These were the words of BlackRock CEO Larry Fink earlier this year, emphasising the importance of businesses having a social conscience.
Coutts’ chairman of entrepreneurs, Michael Hayman, shared Mr Fink’s words with guests at the second flagship event of our inaugural Entrepreneur Month, discussing how and why entrepreneurs should put purpose at the forefront of their businesses.
Addressing our guests on Thursday morning was a panel of four founders whose businesses all live and breathe social conscience. They were:
- Iqbal Wahhab; founder of restaurants The Cinnamon Club and Roast
- Laura Winningham; CEO of hunger relief charity City Harvest
- Renée Elliott; founder of health food store Planet Organic and co-founder of life-skills academy for women, Beluga Bean
- Maurice Ostro; serial entrepreneur and most recently founder of EG (Entrepreneurial Giving)
Be clear about your social goals
In a 20-minute panel discussion, the speakers were asked to frame the importance of purpose in business and reflect on how it has become more important in the last decade.
The significance of transparency was a common theme during the discussion. “Things have shifted,” Maurice explained. “Years ago it took a long time to find out about scandals in business, but today you can find out instantly and think, ‘why should I buy from these terrible companies?’”
Renée agreed, “Consumers are looking at businesses and questioning whether they can trust them. Are they ‘greenwashing’, are they making their mission up? Customers are digging deeper and the companies that are transparent will succeed more easily in the future,” she said.
The panellists were asked about the importance of tackling climate change, and Renée explained that it was something she had been thinking about for a long time. “Organic farming has a completely different environmental impact to industrial farming,” she said. “The organic industry has been well ahead – I was sat in rooms talking about this 10 to 15 years ago.”
And for Laura, the very ethos of City Harvest is tied to environmental sustainability. “Companies have three million tonnes of food going to waste and they are making economic decisions to send this to landfills,” she said. “Every decision like this uses greenhouse gases. We provide an alternative to re-direct food waste.”