Faces of a Vibrant Economy: Purpose in action

Last year, we conducted research which found that company vision, culture and purpose is a top-five investment priority for more than a third (35%) of mid-market businesses. For high-growth businesses, this rises to 40%.

Written by: Jim Rogers, Practice Leader, Grant Thornton UK LLP

To demonstrate the value of purpose in action, the Grant Thornton Faces of a Vibrant Economy list was curated to showcase and celebrate UK businesses, public and third sector organisations that are clearly doing so.

These Faces are drawn from across the UK and represent diverse sectors and industries. Among them, entrepreneurs, technologists, policymakers and business visionaries – united in their commitment to developing a vibrant economy in the UK.

Now in its second year, Faces of a Vibrant Economy is building and shaping a community of people who are inspirational leaders of some of the most exciting and dynamic organisations operating in the UK – and it’s great to see such strong representation for the Thames Valley.

Here we share our 2017 Faces of a Vibrant Economy from the Thames Valley, what motivates them and why they were chosen.

Karen Curtin
Managing Director, Graven Hill Village Development Company

South of Bicester, Oxfordshire and spread over 188 hectares, sits Graven Hill, the UK’s largest custom build.

The area is earmarked for households of all sizes and will include the possibility for people to build as a group and as individuals. The first plots were released for sale in August 2016. “Helping others achieve their dream home, building a vibrant community and delivering the objectives of my shareholders – that’s what keeps me motivated,” says Karen.

When complete, Graven Hill will have a primary school and a community centre. There will be premises available for shops, a local pub and pre-school nursery. The site will also create jobs and attract new investment into Bicester.

Karen is keen for the development to be as green as possible. The company advocates the use of energy efficient materials and every home built at Graven Hill must comply with Fabric Energy Standards, which go beyond the Building Regulations requirements and are unique to the development.

Craig Burkinshaw
Co-Founder and Director, Audley Travel

Audley Travel provides responsible, unique travel experiences, delivering bespoke travel itineraries for more than 75 global destinations. It was voted the Best Luxury Tour Operation in the Times and Sunday Times Travel Award 2016, as well as the 2015-16 Telegraph Awards’ Best Tour Operator.

With access to one of the company’s 250 country specialists, Audley also helps local communities seize commercial opportunities. As co-founder, Craig takes an active role in developing responsible tourism. He recently visited Rajasthan, the Ecuadorian Amazon and Kenya to advise local third sector organisations.

Jamie Hartzell
Founder, Ethex

Jamie is one of the UK’s leading social entrepreneurs and an investor in a wide range of social businesses. He is the chair of fair trade companies Divine Chocolate and Spare Fruit and was previously chair of Zaytoun, an importer of food products from Palestine. Jamie is also founder of Ethex, which acts as an alternative to the stock exchange, making it easier to make ethical investments. The investment platform enables its 10,000 registered users to back organisations with a positive social purpose.

Jamie had the idea to start Ethex after raising money for his business, Ethical Property Company. He decided against joining the London Stock Exchange, feeling that traditional exchanges would not understand offering social, financial and environmental returns in equal measure. Frustrated with a lack of alternatives, Jamie stepped down from the Ethical Property Company in 2011 to create Ethex.

Jackie Wild
Managing Director, TSL Projects

TSL Projects started in 2002 with the ambition to be the best Design and Project Management Company in the world. Jackie says: “Our passion is to simplify the delivery of capital projects and support UK manufacturing in maintaining its enviable reputation around the world for quality, innovation and engineering excellence.”

The design and project management organisation specialises in food, beverage and pharmaceutical facilities. Clients include Amazon and GSK.

Under Jackie’s leadership the organisation has recorded sector-leading growth, with a 90% increase in revenue in 2015 alone. Impressively, double-digit growth is predicted for the next three years.

Mark Goldring CBE
CEO at Oxfam

What began life as the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief has grown into one of the most well-recognised charities in the world. Today, having celebrated its 75th anniversary, Oxfam stands as an international confederation of charitable organisations directly helping alleviate the suffering of more than 20 million people every year globally.

“We help people move out of poverty, challenge injustice, offer humanitarian support to those affected by disaster and tackle the issues that keep people poor,” says Mark. “My motivation is helping people live their lives with dignity, opportunity and free from poverty and suffering.”

Current campaigns include responses to the East Africa Food Crisis, Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh, and conflict and cholera in Yemen.

These leaders demonstrate how business can be a force for good in society and how passion, coupled with purpose and a great idea can change the world for the better.

At Grant Thornton, we are committed to building and connecting this network of inspirational leaders and their organisations, in both the Thames Valley and across the UK, to learn, share ideas, and ultimately continue to grow. By curating this community and sharing their stories we hope to inspire others to follow their example.

To find out more about Grant Thornton’s Faces of a Vibrant Economy, visit:

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