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Does Responsible Business make business sense?

MD, Tim Chudley's Blog

In a recent interview with Inntel, MD Tim Chudley discusses The Responsible Business movement.

Is ‘Responsible Business’ just a new name for Corporate Social Responsibility?

No, it’s significantly more than that. Being a Responsible Business is becoming increasingly important to a company’s internal and external audiences. It’s no longer sufficient to have the right policies in place and brand values on show – in fact, these token expressions of Corporate Social Responsibility are increasingly seen as cynical attempts to improve reputations. Today, actions speak louder than words, and firms are achieving real success by driving the principles of Responsible Business deep into their DNA and deciding what they believe in as an organisation.

So how do you show external audiences that you are a Responsible Business?

It can be best explained as an extension of your company’s marketplace differentiation. Think along the lines of ‘dolphin-friendly’ tuna, or Fairtrade products. In your line of business, what do you actually stand for – and what sets you apart?

And how important is this to an internal audience?

The internal audience – the workforce – is becoming particularly powerful. Employees want to feel proud of their career choices so they need to sense that their employers are honourable. Therefore any business that wants to recruit and retain talented staff, particularly those from the well-informed millennial generation, will need to prove themselves a worthy employer.

How does Responsible Business work in practice?

To give you an example, we recently tendered to become a preferred venue group for an international financial services firm.  The company used its procurement process to help drive a social movement for the Living Wage, which they believed strongly in.  We won the business in part due to our willingness to consider the Living Wage.

And how did that willingness translate into action?

The Living Wage movement is a particular challenge to the hotel and hospitality sector, which tends to have a large number of poorly paid front-line staff.  After we started working with the financial services firm, our Barnett Hill property became the first residential conference centre and the first full-service hotel to gain Living Wage Foundation accreditation.  We are now building on our strong buyer/supplier relationship with our client based on our mutual interest in being a Responsible Business.

How widespread is the commitment to the Living Wage?

More than 20% of the FTSE 100 have signed up for the Living Wage so this could be a significant differentiator in many industries, as long as those already accredited use the opportunity they have to influence their suppliers and grow the movement.

Could this be the start of a new phase in corporate buying, then? 

As an independent owner-managed SME, our previous experience of corporate procurement processes had been pretty negative. In the past we’ve been put under pressure to commoditise and consolidate. But now, yes, perhaps it’s time for buyers to start thinking about what they want to stand for and use their buying power to drive Responsible Business practices.

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