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
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
News
i100
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

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention