Praise from the PM

August 01, 1999


Addressing Business in the Community’s 1999 Awards for Excellence ceremony held on July 15, the Prime Minister, Tony Blair MP, praised the way companies are making social responsibility a part of mainstream business thinking. He identified five roles for companies as partners with government – in policy making; in making things work on the ground, especially in the new Learning and Skills Council; in supporting social innovations; in enabling employees to become involved as volunteers; and as global citizens.

However he went on to issue a series of challenges to the corporate sector:

– to help get more people back to work, especially through the New Deal;

– to achieve a better balance between work and home life;

– to help people give more time to volunteer in the community;

to work together to turn round inner city estates and neighbourhoods.

Contact Downing Street on 0171 930 4433


BT has won the most prestigious award in this year’s Business in the Community Awards for Excellence. The runners up for the main Impact on Society Award were TNT UK and The Co-operative Bank which also gained awards for the most inclusive annual report and the best website. Among other winners were NatWest for its Face 2 Face With Finance education initiative, Centrica for its North West New Deal project with disabled people on work placements, Manchester Airport for arts sponsorship and ICL for combating social exclusion through information technology.

One of the less well-known winners was the Nambarrie Tea Company which won the cause-related marketing award, beating larger companies such as Lever Brothers, Tesco and British Airways. Based in Northern Ireland with 35 employees, it linked up with Action Cancer to promote Breast Cancer Awareness Month Campaign.

Personal awards went to two individuals judged to have best demonstrated leadership and commitment to corporate social responsibility – Sandy Leitch and Graham Hawker, CEOs of Zurich Financial Services and Hyder respectively.

Now in its second year and focusing on the impact of social responsibility, not just traditional community investment, more than 170 companies entered the scheme, significantly up on last year; 19 applied in the overall Impact on Society category, which required detailed evaluation demonstrating results. The British Quality Foundation helped devise the measurement criteria. Contact Annie Kirkpatrick, BITC, 0171 224 1600


Also in July, Business in the Community issued a revised set of its Principles of Corporate Community Investment. First launched in 1997, they provide a framework to manage and improve CCI, mirroring the business excellence model of the European Foundation for Quality Management. Revisions make the Principles simpler and easier to use, following extensive testing. An advisory panel of sponsoring companies guided the work, including BT, Barclays, Diageo and United Utilities. A detailed workbook, CD-ROM and website are now under development. Contact Amanda Bowman, BITC, on 0171 224 1600 (


Such fulsome praise from the prime minister can only be welcome. If nothing else, an event like the awards ceremony forces on him a pause to stop and notice the massive amount companies are doing to address social issues. And it is good for business too (along with the whole `business in community’ movement) once in a while to congratulate itself on the work being done.

Then again, neither side should rest on its laurels.

For those in BITC and elsewhere promoting good practice, the challenge is to move on from highlighting examples of excellence; to use the impact assessment approach, now well tested, to identify the rather more frequent examples where companies could do more; and to apply the new measurement tools to show those companies how they can profit from a more socially responsible approach.

From the government side should come a recognition that its interface with business is still spasmodic, not systematic; that it alternates between praising and pleading; and that it needs a framework within which to discuss corporate involvement, both in the big picture and the detailed implementation.

What’s needed now is a high level committee, modelled on the way the Advisory Committee on Business and the Environment works: senior executives, supported by a civil service secretariat and clearly independent of any campaign group, devising and publishing action plans, to which government must give a coherent public response. This fits logically with the work of the cross-departmental social exclusion unit. And by mirroring a similar body for the environment, it addresses the broader agenda of sustainability in a neat example of joined-up thinking.

Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 47 – August, 1999