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."

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
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 Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

BA/PM,EMIR/Dodd-Frank,London,£450-650P/D

£450 - £650 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Senior Analyst - ALM Data - Banking - Halifax

£350 - £400 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Analyst, ALM Data, Halifax, ...

Java developer - Banking - London - Up to £600/day

£500 - £600 per day: Orgtel: Java developer - Banking - London - Up to £600/d...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star