Reflections on environmental sustainability and social entrepreneurship
In September 2010 I reflected on the merits of the Government launching an Open Business Responsibility Deal. Today at the BITC Summit in London - with our new Minister for Corporate Responsibility Norman Lamb looking on - I was delighted to see the idea developed into two distinct strands as the Prime Minister announced:
- Open Business Forum: This will "bring together companies and organisations who, like government, believe in the power of transparency and are eager to embed openness in the way they do business. It will explore how businesses can become more transparent, without making life difficult, and identify where government can help. The Forum, will be business-led and free to shape its own detailed objectives based on the priorities of members... Members of the Open Business Forum include; Chair – Philip N Green, Government Adviser on Corporate Responsibility; Aviva; Business In The Community; Carillion; E.ON; Excell Group; Procter & Gamble; Sir William Wells; Trading for Good and Waitrose. The Forum will also be welcoming new members over the coming months."
- Trading for Good: Being developed by Excell this is "a new online directory for SMEs that will showcase the good work they do in the community; and provide free toolkits to help businesses get involved in socially responsible practices." Excell report it will launch in February. Also involved in the project led by the Every Business Commits Forum are "the British Retail Consortium, the Institute of Directors, the Forum of Private Business, Dods, Visa Europe, Ernst & Young, Itineris and Eyebright Media."
I hope the Trading for Good website will extend to offer a kitemark for participating SMEs and also the option of submitting their light touch reports to Companies House (as Community Interest Companies already do). This should enhance the credibility of the approach.
Also announced was Workality. The website, which is to launch later this year, has founding sponsors that include: "Serco; Centrica; Eversheds; Engine; Mcdonald’s; Salesforce.com. With support from charities including the IEBE and The Ideas Foundation. And receiving advice and support from leading technology providers such as Facebook, Microsoft, Google, IBM, LinkedIn, Cisco and Blackberry."
Together all these initiatives have the potential to change the internet landscape for corporate responsibility in the UK. However, vitally important too will be the work of individuals and networks that support businesses developing their responsible business practices on the ground - as well as continued innovation by Government to encourage responsible business practice.
Work experience and internships: does pay matter?
The idea that left me least convinced today was the Prime Minister's assertion that: "Put a young person into college for a month’s learning, unpaid – and it’s hailed as a good thing. Put a young person into a supermarket for a month’s learning, unpaid – and it’s slammed as slave labour." Surely when Tescos, Argos and Poundland are reflecting on the concerns about the race to the bottom (deflationary pressure on wages and jobs) that these "workfare" schemes could trigger it is time for Number 10 to take note. Tescos particularly suggest in their statement that the "risk of losing benefits that currently exists should be removed". I would suggest the Government should focus on work experience and internships that are a close match to the qualification level of the individual concerned, if they are going to pursue a strategy of compulsion.
Unpaid work experience for a week or two at Key Stage 4 (KS4) and Key stage 5 (KS5) seems reasonable, but post-18 work experience placements/ internships should at least secure the minimum wage. The Internship Charter is the absolute minimum voluntary standard to which the Prime Minister should be turning for inspiration, but he would sensibly back the Deputy Prime Minister's call for "access to internships [to be] open and transparent, with financial support such as providing expenses or accommodation, or by treating the internship as a job that can be paid under National Minimum Wage law." [I continued these relections on Sunday...]
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