Opinion

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What does it really mean to be responsible in business?

4 Mins

I define responsible business as, ‘doing the right thing’ or applying good common sense. Businesses are engines of both value and growth, not just for the owners but also for wider stakeholders too. To work responsibly, businesses need to balance three key priorities: people, planet and shared prosperity.

While some organisations have separate Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes, this approach implies corporate responsibility as an adjunct to the day-to-day business, somehow separate from strategy and the value proposition. 

A truly purposeful and values-led approach relies upon responsibility being weaved into every aspect of the way a business is run. It should inform working practices, people management, planning and every aspect related to the way companies conduct themselves.

A vital part of this is recognising and supporting the communities in which they operate. Whilst we would never be arrogant enough to suggest we have all the answers, Adnams achieve this in a number of ways; through our approach to diversity, our approach to managing our environmental impacts, our dedication to treating every employee equally and through donating a percentage of our profits to the Adnams Charity which distributes the proceeds to small deserving causes in our locality.

Staff involvement is crucial in ensuring alignment of values and the bringing to life of those values in real and tangible ways. We achieve high levels of staff engagement across a whole range of measures and this leads to enormous pride amongst our employees.

I fundamentally believe it follows; employees that possess a pride and passion for the business in which they work will serve customers better. This in return secures customer loyalty and repeat purchase. This is good for profits and for investors.

As we move well into the 21st century the diversity of Board members and senior management is critical. Adnams serves a broader customer base that is more multigenerational and more gender neutral than in years gone by. In developing strategies for specific customer groups it is important those groups are represented in the decision making process. 

This is a critical business issue relating to the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors of diverse groups and should not be seen as just addressing some quota requirement. We, as a business are stronger because of the diversity of experience and gender balance we have amongst Board and leadership team members.

The Edelman ‘Trust in Business’ Barometer, indicates that across the UK we are seeing trust in business at an all time low. While this is more apparent for larger companies, no organisation – large or small – can become complacent when it comes to this issue.

Responsible business is appropriate for all, but particularly for smaller businesses who are often the ones that can make a real difference because of the incredibly close relationship they have with the local communities that they serve.

Andy Wood is CEO at Adnams, the award winning brewer, distiller and retailer. 

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