Stephen Timms MP, Minister of State at the Department of Trade & Industry has called upon companies to embrace Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and ensure that it is a core element of mainstream business activity.
In a keynote address to a New Local Government Network conference on local partnership and the challenge of CSR, the Minister with responsibility for e-Commerce and Competitiveness said:
“The key is for this activity to be seen not just as PR or philanthropy but as mainstream to the business – justified not just by altruism but on sound business grounds. Otherwise it will not survive. And in Government, we want it to survive and flourish, because it can have such an immensely positive impact in addressing our toughest challenges”.
Accepting that CSR should remain a voluntary activity, the DTI Minister raised the idea of a CSR academy, which would:
“promote good ideas, link up people and perhaps contribute to the professional development of people working in CSR. It would need to be a dynamic and perhaps a virtual institution different from a conventional educational establishment”.
Mr Timms, MP for Newham in east London, also highlighted the work of Tesco’s in the economically deprived Beckton area of his constituency as:
“illustrating very well the kinds of opportunities we need to be looking for in this area of Corporate Social Responsibility. It is an approach that gets away from the old idea that economic, social and environmental goals need always to be in conflict with each other”.
Later, David North, Government & Industry Affairs Director at Tesco added:
“No neighbourhood is a no-go area for investment or for serving our customers”.
Reflecting on the public sector’s need to understand that achieving environmental, social and equitable benefits is first of all reliant on a successful economy, Cllr Sally Powell, Deputy for Regeneration at Hammersmith & Fulham posed the question:
“Are there actually people working in local government who have the capacity to run a business?”.
Earlier in the day, delegates heard from NLGN Executive Director, Dan Corry, who addressed how CSR might have a positive impact on local partnerships:
“Council’s could ensure CSR through making it part and parcel of any contract with the private sector. In turn, companies would be required to report regularly on how they are meeting their obligations, with extra accountability being added through stakeholder advisory boards”.
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NLGN is an independent think-tank, seeking to transform public services, revitalise local political leadership and empower local communities.
NLGN’s conference ‘The New Challenge to Local Partnerships: Local Corporate Social Responsibility’ was held at The Thistle Hotel Victoria in Central London on Tuesday 3 December. Other speakers included: Julia Cleverdon, Chief Executive, Business in the Community; Simon Zadek, Chief Executive, AccountAbility – The Institute of Social & Ethical Accountability; Andy Snowden, Director of Corporate Affairs, Middlesbrough Council; Graham Burgess, Executive Director, Regeneration & Technical, Blackburn with Darwen Council; Justine Bentham, Head of Volunteering, KPMG; Ben Cooper, Policy Officer, NCVO; Michael Littlechild, Chief Executive, Good Corporation.