We are here of course to to help celebrations on two notable fronts; first of all, to recognize the impact which so many businesses are now making on issues of great concern to society, and second, of course, to mark 25 years of Scottish Business in the Community, really a remarkable milestone and about which I will say more in a moment…
But, can I just begin by thanking Sir Robert Smith who, as my Corporate Social Responsibility Ambassador for Scotland over the past year, has made a huge difference, he really has and I've heard it ceaselessly from George [Borthwick] and Samantha [Barber], he's made a huge difference I especially, I am told, through a series of Business Briefings and Robert has helped SBC to create a number of strong and, I am sure, enduring partnerships by engaging with the private and public sectors and encouraging them to find solutions aimed at tackling complex issues around employability and education. So I really could not be more grateful to you, Robert, for all your marvellous and enthusiastic work…
Now Ladies and Gentleman it is surely a reflection of the high calibre of Ambassadors SBC attracts that I am able to announce that the individual who will pick up where Sir Robert Smith has just left off is a highly regarded Group Chief Executive, with influence throughout the Scottish and UK business communities. He has ensured that CSR - Corporate Social Responsibility - is at the core of his company’s values and practices and is in a very strong position to share insight and experience with leaders of all sectors in Scotland and I would therefore like to invite Mr Sandy Crombie, Group Chief Executive of Standard Life, to come and join me on the stage…
[Sandy Crombie is given a copy of HRH's The Elements of Organic Gardening: Highgrove, Clarence House, Birkhall book] He gets a rather homemade prize which he will have to read his way through because I insist that he does! And then answer a few questions at the end on whether he understands the principles of organic gardening.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I mentioned a moment ago that Scottish Business in the Community is celebrating twenty-five years of working with business, to encourage the development and delivery of responsible business practice, which benefits not only the core enterprise, but the wider community too - that's the whole point of course about all this.
And in marking the anniversary with the Awards dinner this evening, I would like to thank all the sponsors for their generosity. I would also like to thank Sally Magnusson for taking on a slighly different role and helping to sing SBC’s praises instead of other praises which she sings from time to time.
In addition, I would very much like to thank both Samantha and George, together with the SBC board and members of staff - all those incredibly hard working staff - all of whom are achieving some remarkable success, I think, in a demanding and competitive environment.
My own involvement with SBC began, believe it or not, I think 22 years ago, I'm rather horrified to think when I was asked to become President. And I had a feeling that Hector Lang was slightly involved in all this because he was really the man at the end of the day who began all this business of corporate social responsibility with the one percent club, I remember becoming patron of that, it seems a long long time ago, at a time of course when not very many people wanted to know. And of course he's been producing some very, very good biscuits for a long time - I tried to pursue him 17 years ago when I started my one biscuit for Duchy Originals and I'm very proud indeed that these are manufactured up the Spey Valley by Walkers of Aberlour another wonderful Scottish company, family company which contributes an enormous amount to the Scottish economy rather like the other family company at the bottom end of the Spey, Baxters.
You only have to look for a moment at the achievements and the quality of corporate social responsibility efforts that have been made by this evening’s award-winners to understand how deeply embedded responsible business practice has become right across Scotland. As I say, this was most certainly not the case when I first became President and I was met by rather blank stares at the mention of Corporate Social Responsibility. Now I find to my amazement people of my godchildren’s age - I've got nearly 40 of them - lecturing me about the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility without having any idea that might have anything to do with it! I suppose its the story of one's life...
Ladies and Gentleman, one of the most dramatic changes I have observed during this time has been – and perhaps not before time – the recognition of the impact of our actions, corporate or individual, on the planet and on the world around us. But, as we know all too well, there can be an alarming gulf between facing up to the fact that human behaviour does come with consequences and actually doing something about the negative ones.
That's why I happen to believe that the issue of climate change demands the uncomfortable – you might say inconvenient – question which is “are we doing enough to combat it?” I think climate change must be by far the greatest challenge facing us all. You may be tired of this, I don't know, but you may also be aware of the fact that it was described by a United Nations report as “a chemical experiment humans have been conducting on the atmosphere for the past century and a half.” But what are we all doing about it now that it is harder to argue against the science, although some people still do.
With this in mind, I recently hosted a 'May Day Business Summit' on Climate Change, which is the result of suddenly thinking I wonder what the marketing and communications people would say about how we could perhaps raise the issue, raise the awareness about climate change, what would they do. And funnily enough a chap I've known for a long time suggested this 'May Day Business Summit" under the auspices of SBC’s sister organization in the south, Business in the Community, and in partnership with the Carbon Trust. The aim was to get companies to make real commitments to change. Through the wonders of video conferencing, over one thousand companies in nine different regions of England worked throughout the day with one hundred and thirty-five business leaders, who were based at a hub event in St. James’s Palace - all fiddling with remarkable bits of kit and pressing buttons in a very exciting way! Unfortunately, the timing was such that the Elections prevented us from including participants in Scotland and Wales, but, together with Northern Ireland, I am pleased to say that we are working towards a very similar event in the not too distant future…So, ladies and gentlemen, you've been warned!
The results of the London summit were encouraging – companies made 5,500 pledges to take some kind of action and 600 companies agreed to become May Day companies, meaning they have committed to reporting back in a year’s time, rather rashly, on what they have achieved. The event was also supported by polling evidence which, at the close of the day, indicated a significant attitudinal shift, this was the interesting part because at the start, forty-seven per cent of the leaders believed that climate change would have a significant impact on their business. By the end of the presentations and workshops, that figure had shifted to just under seventy per cent.
So it seems to me that where you can gather people together and focus on some of these issues in a structured way, inspiration and commitments to action can be found. As I said, I look forward to an equally successful event here in Scotland but, in the meantime, there are already some encouraging examples of where intentions are being translated into action…
Scottish Power, which as we have seen have won... nearly all the Awards tonight!... is part of the world’s largest Renewable Energy Company, Iberdrola, investing in wave and tidal power projects in Scotland. A joint initiative with the Scottish Executive will mean that the company will provide DVD copies of Al Gore’s extraordinary film, “An Inconvenient Truth” for viewing in secondary schools across Scotland. Sir Robert’s company, Scottish and Southern, is developing a new hydro-electric scheme near Loch Ness where the power station will be sited underground and is researching and developing the potential to deliver deep water windpower generation from sites placed well out to sea which is a very interesting development.
And the Falkirk-based company, Redeem, which won this evening’s award for Eco-Efficiency has, as we heard, created a business through the recovery, reuse and recycling of used printer cartridges and mobile telephones. Every new mobile phone manufactured produces sixty kilograms of carbon emissions, but by recycling the material parts, Redeem has saved fifteen thousand tonnes of CO2 going into the atmosphere - may seem small but when done on a wider scale can make a huge difference.
These are just some of the examples of actions which can and do make an impact - from small scale improvements to the way we use energy and use transport, to proper recycling, to large scale engineering projects. But it is certainly worth remembering that there are several relatively easy “quick wins” that would make a substantial difference, such as switching off computer standby lights, using low energy light bulbs and recycling waste.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is not fanciful to suggest that we may be the last generation which can help to protect parts of our planet. The ability of this Earth to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted and that means, if I may say so, taking a much longer term view of our actions.
Just take the subject of planning and building design, for instance. The fate of our cities and towns is increasingly understood to affect not only their economies, but people’s day-to-day health and the global environment as well. The link between sprawling, car-dependent developments and various health problems is now better established, and on the other end of the scale, the alienation and social dysfunction caused by high-rise blocks of social housing in peripheral housing estates is, I think, evident to most. All this must be seen against the background of projections from the United Nations Environment Programme indicating that by 2030, sixty per cent of the world’s people will live in cities, fuelled by migration from rural areas and the transformation of towns into what is likely to be increasingly unmanageable, degraded and dysfunctional cities – particularly in the developing world.
But there are answers to be found and the solution to these problems in large part is new urbanism: in other words, walkable mixed, mixed communities - in other words the end of ghettoization which has so inflicted the 20th Century - reflecting traditional building types and materials and embodying local adaptation and culture. Development of this type has always held its value – just witness the continuing desirability of Georgian development in Edinburgh, Belgravia or Bath.
Such dense yet human scaled neighbourhoods embody something called location efficiency – the mix of walkable streets, density, public transport access and access to amenity – and this location efficiency reduces the need for car travel, and hence reduces carbon emissions. So cities at historic scale are part, part of the answer to our global environmental crisis.
I am sure that many of your companies are building new offices. But instead of just creating more of the now ubiquitous glass and steel constructions, that are rapidly homogenizing every city and town throughout the world and depriving them of their cultural diversity and identity, why not think instead occasionally of using more sustainable materials and establishing a more tried and tested urban grain that creates genuinely human-scaled, liveable communities? Apart from anything else, it seems to me that we certainly need to take a long, hard look at the way we currently construct buildings which are so demanding of energy to heat and to cool.
Now finally, I would like each of us to spend a little time thinking about the costs of failing to get this right. I am sure that, like me, you do not want your children and grandchildren saying to you, “Why didn’t you do something when it was possible to make a difference and when you knew what was happening?” And that is why, I would suggest, we are all here. I can think of no other time when the “responsibility” part of corporate responsibility mattered so much – nor for that matter when the community identity bit of Business in the Community mattered so much either.
At the end of the day, you all have the most enormous power to make a substantial and lasting difference. At the risk of being a frightful bore about all this, please, please don’t waste it or ignore it! Ladies and gentlemen, thank you.