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Why talking about responsible business is important

As head of a business organisation, I spend a large part of any given week with chief executives from business of all sizes who are engaged in responsible business activity that tackles pressing societal and environmental issues - unlocking innovation and opportunity for their business in the process.

Running a business is challenging, and for businesses committed to doing so in a responsible manner there is the added pressure to demonstrate the business value of their activities to shareholders. Add to this, the need to cut through public and consumer cynicism to somehow prove that responsible business is more than just CSR window dressing.  

So it’s perhaps no surprise that many businesses are reluctant to publically communicate about how they operate and the positive change they are driving internally and externally to their business for fear of negative backlash. This of course does not help us to rebuild trust in business - but the real impact is that it stops other businesses benefitting from the valuable lessons to be learned from their peers.

This is why it is important to celebrate businesses that truly are making a difference, through schemes like the Responsible Business Awards and to create platforms and opportunities for businesses to learn, share and encourage public discourse. Platforms such as Responsible Business Week, an event that HR magazine is a media partner, is taking place from 31 March to 4 April this year.

Responsible Business Week is about action - inspiring, equipping and, where necessary, challenging business to build a fairer and more prosperous future.

We are asking businesses to use the week to talk about responsible business to all of their different audiences and stakeholders, and to articulate the business benefits of this activity. Companies across the country, including Veolia Environnement, who are sponsoring the week, EDF Energy, Jaguar Land Rover, Unipart, Anglian Water, GI Group, Logistik, and Wakefield Council, are all running events for peers, competitors, community partners and beyond.

And we at Business in the Community are hosting a range of free events across the country, including challenging debates, online discussions, practical workshops and seminars, and a two day conference at The Barbican in London to enable businesses to collaborate and develop the practical action and behaviours necessary to meet the most pressing challenges for business and society.     

From tackling youth unemployment, mental health in the workplace, opening up the talent pipeline, to engaging consumers on sustainability and flood disaster relief –  responsible businesses are addressing a truly diverse breadth of issues, many of which the general public, customers and employees are  just not aware of.

Given the business community’s ability to catalyse change, we’re looking to gather its views on what is one of the most important corporate responsibility issues today – tackling persistently high levels of youth unemployment.  That’s why we’re asking you to take a few minutes to share your expert opinions on young people and employability. The anonymised results will shape the debate during Responsible Business Week. Please take part here:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/7ZGMMSH

As the world emerges from recession there is a powerful opportunity for business to contribute to a recovery that is inclusive and sustainable. Companies remain deeply committed to this aim and Responsible Business Week is about giving them a platform to do even more. 

Stephen Howard, chief executive of Business in the Community