I've been asked a few times in recent months why we need a Responsible Business Week?
This question in itself highlights just how pervasive the trust problem facing business is. Every day businesses are engaged in activity which tackles big issues, creates value and unlocks innovation, yet much of this activity is never communicated to customers and employees, let alone the wider public or media. Many businesses are also reluctant to engage in transparent conversation about their value to society for fear of public backlash.
So yes, part of this week is about showing the very best of business and encouraging the business community to stand up, be counted and talk in public about the impact of some of the things it does quietly, behind closed doors, all year round.
Whether that's the 200 businesses helping to transform the prospects of 50,000 young people through business education partnerships; the companies that have collectively brought £10million of business talent into communities around the UK by seconding employees, on full pay, into deprived communities; the businesses committed to creating jobs and opportunities for young unemployed people, ex-offenders and other marginalised groups; or the companies creating sustainable products and services so that all of us can enjoy a sustainable future. Our businesses are doing much that we should be proud of.
But what is so much more important than simply highlighting these activities, is the action that doing this will inspire. For while business has much to be proud of, it also has an opportunity to do so much more.
Despite falling unemployment, the jobless rate remains stubbornly high for young people. In a survey of 500+ 16-24 year olds launched this morning, they said that they want more support from business, are not confident that economic recovery would enhance their job prospects and lack confidence about their career prospects.
Although progress is being made in reducing gender inequality in the workplace, the results of Project 2840, the largest ever survey of women and work to be released later this week, will highlight the continuing need and opportunity for business to make greater inroads to accelerate women's progression at work.
And we know from the forthcoming report with the charity Mind also being published this week, that business is only just beginning to grip the implications of the culture of silence around mental health in the workplace and the impact on the productivity - which is why we will be announcing a new programme to put mental health on the agenda at boardroom level.
These are just a handful of the diverse range of issues where business must be an integral part of the solution. However, making change takes bravery, a willingness to do something different and a recognition that no one organisation or individual has all the answers.
Business leaders are at the heart of forging a new contract with society, which is why Business in the Community will be kicking off Responsible Business Week by asking CEO's to consider their key role and personal responsibility. We will also be outlining the 5 practical actions they must take within their business in a new report developed with input from over 300 business leaders.
Of course encouraging more responsible business behaviour is not just about the CEO, it is about people throughout every organisation and their everyday decisions and behaviour.
The thousands of people participating in Responsible Business Week across the country this week are each in their own way showing that they take the role of businesses in society seriously and are committed to finding out how they can individually contribute towards a greater collective impact.
As we emerge from recession, business has a powerful new opportunity to shape a recovery that is inclusive and sustainable. By inspiring more people about the role of businesses, equipping business to take action and reminding business that there is more to be done I genuinely believe we will accelerate progress towards a fairer society and more sustainable future for all.
Do we need a responsible Business Week? I hope you agree that the answer is yes.
Responsible Business Week (31 March - 4 April 2014) is a campaign run by Business in the Community in partnership with Veolia Environnment to inspire and equip business to tackle the world's most pressing issues. #rbweek