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A community of business: in the business of community

Article by Dr Nik Kotecha OBE DL, Founder and Chair of Trustees - Randal Charitable Foundation

Environmental, social and governance reporting and disclosures form part of the modern business world. Whether mandatory, as for large firms, or increasingly reported voluntarily for smaller firms preparing for a direction of travel which will soon expect more, no-one reading this will be unfamiliar with the evolving landscape of ‘ESG’.

That’s hand in hand – some might say – with the ever-deepening appreciation that there’s a demonstrable economic value associated with these areas – so close is their link to both stakeholder and consumer awareness of sustainability issues.  That “awareness” is so much more, in fact. It’s a vast and rapidly growing knowledge base, with choices from macro commercial investment through to day-to-day consumer purchases being shaped by perceptions and understanding of just how businesses are operating. That level of understanding includes being alert to company values, the extent to which a firm might mitigate adverse business impacts, the way business is done within ‘four walls’ and the ‘above and beyond’ positive impact we seek to bring.

It’s not all about external forces, though. A group of studies published in 2013 and 2014 showed good corporate sustainability performance is strongly linked with good commercial results. That’s likely to be because ESG related reporting requirements are important for many aspects of corporate performance too  – from risk management, talent attraction and retention, employee satisfaction or operational performance.

So – there’s a wealth of drivers behind “ESG”, a spectrum which looms larger with passing time, in all our corporate worlds.

But I’d challenge you to consider this. Is satisfying required compliance and securing commercial value where you’re at? Or is your business already doing more? If not – could it? Does benefiting your own community feature in your business mindset? And by that, I mean the community that matters to you – locally, nationally or sectoraly.

At the heart of my business philosophy at Morningside Pharmaceuticals Ltd, from 1991 to 2022, were central values of fairness, accessibility of medicines and quality in all we did. That led to a core tenet of our corporate plan being to provide affordable medicines worldwide, including to global aid agencies like the Red Cross. We did that competitively and commercially, but I was determined to secure that business fairly and in turn, secure supplies of trusted medicines for use in global aid responses. That goal, underpinned by my business philosophy, drove my business choices. Whilst it was not the easiest business to land, it was good business, making good commercial sense, but it also delivered for a community I actively sought to support – those disadvantaged and in need of high-quality medicines; helping, I hope, to save lives where otherwise they may have been lost.

That philosophy still fundamentally drives me across my current business interests, but now into my wider philanthropic work, which is centre stage for me today. I still choose to act and have impact within the communities I care about.  My focus on this is the same today, leading a charitable foundation with global reach, as it was when I started out as a micro SME, exporting medicines to developing countries: just me, my fax machine and my garage. I have no doubt that the values-led business I went on to build, in a challenging commercial landscape, harnessed success from these deep seated, community-centric foundations.

Today, I focus this philosophy through my work as Founder of the Randal Charitable Foundation – delivering for a community which I still actively seek to support; those facing disadvantage, those without access to good healthcare, education and those in poverty. Saving and improving one million lives in the UK and globally is our central goal – and we’re making exceptional progress towards this – powered by commercial success which was underpinned by a parallel set of goals. By collaborating with other like-minded organisations, we’ll reach and exceed this target, I am in no doubt. Our work in my home city of Leicester, across our East Midlands region, throughout the UK and globally will deliver lifesaving, life transforming change. If you’re ready to collaborate please get in touch – but perhaps more pertinently I’d ask, is now when you take a moment to consider further, how your business can collaborate with organisations doing good in your community, for causes that deeply matter to you?

The power of business, through partnerships with the third sector can do much to tackle social and environmental challenges, strengthen communities and create opportunities for greater growth and long-term prosperity. It’s surely, then, in all our interests – ESG compliance aside – to consider what we can do, together.

Business – your business – is already an opportunity driver in your community today. Should you…can you… will you take a step further forward and do more for your community?

Your business values and personal goals will be unique to you  – just as mine are to me. But I’d urge you to go further than “ESG”. It’s maybe less of a step that you think to fully embed your own values firmly in your corporate planning, your strategy and your business voice.  Seek out those collaborations. Connect with partners you have synergies with.  And the benefits you could secure  – for your company, your teams and your community could be transformational.

    Dr Nik Kotecha is the Founder and Chair of Trustees for the Randal Charitable Foundation, which he established with his wife Moni in 2017. It's mission is to directly save 1 million lives in the UK and globally.

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