Victor Blank: Business must start a giving revolution

Giving back to society is a no-brainer and should be an intrinsic part of today's capitalism

Share
Related Topics

Big business and the City have taken a battering since the banking crisis as storms of criticism have left the financial sector with an ugly black eye. At a time when the elastic connecting the wealthy and the poor is stretching to snapping point, the corporate world ignores festering social tensions at its peril. So there is no better time for businesses to unleash a surge in corporate giving to send a very public signal that we are all in this together and want to make society better.

The untold story is that a significant number of businesses are donating money, time and resources and have been doing so, without fanfare, for years. One estimate published by the City of London Corporation calculated that financial and professional services firms made community investments in 2009 worth £519 million.

But this quiet philanthropy needs a shot of adrenaline. There will always be critics who only see donations as a percentage of profit, but this step-change in giving must not be stunted by sniping. It is estimated that only 1 per cent of British-based employers run a payroll giving scheme. Payroll giving, much more widely in use in America at 35 per cent, has the advantage of giving business leaders and the workforce a stake in doing good.

As we approach Budget day, it is something George Osborne should seek to make simpler for firms to set up and run. Our political leaders and civil servants have so far failed dismally to make individual and corporate giving simpler – whether it is simplifying tax relief, making it easy to give via ATMs or giving tax incentives to the rich to donate art and other assets during their lifetimes.

But if the Treasury does start to encourage giving, big companies and banks must raise their game dramatically. And if business is to play a greater part in helping society and community, there needs to be a clear acknowledgement from shareholders that they feel the same and will support greater philanthropy. Just as the super wealthy like Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett and Sir Richard Branson are leading the way, business must kick-start a giving revolution. Giving in the City is a tradition going back to the Livery Companies of centuries ago and on through to the Victorian philanthropy of the industrial era. Now is the time for 21st century corporate giving.

Corporate social responsibility is becoming part of the strategic DNA of some companies, but the gap between British business and the community has grown wider. Big companies and banks are not all self-serving, even if some people portray them as such, but they can do more. Giving back to society is a no-brainer and should be an intrinsic part of capitalism today. But it needs action now from the corporate sector and from Government.

Sir Victor Blank is a former chairman of Lloyds Banking Group, GUS and Trinity Mirror, a UK Business Ambassador and a philanthropist

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

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

Read Next
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US  

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

Robert Fisk
 

Next they'll say an independent Scotland can't use British clouds...

Mark Steel
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