The Southern Co-operative is exploring the role of businesses in promoting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals agenda.
In April, the society ran a Dragons’ Den workshop with Business in the Community (BITC) to raise awareness of Responsible Business Week. The event brought together a number of businesses from Bristol to promote employability skills in schools.
Celebrated on 23-30 April, Responsible Business Week is an annual campaign by Business in the Community to promote and encourage enterprises to place creating healthy environments and communities at the centre of their strategy to achieve long-term financial value.
Mark Smith, chief executive of Southern, thinks businesses need to engage with education in the region. He is the Prince of Wales Responsible Business Ambassador for the South East of England and a member of BITC’s South East Advisory Board.
He said: “One of my key messages about responsible business is not about how a company spends its money on philanthropy or good causes. It’s about how it treats the planet, employees, suppliers and the communities that give them their licence to operate fairly and inclusively for all.”
Amanda Mackenzie, chief executive of BITC, said: “Responsible Business Week is an opportunity for us to celebrate the pioneering companies which are redefining what it means to be a responsible business and are demonstrating how they can help to create healthy communities.
“Southern Co-op has worked hard to blaze a trail in areas such as educational schemes to help boost confidence in local school pupils and I hope that many others follow in their footsteps. The combined efforts of all these companies show that the UK can lead the world in responsible business.”
In April Mr Smith took part in the Sustainable Development Goals Roadshow at the University of Winchester, where he looked at how Southern Co-op and other businesses can meet their own ‘Global Goals’, in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
He added: “Southern Co-op has been committed to responsible trading since its formation in 1873. This makes us ideally placed to contribute to achieving the SDGs.
“Going forward, we will be aligning our strategic plans as closely as possible with the SDGs to ensure our business plays its full part in delivering these fundamentally important aims.
“Beyond that, as a membership organisation and consumer-facing business, we have an amazing opportunity to help with broadening the general awareness of the SDGs and their importance. We will therefore be looking at how we can make communicating these crucial messages to our colleagues, members and other customers part of business as usual. Co-ops have always had a role in educating people and it’s hard to think of a topic that’s more important or in need of support than the SDGs!”