The days when businesspeople just ran their business with the sole intention of making profit are slowly coming to an end. We understand now that we have duties and obligations above and beyond maximising shareholder value in the old model. One thing I’ve realised recently is that helping those less fortunate than you is actually good for business.
I’ll give you two examples of how I came to this conclusion. I sit on the board of the London Development Agency’s Business Leaders Advisory Group where we look at how to encourage employers to undertake greater measures to improve the diversity of their workforces. One of the things the programme offers is an online ‘diagnostic tool’ to see how well your company performs on this front and how you can improve in fact if you do well, you can apply for a Gold Standard. Roast is applying for this.
Sceptics ask: why create further HR issues for managers to have to deal with? This isn’t just about being nice or fair it’s also beneficial to the bottom line. In America this already happens: companies that have gold standard style accreditation want to spend their money with other companies that are similarly minded. It won’t be long before we find that by helping correct inequalities that the labour market unfettered can’t deal with, we are actually seeing commercial benefit too.
A second example of this has come through my becoming a trustee of the Mayor’s Fund for London. I’ve hosted a couple of breakfast events at Roast for this project one of which Boris Johnson spoke at and at the second it was Barclays boss Bob Diamond. OK, we lost out on the taking for those days’ breakfast revenues, but the crowd we attracted to these events were City heavy hitters who now in turn use Roast as a venue for their own businesses.
So, by helping others, we can help ourselves in the process. Enlightened self-interest: the best form.