News story

Business in the Community Conference

PM: "Business is the most powerful force for social progress."

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Consumers may in future be able to compare a company’s environmental or community performance just as easily as its price when choosing a product as a result of Government plans to open up business data.

In a speech to the Business in the Community conference the Prime Minister said that business is the most powerful force for social progress the world has ever known, and set out plans to shine a light on the good that companies do that will help empower consumers and reward and encourage responsible business.

The Prime Minister announced the launch of a business-led working group called the Open Business Forum which will bring together leading companies and organisations to look at how business can be more transparent and help consumers and investors to differentiate between them, without adding any further burdens.

To help small businesses get involved in responsible practice, and to help get more young people into work the Prime Minister also set out plans for:

  • The launch of “Trading for Good” a new online directory for SMEs that will showcase the good work they do in the community; and provide free toolkits to help businesses get involved in socially responsible practices, like offering apprenticeships and work experience and setting up a payroll giving scheme, and,
  • A new careers advice web-based service - led by businesses and charitable partners - that will help inspire and support young people aged 11-24 in preparing for their future careers.  It will also advertise entry-level jobs, apprenticeships and placements. Later this year they’ll launch a major website - the one-stop-shop for the best careers advice;
  • The Prime Minister also welcomed the more than five and a half thousand new apprenticeship places offered since the start of the year.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

Today business needs champions, more than ever. In recent months we’ve heard some dangerous rhetoric creep into our national debate that wealth creation is somehow anti-social, that people in business are out for themselves. We have got to fight this mood with all we’ve got. Not just because it’s wrong for our economy, because we need growth and jobs but because it’s wrong for our society.

Business is not just about making money, as vital as that is, it’s also the most powerful force for social progress the world has ever known. It can help us to smash poverty, raise horizons, drive the innovations, products, services that make our lives better, longer and happier and business is doing amazing things in our communities helping build bigger and stronger societies. This doesn’t get celebrated enough.

Now, more than ever, we need the creative talents of business, not just for economic innovation but social innovation too.

On business transparency the Prime Minister said:

The vast majority of good business goes under the radar. We want to change that to link the good work business is doing much more directly with public recognition. This is a government that believes passionately in transparency.  Now just imagine the possibilities for responsible business. You could get people choosing mobile phone companies not just on their tariffs but their carbon emissions or supermarkets not just on price but how green they are. We want business to lead, devise and shape this new era of transparency.

Notes to editors

1. Members of the Open Business Forum include; Chair - Philip N Green, Government Adviser on Corporate Responsibility; Aviva; Business In The Community; Carillion; E.ON; Excell Group; Procter & Gamble; Sir William Wells; Trading for Good and Waitrose. The Forum will also be welcoming new members over the coming months.

2. The Open Business Forum will bring together companies and organisations who, like government, believe in the power of transparency and are eager to embed openness in the way they do business. It will explore how businesses can become more transparent, without making life difficult, and identify where government can help. The Forum, will be business-led and free to shape its own detailed objectives based on the priorities of members.

3. Trading for Good will be launched in the coming months. It is a new not for profit digital service helping small businesses improve their reputation through showcasing the good work they do in their communities. It will give free advice to local businesses to help them get involved in socially responsible projects - everything from taking on apprentices to supporting local charities to being more environmental. Trading for Good is supported and led by the Every Business Commits Forum, a group of SME membership organisations including, amongst others: the British Retail Consortium, the Institute of Directors and the Forum of Private Business. A number of businesses are supporting the development including Excell Group, Dods, Visa Europe and Ernst & Young. The platform is being developed by a number of small businesses including Itineris and Eyebright Media;

4. The new online careers advice service is being developed and designed by a new not-for-profit enterprise Workality. Workality are a group of employers, charities, brand and social media experts, working with young people that have been brought together to inspire the next generation. They were set up in response to a specific challenge set out by the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister which called for industry and the voluntary sector to get involved in an initiative to inspire young people about their futures.  Founding sponsors include: Serco; Centrica; Eversheds; Engine; Mcdonald’s; With support from charities including the IEBE and The Ideas Foundation. And receiving advice and support from leading technology providers such as Facebook, Microsoft, Google, IBM, LinkedIn, Cisco and Blackberry;

5. The Coalition Government is committed to working with employers to tackle youth unemployment. Under this government, the number of apprenticeship places has increased at a record rate with improvements across all age ranges, in all sectors and throughout the country.  Over 457,000 learners started an apprenticeship in 2010/11, an increase of 63.5% compared to 2009/10.  During National Apprenticeship Week a fortnight ago (week commencing 06 February) the Prime Minister announced Round two of the Higher Apprenticeship Fund which will develop thousands of new apprenticeships up to degree equivalent, helping deliver the world class skills firms need to drive growth. The Prime Minister also opened the bidding for the new Employer Ownership pilot, inviting employers in England to apply to access up to £250m of public investment and secure more control over how skills training is designed and delivered. The Prime Minister also launched the new small firms incentive scheme, offering £1,500 to small employers to hire their first young apprentices. This is expected to support up to 40,000 new apprenticeships over the next year.

6. Over 5500 new apprenticeships places have been created since the beginning of 2012. Amongst these places include HSBC which will offer an additional 688 apprentice places, bringing the total number of apprenticeships at the company to 1000 by the end of 2012. Santander will launch an apprenticeship scheme in 2012 that will see up to 50 places offered at the bank. Barclays will launch an apprenticeship scheme in April across their retail and Business Banking divisions offering apprentices to young people across England and Wales. Starbucks will offer apprenticeships for the first time this spring targeting 16-18 year olds, offering up to 45 apprenticeships each month in 2012, increasing to 65 each month in 2013.

7. This year the Government is running the Business in You campaign to encourage more people to start or grow their business throughout 2012 using a range of existing support services. More information is available at

8. Every Business Commits was launched by the Prime Minister in December 2010 to encourage businesses to contribute their creative thinking and innovation to tackling wider policy issues, by setting out a new focus on corporate responsibility, matched by a Government commitment to remove barriers to enterprise, cut red tape and to stand up for business. The five areas of action in Every Business Commits -

  • creating jobs and developing the skills of their workforce
  • supporting local communities
  • larger businesses supporting small and medium sized enterprises to grow 
  • improving the quality of life and well-being of their employees
  • reducing carbon and protecting the environment.

9. These five Every Business Commits areas represent the priorities where government values commitment from business most, bringing clarity and consistency across government policy. Since Every Business Commits was launched Philip N Green has been appointed Corporate Responsibility Adviser to the PM. Norman Lamb MP is the lead Minister for Corporate Responsibility and is driving forward Every Business Commits.

10. The UK is a pioneer in transparency and open data in government it’s now possible to access over 35,000 government data files through, including, for example, information on every item of local government expenditure over £500. We’ve published unprecedented data on transport, health and education - we’re empowering patients through giving them individual access to their GP records online, and we’re helping businesses and individuals plan by releasing real-time data on the running of trains and buses.

11. Business in the Community is one of the Prince’s Charities, a group of not-for-profit organisations of which The Prince of Wales is President. Business in the Community is a business-led charity with a growing membership of over 850 companies. They are one of the largest and most influential leadership networks focused on driving responsible business practice.

Published 23 February 2012