As the global pandemic transforms the ways we live and work, the first in a six-part series of podcasts – created by Telegraph Spark and Legal & General – asks how companies of all shapes and sizes can act for the good of everyone.
This week’s Power of Us podcast is hosted by mathematician and presenter Rachel Riley, and features a panel of experts comprising entrepreneur Simon Squibb, independent shop owner Adele Adamczewski of the Freight store in Lewes, East Sussex, and Iancu Daramus, senior sustainability analyst at LGIM.
Of course, before discussing solutions to the tricky balancing act of profit and purpose, we need to know what “doing good” actually means. As Rachel Riley put it: “It could mean being greener. It could mean having a diverse workforce, treating those workers properly. It could be supporting the local economy or simply paying your tax. Which is more important?”
Our panel was unanimous in thinking that doing good starts with people. For Simon Squibb, it’s all about how businesses treat the most vulnerable members of society. “My approach in business and in life is to always treat people with respect. I do think the world ends up being a mirror. I see my suppliers as partners in business, not just as suppliers. I treat them with respect on pricing and I think my business life has been better because of it.”
While the rest of the panel agreed with him, Adele Adamczewski took this one step further, saying that treating people well has to come from good examples set by leadership. Iancu Daramus called this “the sphere of moral concern”, explaining that CEOs must consider how their business can impact wider society. As an example, he said: “A CEO might think about the long-term growth of a company, broadening the sphere of concern from the communities you operate in, your stakeholders, your suppliers and your employees.”
But what about the role of consumers in holding companies to account, particularly when it comes to financial services? This is something Dr Ben Caldecott explored for us earlier in this campaign, and it seems that as more and more of us become engaged with our finances and become more sustainably-minded, many are “starting to realise that their own values may or may not clash with their investments”, as Iancu Daramus explains.
Adele Adamczewski agreed that her customers are what drive her to be better in her job as a shop owner. “They are constantly driving us to do better – how we deal with products, the materials we use, everything is considered,” she said. “Sometimes you can go ‘Oh, it’s a bit of a pain when someone’s saying can you make sure you don’t post me something that has a single piece of plastic on it.’ But we have to have a good relationship with our customers. Without them, we don’t exist.”
The panel also touched on the role of social media in displaying companies’ “good” credentials, with host Rachel Riley warning about cancel culture and saying that “on social media, things can be very, very black or white” – something Iancu Daramus expanded on, citing naming and shaming as one tool for investors to hold companies to account, but saying that it must be used wisely. He called it a “surprisingly powerful” approach, saying: “For companies falling behind, our message was not ‘You’re an oil company, you’re bad’. It’s actually ‘You’re an oil company and you’re not keeping up with your other peers. And therefore we might vote against the chair of your company when we as shareholders get to vote.’”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the conclusions our panel came to was that education is key. As a business investor, Squibb said that understanding what purpose means should start early. “It’s about empowering and educating the individual. The word purpose was never mentioned to me at school. It’s never once was written on a blackboard. Kids will eventually be CEOs of companies and they will be the leaders of the world.”
The Power of Us
Building greater, more sustainable economic growth can improve the lives of everyone in the UK.
This is the goal of inclusive capitalism: using money and investment as a force for good, to create real jobs and better infrastructure to transform the UK’s cities and towns and tackle the biggest issues of our times such as housing, climate change and ageing demographics.
It’s something businesses, communities and individuals can all get behind and work together to achieve – and it’s why Telegraph Spark has teamed up with Legal & General for The Power of Us, a campaign that aims to identify the challenges facing society, then use some of the UK’s brightest, most innovative thinkers to help solve them.
The Power of Us: the future is in your hands.