November 2020

The Power of Us: six ways we can build a better society

Our Power of Us podcast series looks at how we are the driving force behind building a better society

Older woman holding surfboard

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, doing good to create a better society has never been more important, and businesses have an important role to play. Our six-episode Power of Us podcast series with The Telegraph, hosted by presenter and mathematician Rachel Riley and based on The Telegraph’s ‘thinker’ events which address topics from the perspective of society, the economy and the individual, looks at how individuals and companies can build a better tomorrow.

1. Start with people

My approach in business and in life is to always treat people with respect.”

Simon Squibb,
entrepreneur

Today, all businesses know they need to “do good”, but what does this actually mean? It could mean being more sustainable, having a more diverse workforce or simply paying your tax. But in this first podcast, it becomes immediately clear that doing good starts with people.  Entrepreneur Simon Squibb says: “My approach in business and in life is to always treat people with respect. I do think the world ends up being a mirror.” For Iancu Daramus, Senior Sustainability Analyst at Legal & General Investment Management, “This idea of thinking long term and broadening the sphere of concern, from the communities you operate in, your stakeholders, your suppliers, your employees, that I think is a hallmark of a good business.” But with Squibb adding that “the word purpose was never mentioned to me at school”, it’s clear that for more people to understand the benefit of a purpose-led approach, this must be brought into education.

2. Make tech more inclusive

If you’re putting a tech development team together, the more diverse that team is, the more likely it is that the technology will be developed in such a way that it is inclusive.”

Craig Bennet,
CEO, the Wildlife Trusts

We’ve never been more reliant on technology than during this pandemic, from working from home to video calls with family, to taking group exercise classes in our living room. And while this has been a lifeline for many, it’s important that when we come out of this pandemic we continue to use tech to encourage human interaction, rather than replace it altogether. “There is a responsibility on the designers certainty to think about the potential to actually exacerbate issues,” says Cynthia Bullock, Deputy Director at UK Research and Innovation. Technology both has the power to divide and include, and it’s up to society to push for the latter. Craig Bennet, CEO of the Wildlife Trusts, explains that promoting diversity in the companies developing tech is crucial: “If you’re putting a tech development team together, the more diverse that team is itself, the more likely it is that the technology will be developed in such a way that it is inclusive.”

3. Build a greener future

There’s huge opportunity to change the way we invest, and there’s a real hope.”

John Bromley,
Head of Clean Energy, Legal & General

Climate change is on everyone’s minds. During the first lockdown, the drop in air pollution was striking, and people are noticing that there are actions we can take that will lead to tangible change. And while there’s a lot that society can do, from insulating homes to eating less meat and driving less, with 70% of greenhouse global gas emissions coming from just 100 companies, it’s businesses that need to take the lead in the tackling the crisis. Speaking on the podcast is Emmerson Sutton, the 13-year-old advisor to the young mayor of Lewisham, who sums up the way many view these 100 companies: “Selfish businesses at the top pf the pyramid are thinking about only themselves.” There’s a role for investors to play too, as John Bromley, Head of Clean Energy at Legal & General, explains: “There’s huge opportunity to change the way we invest, and there’s a real hope.”

4. Value the retired

Loneliness and isolation is what’s driving that segregation in that community.”

Eugene Marchese,
Founder and Director of Innovation and Design, Guild Living

For many of us the uptake of technology during the pandemic has helped us stay better connected. But for those less familiar with technology, it has only added to a sense of isolation. On the podcast is Eugene Marchese, Founder and Director of Innovation and Design at later-living community developer Guild Living, who says: “Loneliness and isolation is what’s driving that segregation in that community.” Instead, what we need to do is embrace this community and follow cultures where reaching this later stage of life means opportunity. In Japan, for example, Marchese points out there is no word for ‘retirement’. Instead, they use the word ‘ikigai’ which, he says, “means purely having a sense of purpose”.

5. Guarantee everyone has a part to play

We’ve got to start from the bottom up, where people live, work and play.”

Chris Moore,
Chief Executive, The Clink Charity

The importance of local communities has become starkly clear amid the pandemic, and as we look to bounce back, it’s important that the communities we build are healthy. Jen Hartley, Director of Invest Newcastle, explains what this means: “It’s all about inclusive growth, involving all parts of society, so regardless of your postcode you get the same opportunities.” This means investing in upskilling, making sure no one is forgotten and that every individual has a part to play in society. “We’ve got to start from the bottom up, where people live, work and play,” explains Chris Moore, Chief Executive of The Clink Charity, which aims to cut reoffender rates by providing prisoners with new skills. “Then, you can start to have a material impact on society.”

6. Keep supporting small businesses

I definitely don’t think it’s a bad time to start a business.”

Philip Salter,
Founder, Entrepreneurs Network

A positive final episode in the series, the podcast panel agreed that it would be small businesses that drive the post-pandemic economic recovery. Small businesses have one thing that the corporates don’t – they have a tight-knit, community-based network, which results in lots of local support. In an almost accidental marketing campaign, since lockdown began in March, and where restrictions have allowed, people have been ‘shopping local’, to the point where Philip Salter, Founder of the Entrepreneurs Network, says: “I definitely don’t think it’s a bad time to start a business.” Gemma Lewis of Wattle and Daub Homewares Store says a bit more government support could make a big difference for people who are considering starting their own business: “I think if there was more support at government level to understand just the basics of what you might need to learn to start your own business, that would be helpful.”

 

Find out more and listen to the Power of Us podcast series here.

The Power of Us virtual conference will look at how individuals, policymakers and businesses can work together to build a better future, from 17–18 November 2020. To register, or for more information, click here.

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