December 2020

A new way forward for our society

Our The Power of Us supplement in the Telegraph brings together opinions from across society to help us build a better future

Older man with an iPad

The global pandemic is occupying all of our thoughts but there is an opportunity to build back better after the crisis. In our The Power of Us supplement in the Telegraph this week some leading thinkers from across academia, industry, the media and the not-for-profit sector give us their views and insights into some of the most important issues we face today. And we ask whether, when we all work together towards a better word, we can build a society that works for everyone.

1. Rethinking retirement

Older people are often viewed negatively and the ageing population as a crisis, but people in their later lives still have a lot to give. Many struggle, however, to contribute because they are faced with everyday ageism that can force them out of the workforce. But Dr Martin Hyde, Associate Professor at the Centre for Innovative Ageing at the University of Swansea points out that thousands of these people stepped in to help and returned to frontline jobs as Covid-19 threatened to overwhelm the NHS. He believes we are at a crossroads in the way we treat older adults and we can either go down the path of intergenerational conflict or we can work to unite people of all ages. Claire Turner, Director of Evidence at the Centre for Ageing Better, says: “It’s vital we stop using negative language and stereotypes, and reframe ageing and our longer lives as an opportunity.”

2. Backing businesses with a social purpose

The pandemic has very quickly turned competition in to collaboration in the business world. Online research archives have been inundated with coronavirus research from across the world, including the UK, US, Iran, Italy and China. Working together for the common good can change our world and companies that focus solely on shareholder profits and ignore issues such as climate change and the Black Lives Matter campaign are increasingly viewed with concern by investors. In the environment sphere, for example, John Elkington, founder of Volans and co-founder of Environmental Data Services says that we can expect a boom for businesses working towards net-zero carbon emissions and spectacular busts in carbon-intensive industries. He points to oil giant ExxonMobil, once one of the world’s most valuable companies, which has seen its value slump by two-thirds.

Just 100 companies produce 71% of the world's greenhouse gases. Many of these companies claim to be working towards a greener future but they need to start showing real evidence”

Emmerson Sutton, 13,
Young Advisor to the Young Mayor of Lewisham

3. Making companies limit global warming

An analysis of 2,000 businesses by Legal & General Investment Management found that most were not aligned with the goal of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming well below 2°C. The younger generation who will inherit the planet are increasingly concerned. Emmerson Sutton, 13, Young Advisor to the Young Mayor of Lewisham says: “Just 100 companies produce 71% of the world’s greenhouse gases. Many of these companies claim to be working towards a greener future but they need to start showing real evidence, not just making empty promises.” Dr Ben Caldecott, Founding Director of the Oxford Sustainable Finance Programme adds that citizens can turn up the pressure on companies by channelling their money away from firms and investments that harm the environment.

4. Enabling entrepreneurs to flourish

Throughout the pandemic small businesses have shown just how innovative they can be with, for example, Scottish whisky distilleries and London gin-makers shifting production to manufacture hand sanitisers. As the crisis comes to an end that innovative spirit will be essential for an economic recovery. Mike Cherry National Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses called for tax reductions so that companies could employ more people and help for the unemployed who want to start their own businesses. Philip Salter, founder of The Entrepreneur Network says that firms need a talented workforce and the Government should ensure the education system teaches the right skills and retraining opportunities are available for the unemployed. He adds: “We should also make sure more immigrants are able to come to the UK to start businesses, given that 49% of the UK’s fastest-growing start-ups have at least one foreign-born co-founder.”

The savings of the older generations are being used to provide economic opportunities for the younger generations”

Laura Mason,
Chief Executive Officer of Legal & General Retirement, Institutional

5. Investing pension savings in infrastructure

Inclusive communities, fit-for-purpose housing and integrated local businesses have a powerful positive impact but with the UK’s national debt now around £2 trillion how can we afford the infrastructure to make these things a reality. One way is to invest some of the £1.6 trillion of defined benefit (final salary) pension assets currently on UK companies’ balance sheets. That money could, for example, transform our high streets or help to fund a national social-home building project. Laura Mason, Chief Executive Officer of Legal & General Retirement, Institutional points out that our £4.6 billion pension risk transfer deal with the Rolls-Royce UK Pension Fund coincided with our £4 billion real estate investment deal with the University of Oxford to fund housing, technology centres and other investments that will produce a long-term income. She says: “The savings of the older generations are being used to provide economic opportunities for the younger generations.”

6. Harnessing technology for our future

The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us just how important technology is in our lives. Wais Shaifta, Chief Executive of digital healthcare company Push Doctor points out that tech has played an important role in helping the NHS cope with the crisis. While some people remain concerned about its use to track our every move and influence politics, TV presenter Jason Bradbury says that it is not tech that does harm, it’s us. We need a ‘user charter’ that incentivises innovators to develop technology that transforms lives for the better, he says. One positive sign is that investment in ‘tech for good’ start-ups which focus on solving global issues increased by 9.5 times between 2014 and 2019, according to Tech Nation and Dealroom. But the benefits of the tech revolution are not being felt by everybody and digital exclusion affects 11.3. million adults.

Learn more about how we can use money as a force for good to tackle some of our greatest challenges by visiting the Power of Us webpage.