Members of The Better Business Ecosystem met at the B4 offices recently to learn and share their approaches to this topic, often referred to, amongst other things as ESG, responsible and purposeful business. Grant Hayward of OSEP CIC, B4’s guru of all things ‘better business’, chaired a lively discussion.
So often, businesses simply believe this starts and ends with support for local charities, thinking of this as either “giving back” (why, what have they taken?!), or to offset negative impacts they are having through their core businesses. Although this is indeed a vitally important element, there are so many more innovative ways to achieve this, with great benefits for the business being opened up by the Better Business Ecosystem.
That said, as this is such a popular topic, this session focused on diving deeper into it, busting myths, as well as exploring the challenges and opportunities this go-to practice presents.
The group discussed the challenges of volunteering (and how these might be overcome from both the business and charity point of view) appointing trustees, developing a responsible business culture in organisations where those around the table are very much in the minority and how working together in groups like this can help the wider business community understand that small changes can make a huge difference for everyone’s benefit.
Grant commented. “Today was powerful for me and rewarding to hear the great things you’re all doing in your organisations. These groups are developing nicely and the more we can keep talking the more businesses we can help join the conversation. I wholeheartedly recommend B4 members stay tuned to hear of the more innovative and creative ways they can develop their business models to become more attractive and successful, whilst having more positive impact on their communities, the economy and environment”.
Below are the key takeaways from all those who joined us at B4 HQ. If you would like to find out more about joining B4’s ecosystems for Better Business, Sustainability, Business Development, Finance and HR & Wellbeing, please contact Brooke@b4-business.com.
“I’d never considered that volunteering for charities isn’t just a cost for us in terms of time but also for the charities we’re supporting. I had always thought anyone would be grateful for our involvement but it’s now clear to me that there are obvious costs for charities to host volunteers, which is a real eye-opener, and that there are more cost-effective ways of supporting them. I’m also looking forward to more discussions with everyone in the Better Business Ecosystem as it’s great to be surrounded by people who ‘get it’ and it’s reassuring to know that all of you are doing such great things in your organisations but that you also have challenges. This group will help all of us to understand how best to overcome those challenges and get those we work with to understand how we can all be better businesses.”
Emma Allinson, Business Development Manager, Kingerlee
“We have over 400 self-employed drivers comprising lots of different nationalities, religions etc.…. It’s difficult to change the culture when it comes to certain aspects of the job but I’m having to try, and this group is already giving me ideas as to how we can. If we can do it, it will be of huge benefit to the business in the long term. As Maurice quite rightly says it will take time but he’s also right in that many of the cultures we represent are already community focused, so we just need to get them thinking about community in a work context.”
Nick Breakspear, Business Development Manager, Royal Cars
“Doing what we do can be quite a lonely existence; the more conversations we can have with each other the better. I’m certainly going to invest time in re-imagining our work with the charity sector, being more creative than we have been.”
Will Dennis, Head of Sustainability, Daylesford Organic and Bamford
“We are a team of eighteen and have three owners who are very passionate about charities and act as board trustees, but that’s not as far as the drive for engaging responsibly goes. For me, it’s very much linked to culture. We need to try encouraging the whole team from the 18-year-old office junior upwards to think about voluntary work and a few more of the senior team to think about becoming trustees and getting more involved with the third sector. We do the cake sales and the sponsored walks and provide free legal advice for a domestic abuse charity and lots of positive efforts like this, but I think we need to broaden what we do.”
Ruth Hawkins, Partner, Boardman Hawkins & Osborne LLP
“I will give the B4 network its due and credit because I think it is a brilliant convening space and, from the conversations we have had today, one takeaway we should all have from today’s meeting is the baton-holding and see who else we can bring into this network. The only way that a business, charity, public sector connection is going to work is if there are more and more members and awareness of all the good things we are doing and trying to do more of. It’s been great to reconnect with colleagues that we are already having conversations with but also excited to have conversations with the new connections I have made today outside of this group to see what sort of influence we can bring working with other charities like Oxford Hospitals Charity. At Plunkett we are looking at our culture, how we can have a better environmental impact and have a better relationship with businesses to help us achieve these goals. I’m really looking forward to seeing the B4 network continue to grow, and more conversations being had as a result.”
Chris Cowcher, Head of Policy and Communications, Plunkett Foundation
“Today really got me thinking. From an individual perspective I’m thinking about community interests and how to get more involved. From a wider, business perspective, it reminded me of the importance of vision being critical to business culture in terms of communicating where you’re heading. Ultimately, I think all businesses need to ask the question, how is what they are doing, and who they are serving, having a positive impact society? How is it contributing to making things better, and progressing the world forward?
“I think it’s absolutely vital to start with that, give it serious thought, and once in place things like charitable work can then feed into that vision of where you’re heading.”
Chris Thompson, Partner, Wellers
“For me it’s about being able to understand the pressures that charities place on businesses more. It really stuck in my head when Will said he receives 1,300 charity requests a year. It makes me appreciate the value of conversations like this even more and to have more conversations before we start to do the wrong things from a charity point of view. It’s great to hear that Chris from Plunkett wants to talk to us about how we can both help other charities do things better. The final thing I’ll take away is how charities can pass the baton better so our community can live well, and I feel passionately that businesses can play a huge role in that, but charities need to take the right approach.”
Naomi Stewart Hale, Corporate Partnerships Manager, Oxford Hospitals Charity
“We have talked about getting trustees into charities and Will made a comment at a recent roundtable when referring to EDI and that his organisation now refers to it as ‘JEDI’ with the ‘J’ standing for ‘justice’. I now use that when I’m talking about EDI, and it will no doubt help charities when they’re looking for more diversity when recruiting trustees who need to be younger and from diverse backgrounds to help the charities get a broader perspective of the environment, they are operating in.”
Toby Newman, Director, Enistic Group
“For me it’s about mindset and being energised into focusing on Better Business again. A lot of business people who experience a conversation like this will say to themselves ‘What do I do on Monday morning?’ I would tell businesses to start having the conversations in your business with your colleagues. I’d tell them not to overthink the strategy or how you’re going to do it, just start on something and get it moving. I’d also tell them that their community and society really need their energy and ideas, and we can’t leave important issues like this just to government. I would also encourage business people to get involved with charities at Trustee level, not just through the volunteering day model.”
Maurice McCartney, Director, Fresh Management Solutions
“Fantastic to be part of the conversation and delighted to be able to facilitate the meetings for so many positive individuals and organisations. As discussed, I am very passionate about holding an annual event in Oxfordshire which can showcase everything we have talked about today and much more. If anyone here or reading would like to join us as we plan this event, please do get in touch. There’s the appetite to do it, we just need a committed group of people and organisations to help make it happen.”
Richard Rosser, CEO, B4
To join future B4 Ecosystems for sustainability, HR & Wellbeing, finance, BDM’s and better business, please contact email@example.com or visit www.b4-business.com/why-join-the-b4-community/
B Corp ‘B Impact Assessment’: https://app.bimpactassessment.net/
Oxfordshire Inclusive Economy Partnership: futureoxfordshirepartnership.org/projects/the-oxfordshire-inclusive-economy-partnership/
Oxford Hospitals Charity ‘A Celebration of Innovation’: www.b4-business.com/news/a-celebration-of-innovation/
Oxfordshire+ B Local (for those interested in B Corps): https://www.linkedin.com/groups/12489004/
OSEP CIC – Supporting businesses to have more positive local impact: www.osep.org.uk