Well respected as CSR minister, Stephen Timms has been promoted, and good luck to him. But it does leave us with our fourth minister in less than five years. Kim Howells was the first in February 2000, followed by Douglas Alexander after the 2001 general election. However good the civil servants are at maintaining continuity, there’s an inevitable slowdown as the new kid on the block gets to understand what is still a very new concept. Thankfully Nigel Griffiths comes was a solid grounding in community partnerships, having worked with people with learning disabilities and helped found The Big Issue in Scotland before becoming an MP. Mercifully we were spared hard-man Mike O’Brien (ex-immigration minister) who took on the rest of Timms’ portfolio in the DTI.
Some have suggested that with Griffiths’ interests and experience, government’s policy emphasis may shift to CSR in small and medium enterprises, while the minister may be more likely than his predecessor to side with pressure groups rather than business.
But what is Briefing’s advice for the new man? Before you start dreaming up new schemes to urge upon companies, it’s time finally for government to get serious about its own social responsibilities – procurement, environment, employment policies and civil servants getting involved as employees. And while you are at it, put your managers through the CSR Academy too. The public sector represents 40% of the economy, so focus there for a while, leaving the 60% to digest the last few years of DTI initiatives.