the most help, can address issues in their communities”.

“Next year is going to be a crucial year for our economy – but also for our society too. Corporate philanthropy: you are a force for good in our economy but also in our society too. You have the power to build that shared future… for a stronger future and a better Britain”.

PM continues; “We are setting up a transition fund for the Big Society. We are also setting up a big society bank to help social enterprises take essential loans. Capital that can be invested…”

Comments from the audience:

ASDA: as a retailer the work we do in 100s of communities is fundamental to how we support neighbourhoods, and frontline groups that tackle social issues locally.

Sainsbury’s: Referring to ‘business connectors’ – the best way we can build on this is to help people become pioneers; and we will work with government and BITC to define this.

PM gets increasingly passionate as he answers Questions…. “Giving [money] isn’t enough… Give talent, people, capacity…”

PM: “30 years ago we asked businesses for money. Then we looked at leveraging their brands. Now – it is all about people. The talent, the capacity. This is the importance of business connectors. Imagine what your top staff could do…

The “Every business commits” initiative from government asks under Support Your Community for encouragement of volunteering and philanthropy, making skills and resources available to neighbourhood groups, local arts organisations and for social action. Promote payroll giving. Help employees to get involved in social action e.g. Taking Citizen University course. Strong emphasis on connecting directly with the community.

From the floor: “at the heart of our communities are schools”

PM closes with: “A big thank you for all that you do. You are the leading light for this incredibly powerful vision. The power of business is not just good for economy – it is good for our society”.

HRH The Prince of Wales thanks Sir Stuart Rose for his leadership during his time as Chairman of BITC: “thank you Sir Stuart Rose for all you have done for BITC. The skills you acquired at M&S…. you have brought to BITC. I would like to thank (him) most warmly for everything he has done….”

HRH: “In Mark Price I believe BITC has a truly worthy successor”

Please welcome… the new chairman, Mark Price.

Mark Price (Waitrose): “I feel privileged to be the new chairman … it is a testament (to Sir Stuart Rose) to have HRH Prince of Wales and the Prime Minister here today”.

Mark Price talks about Waitrose’s commitment to letting staff develop their skills and interests, and to do the right thing… and achieving a true sense of well being

Mark Price: “wellbeing and happiness is not measured by economic wellbeing alone but by quality of life…. (To the PM): I welcome your support for businesses”.

Mark Price: “partnership must be our watch word”

Mark quotes an African proverb: “if you want to travel fast, travel alone, if you want to travel far, travel together.”

I am looking forward to continuing the journey… with BITC.

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