28 (123) 2017
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Poles in the UK

A new era for CSR and strategic value creation?

With Veronica Heaven founder and proprietor of The Heaven Company
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The outcomes of the UK’s EU referendum and the US presidential election will bring great change.

No one is sure what this year will bring. Yet it’s reasonable to assume that organisations will play a significant role in helping to lead people through uncharted waters. Work is one of the places that help people through challenging times; the support there provides order and hopefully some certainty in their lives.

Businesses can play a pivotal role in society. The UK’s business population is growing; with an increase of almost 600,000 since the start of 2013 there are more than 5.5 million private-sector businesses. Entrepreneurship is increasing and businesses of all sizes – large, medium and small – have the potential to play an important part in communities as well as the economy.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a business ethos that has matured. The fundamental principles requiring businesses to take a longer term view, balance economic performance, social affairs and to have the least impact on the planet remain. However, forward-looking companies planning their future are beginning to realise how responsible business practice and strategic value creation go hand-in-hand.

The Heaven Company is a small business that provides specialist consultancy and management support in sustainability and CSR. It helps to find and articulate clients’ messages compellingly. The firm is known in Poland through co-hosting BPCC seminars, working with Polish clients and maintaining a strategic alliance with a Polish-owned PR agency based in Warsaw.

Working in a variety of sectors (retail, brewing and distilling, forestry, IT, construction, housing, leisure etc), The Heaven Company works collaboratively with clients to review their operating and supply-chain practices, focus on winning strategies, and deliver change within the clients’ own businesses – and cascaded down their supply chains (click here for a case study). As well as helping clients to release the tangible benefits that a cohesive CSR strategy brings, the consultancy runs its own initiatives focused on sustainability and entrepreneurship, and the results are getting noticed.

Recently, I was welcomed as a Freeman of the City of London by The Guild of Entrepreneurs and received recognition as a finalist for Entrepreneur of the Year and Enterprising Business of the Year at the FSB London Awards 2016.

Photo: The Guild of Entrepreneurs and www.jonathancherry.net

The Heaven Company’s ethical speciality, recognised in its appointment as a Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Conference Network Partner, is central to the consultancy’s offer. It flows through all the company’s commercial and management practices, and extends to the innovations and awards schemes that the company has launched – specifically Brief Cases.

Brief Cases is a scheme conceived as a means of linking students with industry, and was launched as a contribution to bridging the gap between academia and the world of work.

This spring, I will contribute to a UK Parliamentary Group Meeting on the subject of business-education partnerships in my capacity an associate parliamentary member for the All-Party Parliamentary Corporate Responsibility Group. As the founder of Brief Cases, I’ll share the learning jointly found through Brief Cases industry-based projects, which reduce the disconnection that exists while strengthening the industry and employability aspects of the degree course.

Innovation and entrepreneurship are hot topics for many industry sectors. RISI, the world’s most authoritative source of forest products information and data, asked me to address its global industry conference to speak on sustainable packaging and encouraging innovation, one of the challenges the students in the Brief Cases awards programme had been set.

There’s a genuine appetite for sustainable packaging innovation from millennials – the next generation of purchasers – and brand-owners alike. Re-designing the packaging of everyday items to make it more sustainable is a challenge facing many firms. The product packaging of Apple’s iPhone has changed, as have the sandwich packs from beloved high street retailer Marks & Spencer; both have switched to more sustainable materials – just two examples which illustrate the sustainability trend.

A committed stance to sustainability inspires innovation; it defines the strategies that create value over the long term. And it provides a strong selling proposition, provides cultural alignment and a common vision for all employees as well as a company’s supplier base.

Time now for enlightened businesses

In times of change, it becomes more crucial than ever to shape the things that do lie within one’s control. For business leaders who have an extended reach through their team members, supply chain partners and associates this also true – they can be change agents in favour of positive outcomes – in other words, to be a force for good.

Much has been made of a speech given at last month’s World Economic Forum in Switzerland by premier Theresa May with her explicit message on the need for the world’s business leaders to take on social responsibility; perhaps an indication of an increasing consciousness during a turbulent time of political, social and climate change.

Companies who are progressing in the field of CSR-sustainability are already discovering additional benefits released from working in this enlightened way.

Regardless of the industry sector or company size, when done well, CSR becomes a tool to strengthen the core, transform operating practices, create strategic value, gain buy-in from key stakeholders, and to maximise business reputation and opportunities.

For more information on The Heaven Company see: www.theheavencompany.com

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