Impassioned debate over the London Living wage and social mobility was the order of the day at last Wednesday’s APCRG hustings, with special guest Boris Johnson. Joining him on the panel were committee co-chairs Baroness Sally Greengross, and Jonathan Djangoly MP. Amongst the audience were CSR heavyweights from Zurich, Boots and E.ON and the former Prime Minister of Finland.
Boris kicked off the proceedings with a rousing and engaging defence of the London Living Wage (£9.40 hour) as a key tenet of responsible business. Highlighting London’s growing number of billionaires and extreme pay gap, he made the case that alongside a universally enforced tax environment and the promise of social mobility, the living wage is a key pillar of creating a society which fosters the creation of great wealth whilst adequately rewarding all its participants.
He continued to outline the business case for the living wage; that it would lead to happier employees, increase staff loyalty, productivity and commitment, as well as being a socially responsible thing to do.
A common thread throughout the debate (other than the liberal and creative use of colourful metaphor) was Johnson’s emphasis that the success of the living wage hinges on it being a voluntary measure. He maintained that the living wage should be adopted by businesses convinced of the business and moral case, rather than being implemented ‘through coercion’ as a compulsory measure.
This conviction led nicely to my question: considering his conviction in the voluntary nature of the Living Wage, what did Boris make of David Cameron’s much publicised pledge to introduce a mandatory three days’ employee volunteering leave? The policy has come under criticism for not addressing underlying issues of employee engagement and uptake, and failing to recognise the needs of charities. As a compulsory measure, it also rather misses the point of volunteering itself.
Boris’s reply was simple and direct: ‘the clue’s in the name really…. it’s best to keep volunteering voluntary!’
It’s probably to early to say whether this is Boris’ genuine conviction, or early indication of a strategic attempt to distance himself from Cameron ahead of his bid for party leadership, but on the matter of corporate volunteering, Benefacto cannot help but agree with him.
Our conviction is that for employee volunteering to be meaningful it must be business-led. The key to increasing uptake and meaningful corporate engagement is to help leaders, management and staff alike understand the added-value that community investment brings. Employee volunteering increases staff loyalty and retention, is a brilliant recruitment tool, builds valuable new skills, and helps organisations build sustainable relationships with their community. If Boris will help us champion that, I think we’re on to a winner!
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