Speaking at the Leaders Club event at Kent Business School, Linda Minnis, seen here (right) with Gina Lazenby, talked about how business is shifting with more organisations taking on responsibility for social change and using their global reach for good. Drawing on the long legacy of the chocolate barons’ foundations, todays’ younger generations are pushing their employers to take on and do more to close the global wealth gap.

Linda’s talk was captured on Facebook Live. Click here to watch

The Leaders Club co-hosted a special event on transformational leadership with the University of Kent Business School in Canterbury in May. The first of two speakers was Linda Minnis, Chief Executive of the Charities Trust, and a founder member of The Leaders Club.

The event was recorded on Facebook Live and is available to view at this link.

The World Needs Responsible Business

Linda started by highlighting the need for responsible business and said that this was not something that could simply be bolted on to an organisation, almost like an extra department but it had to be at the very heart of the operation for it to have any real meaning and impact. She gave examples of the inspiration and vision that many companies were bringing to their giving programs by leveraging their resources and creating alliances that were having real impact in the world. Big business has a big capacity to make big change in the world.

Global Goals Provide a Ready Template for Visionary Businesses

Linda talked about the Sustainable Development Goals otherwise known as the Global Goals, which are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.  These 17 goals were launched by the United Nations in January 2016.  Adopted by 170 countries, they contain 169 individual goals inside the 17 categories and represent one of the most ambitious programs in human history to create massive change. For companies and organisations seeking to make a difference in the world, there are plenty of opportunities for them to align their resources and vision. 

People Want Companies to do Good

Linda said there is a definite business case for doing this. A Nielsen study in 60 countries showed that 55% of online customers would pay more for goods and services supplied by organisations who demonstrated a commitment to positive social change and environmental impact.

71% of the world’s population live on less than $10 per day and the only way to make a significant increase in people’s prosperity, globally, would be for civil society, government and corporations to make alliances and use their combined powers to create change. One such initiative, the Global Vaccine Alliance has managed to prevent 9 million deaths though immunisation. Acting with other agencies, the private sector has enormous power that can be harnessed with the right vision.

Good Business has a Long History in the UK

The question is how to engage fully and provide the necessary leadership for projects of real transformation? Linda pointed out that in the UK we have a long history of business leaders doing good things. Joseph Rowntree established a foundation over 100 years to provide housing for employees, and this continues today to seek to understand the root cause of social problems.  The Cadbury Foundation also supported their employees and communities with housing. Today, Comic Relief is an example of successfully influencing the face of fundraising by making things fun to do while the organisation focusses on how to spend the money. 

UK private giving is an incredible £20 billion per annum, £12 billion of which still comes from individual giving and Trusts like the Wellcome Foundation, with money continuing to come in from foundation investments set up decades ago.  

How do we engage the business community of today?

Linda was involved in research five years ago that showed 4 key predictions about companies and giving. We can see now much of this starting to happen:

1 Commercialisation – Giving and Doing Good will be Woven into Business Planning

Companies will seek long term profits from their corporate giving. Community programs will be set up to deliver commercial value as well as meeting social needs. Their activities will be aligned with something meaningful. Corporate giving will continue but perhaps within the framework of for-profit ventures. The future is more Win-Win-Win-Win. HSBC is an example of a company investing tens of millions into social investment because they see it pays a greater return.

The social investment market is quite new but it is now worth about £2 billion across 4000 investments. Doing good is not just right it is profitable too.

2 Innovation Unleashed Make it Easy, Fast and Painless for People to Give

New technology, innovative channels and interactive media, will cause an explosion in ground-breaking new practices. Digital technology will allow for real time tracking of impact and will allow giving to fit around busy lives. online volunteering by employees supporting digital causes will become more prominent. Look at JustGiving who raise half a billion a year. Make it easy for people to swipe their card at an event and give quickly.

3 Collaborative Coalitions Rise Above Competition for the Greater Good

Large scale multi stakeholder coalitions will harness collective skills and drive transformational change. Corporate giving  will build loyal and effective working relationships between customers, suppliers, not-for-profit and government agencies. Collaborations including those with competitors will amplify impact and a philosophy of social action will emerge. Bigger businesses are going to be bigger stakeholders in fixing the world. The setting aside of competitive differences will benefit all organisations in terms of enhanced reputation. An example is a £25 million alliance of Tesco and the British Heart Foundation and Diabetes UK to tackle major health issues.

4 Cause Related Movements Campaigns become Exciting and Energised into Movements

Billions of customers will be mobilised to give up their time, second hand items and their fresh ideas for social campaigning.  Companies will facilitate large scale donations through movement fund-raising, and will create a truly engaging consumer experience around causes.  

Take on Causes that Excite the Employees

The Charities Trust, started from Littlewoods, is now 30 years old and administers £100 million of giving for 1000 clients, an amount that has trebled in the last eight years, a big achievement for the charitable sector.  Many of her clients lead the way in employee engagement to support communities that are dear to the staff, and not just the organisation itself.  Previously it was all about what the company was going to do … now, it is about the employees deciding and the company supporting that. It helps employee retainment and turns staff into good leaders. 

The Charities Trust works with the Costa Foundation which has supported 72 schools in nine countries, and not all in places where they trade. The Trust has also worked with Big Issue Invest who raised £50 million in the last five years to support the homeless agenda, attracting institutional investors and philanthropists.  Clients like Nandos might just sell chicken but they also really care about people dying where they source their chicken, particularly of malaria.

A New Philanthropy is Emerging

The next generation of philanthropists will emerge from these young companies and their younger demographic. 

For more details of other events hosted by the Leaders Club visit the site here.

See the next post for …… the second speaker was Linda Crompton, an alumni of the Business School’s first MBA program.  Linda was the first woman to head a bank in North America and also to lead a bank that  pioneered responsible investment principles.   Now she is a leader in gender equality as the CEO and President of Leadership Women, the largest of its kind in the USA………