Tackling social exclusion can take many forms, addressing the needs of any group that is marginalised because of age, gender, ethnic background or religion. Taking action to combat exclusion is not only part of the wider responsibilities of business, it can also make a positive contribution to the economy. The problem is, there are countless calls for corporate action and it is often difficult to know where to invest limited resources.
It is clear that if we cannot assess the value of corporate contributions that address social issues, then the impact of business activity can potentially count for little in wider debates about combating exclusion. While many business and community partnerships are able to communicate the benefits of their work for individuals helped, they sometimes lack a clear framework to express the wider benefits in concrete terms.
The answer must lie in developing more sophisticated approaches to measuring the social return on investment. If we know that the cost to the UK of youth unemployment is £10m per day, we can begin to calculate the social and economic benefits from programmes that address this aspect of exclusion.
The big challenge is to find similar metrics for initiatives that tackle other social issues. The CBI and IoD are fully justified in encouraging greater business efforts on diversity and equality. However, their call to arms would be all the more powerful if they can provide hard metrics on the broader social and economic benefits flowing from action on these fronts.
Youth unemployment is costing the British economy more than £10m a day in lost productivity according to The Cost of Exclusion: Counting the cost of youth disadvantage in the UK published on April 10.
The report further considers the link between youth crime and education – both of which are linked to unemployment – and that almost one-fifth of young people in England, Wales and Scotland are not in education, employment or training and it concludes that social exclusion is still a pervading problem in the UK. It called for the economic costs of social exclusion to be taken seriously by the government as well as by the corporate sector.
The Prince’s Trust – which commissioned the report with support from the Royal Bank of Scotland – runs a business programme in order to tackle the problem of youth unemployment. The programme helps people between the ages of 14 and 30 to start up their own enterprises and company executives, retired business people or established entrepreneurs can act as volunteer business mentors to support the young entrepreneurs. The report was produced by the London School of Economics.
Contact Prince’s Trust 020 7543 1234 www.princes-trust.org.uk
New governance policies aimed at reducing social exclusion, modernising local government and reforming public services are not working according to a report by the Economic and Social Research Council. The policies aim to increase community engagement in local decision-making processes and the report – Localism and local governance – found that although community and voluntary organisations welcomed the new mechanisms, many are still marginalised due to a lack of knowledge, resources and time. This means that only one or two people are making decisions and that the wider community is not involved. The report makes suggestions regarding how this could be improved, citing an understanding of how people relate to the state and to one another as essential if community engagement in government affairs is to be improved. The research was carried out by the ESRC in partnership with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and forms part of the ESRC’s ongoing Public Policy Seminar Series.
Contact ESRC 01793 413 122 www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk
Yorkshire Forward, the UK government regional development agency, is encouraging businesses in West Yorkshire to “embrace equality and diversity” in a £8m, three-year project, which aims to work with employers across the region and assist them in connecting with hard-to-reach groups. The goal is to encourage engagement between employment agencies and community groups and the programme will be run by Wakefield District Council.
Thea Stein, executive director of economic inclusion for Yorkshire Forward, stated that employers should not only take part in the initiative “from the perspective of corporate social responsibility” but should do so “in order to guarantee the future of their business” as it will benefit the overall economic development of the region. Yorkshire Forward has worked closely with Business in the Community over the last six years and has provided the organisation with financial support in Yorkshire and Humber over that period of time.
Contact Yorkshire Forward 0113 394 9600 www.yorkshire-forward.com
The Welsh economy
A stronger Welsh economy would be created if all employers in the country adopted flexible working policies, according to a group of business and voluntary organisations in the region. Supporting this view, David Rosser, CBI Wales director, said: “If Wales is going to compete successfully with other countries, businesses must harness and better manage a diverse 21st century workforce, and flexible working is a key element of workforce planning now and for the future.”
Representatives from the Institute of Directors Wales, the Federation of Small Businesses Wales, the Welsh CBI and TUC Wales met at Chwarae Teg’s Better Balance Better Business conference in Cardiff at the end of March. Chwarae Teg is an organisation that supports, develops and expands the role of women in the Welsh economy and the conference was attended by representatives from companies such as BT, Admiral Group and the Hilton.
Contact Chwarae Teg 029 2047 8900 www.chwaraeteg.com
Lloyds TSB says it is the first UK bank to offer a business account that complies with Islamic law, enabling Muslim business owners to bank according to their faith.
The Islamic Business and Corporate Account was launched on April 3 and will be available across Lloyds’ 2,000 branches countrywide. It is estimated that there are up to 100,000 Muslim businesses in the UK. The launch of the new account makes Lloyds TSB the largest provider of Islamic financial services in the country. Islamic (Sharia) law does not permit businesses or individuals to pay or receive interest, and does not allow investment in companies involved with industries considered unethical such as gambling, tobacco or alcohol.
Contact Lloyds TSB www.lloydstsb.com