Responsible Business: Interview with Business in the Community director Simon Harris

Cardiff Business News

Just two days ago the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) reviewed the figure of public sector job losses down from 490,000 announced by George Osborne in the CSR last month to 330,000. Despite this good news, both the public and private sector will suffer as a result of government spending cuts.

(Mr Harris at his office in Cardiff)

In these austere times as public sector contracts dry up and the banks refuse to lend, many business leaders will look to streamline their operations to save money and retain staff where possible.

Meanwhile globalisation has enabled companies to outsource to emerging markets like China or India and cut corners where possible to trim their budgets.

But as cutbacks are made, will responsible business practices suffer?

Sitting in his BiTC office boardroom, Mr Simon Harris, told me this is not necessarily the case.

When asked whether businesses were less likely to invest in responsible and sustainable business projects Mr Harris said:

“This is a particularly important time to focus on responsible business practice.”

“Our argument is that to separate yourself out as a business from the rest you need to look at how you are different from the rest.”

“In the retail sector consumers are becoming more aware of where their food comes from and purchase fair trade goods, for example.”

“So, if a business can promote a very positive responsible attitude then there is a possibility that consumers would be more likely go for those businesses than those that aren’t.”

“There is evidence that business leaders across the UK see responsible business practices as being key to their strategic development within the next few years.”

Mr Harris did, however, admit the CSR and public spending cuts could affect operations of the BiTC.

“With reference to the BiTC, as it does receive funds from the WAG, it will be difficult to renew some of the programmes we are running,” Harris said.

“In terms of the private sector if there is a continued or double dip recession it could be more difficult for them.”

Mr Harris said he was hopeful projects such as working in schools and exposing business leaders through projects such as “Seeing is Believing,” would help promote responsible business practices.

In as the recession continues it remains to be seen how business practices will react to tighter budgets and and a contraction in the public sector.

Applications open tomorrow for the BiTC flagship awards the Wales Recognition Awards 2011.

BiTC is a UK based business-led charity, which seeks to promote responsibility in the workplace, marketplace, community and the environment and it is a member of The Prince’s Charities. It’s headquarters are in London.


Wales and the CSR: What is to be done?

Cardiff Business News

Financial terminology has never been so in vogue as it is today.

At last, financial journalism has become recognised by a wider audience as a matter of necessity to understand what is going on in the world and why the bank won’t lend any money to Mr Joe’s business or refuses to offer a mortgage to Mrs Bloggs.

Financial jargon has become part of everyday language. In fact financial terms have been overused and abused, much to the horror of the average reader.

National debt, welfare and benefit cuts, budget deficits, currency wars, bond prices, yields, fiscal consolidation programmes, capital expenditure, quantitative easing, sub-prime mortgages, financial meltdown…I could go on. These terms have almost come into the vernacular since the onset of the financial crisis in late 2007 with technical terms appearing in newspaper articles, on TV and in the workplace. It all seems overwhelming.

However, we must wrestle with these terms to bring out some of the consequences and impacts these macro decisions have on you and I.

And this evening’s meeting in Cardiff on the impact of the Comprehensive Spending Review revealed on 20th October sought to answer some of the most important questions of how Wales will be affected by systematic budget cuts.

First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, said at the meeting in Cardiff University that Wales had been disproportionately hit by the spending review.

Mr Jones told hundreds of Business leaders and students at the event that the current economic challenge left to the WAG to sort out was its biggest since devolution began 13 years ago.

He cited UK Economics Nobel Laureate, Chris Pissarides, who recently criticised government measures to cut public spending as running the risk of dropping people into poverty, adding that PWC’s recent forecast was that 50,000 public sector jobs would be lost as a result of the CSR.

He said: “These measures are not fair to Wales,” as housing benefit changes would hit poorer households more proportionately.

Meanwhile capital spending allocation will reduce by 25% this year and up to 41% over the next four years. Mr Jones also hit out at the government for neglecting development projects such as the defence training base at St Athan, the closure of the Newport passport office and other sidelined projects.

He also said the Barnett Formula, the mechanism used by the Treasury to work out the amounts of public expenditure, was flawed for Wales.

…More to follow…