Business leaders: Good sports lead by example

They've got the competitive instinct, so it should be no surprise that business leaders have embraced Sport Relief

Business is backing Sport Relief in a big way. Staff from thousands of companies big and small will be taking part in charitable sports events this weekend and over the coming months.

Chief executives are trying to lead by example. Sainsbury's chief executive, Justin King, Cisco UK chief executive Phil Smith and more than 30 other bosses will take part in the Sport Relief Mile on the Mall in London this Sunday.

Mr King has already been admirably dynamic. Last week, he ran the mile a remarkable 32 times over four days as he made a tour around different sites in the UK. He was joined on each run by Sainsbury's staff from the local store and more than 1,000 took part.

Mr Smith is also aiming for an epic challenge of a different sort. The Cisco UK boss has managed to persuade more than 30 fellow chief executives to take part in an initiative called the Leaderboard Challenge For Sport Relief. This Sunday's Sport Relief Mile is just a part. There will be a variety of endurance tests, culminating in the Blenheim triathlon on 9 and 10 June.

Among the bosses who have signed up to take part are Adecco's Peter Searle, Oracle's David Callaghan, Monitise Group's Alastair Lukies and, appropriately, Kevin Cahill, the chief executive of Comic Relief. Each hopes to raise about £20,000 – or upwards of £600,000 in total.

Some of them, including Mr Smith, have already swum in the Thames as part of their preparations. The former top runner Roger Black and rugby player Austin Healey are also taking part in the Leaderboard Challenge, to join in the fun and hopefully improve the bosses' sporting prowess.

Many companies have embraced Sport Relief in the past decade because they recognise that it is good for internal morale as well as being popular with customers. As Mr King of Sainsbury's says: "We want to be involved and active in the communities we trade in. Our customers love it because it's a really fun, healthy thing to do, and they support it generously because they know it's for a great cause."

Having a higher purpose beyond mere profit can have a galvanising effect. And, of course, sport appeals to the competitive instinct of people in business.

Mr Smith said he was inspired to launch the Leaderboard Challenge after he did his first triathlon for charity three years ago.

"Something interesting happened," recalls the Cisco boss, who is in charge of 4,000 staff in Britain and Ireland. "I got a lot fitter. But there was a very consequential reaction from within the company. Lots of people started saying, 'If my CEO is so busy and he can can do this, then I can do this too.' Lots of people did. They took up half-marathons and bike rides and a general interest in health and wellbeing."

As Sport Relief came around again this year, and with the Olympics in mind, Mr Smith then decided that if he could prompt his own staff to be more active, maybe he could encourage other bosses at other companies to follow his lead.

"I thought, why don't I get a bunch of other CEOs to do something similar?" Many bosses have responded positively, of course, to the delight of Comic Relief's organisers.

Cilla Snowball, the chairman and chief executive of the advertising agency Abbott Mead Vickers, is a long-time supporter of Comic Relief and is now a trustee on the board. "For me it absolutely defines the modern 'mass participation' event because it is a truly mass celebration of fun and fund-raising, appealing to millions of people of all ages," she says.

Within the agency, whose clients include Sainsbury's and BT, both Sport Relief sponsors, it has made a big difference.

"There is huge personal and professional satisfaction in taking part in something as worthwhile and important as Sport Relief," Ms Snowball says. "We know that we can make a difference and it's important to us individually and collectively."

Cisco's Mr Smith agrees the "mass participation" theme is key internally because it brings staff together. "When people look back at work on the last ten years, yes, they'll look back on the deals they did, but they'll probably remember a Red Nose Day or Sport Relief more. They are things that make life special and reinforce the culture."

We live in an age where businesses have come under greater scrutiny than ever in the wake of the credit crunch. The Occupy Movement may be aimed chiefly at the big banks but there is a more general suspicion of the corporate world.

As Mr Smith says: "Companies are realising they don't live in an ivory tower with no effect on anyone else. They have an effect on communities, and people doing things for the community or society have a responsibility."

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

The benefits of being in Recruitment at SThree...

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...

Test Analyst - UAT - Credit Risk

£280 - £300 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Test Analyst, Edinburgh, Credit Ris...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little