While the Beast from the East may have forced us to postpone last month’s Midtown Big Ideas Exchange, it couldn’t stop us for long. Last night our esteemed panel from the business world gathered to discuss the importance of business values, described by Tass Mavrogordato, CEO of BEE Midtown, as “all the great stuff done alongside business as usual”. Our panel explored what business values really mean to society and whether CSR activity can restore confidence in the commercial economy.
Chair Will Moore, Arts Editor of the Evening Standard was joined by Steve Woerner from Mitsubishi Corp, Nancy Lengthorn from MediaCom, Mike Bonner of Rosewood London and investigative journalist Jacques Peretti. Moore opened the floor to the panel, offering them the opportunity to showcase how their own companies are striving to have a positive impact both at local and international levels.
Woerner shared the ongoing and longstanding commitment Mitsubishi have to the communities they work in, while Nancy explained that a significant amount of her work at MediaCom focuses on “the people inside the building” and how they can be encouraged and supported to make a difference within their communities. Mike added that one of the key priorities for Rosewood was to “be good neighbours to the community” and outlined some of the extensive environmental programmes that Rosewood London run in order to benefit the Midtown neighbourhood and beyond.
Sustainability and Profit
The panel all agreed on the importance of upholding positive business values – both as a sustainability exercise and an effort to drive profits. Jacques explained that businesses want to do their part to keep the planet moving forward but stressed this is as much for organisational benefit as it is for more philanthropic reasons, but added “a business that doesn’t have values is a bad business”.
The event aimed to reposition the rhetoric around “evil corporations” and celebrate some of the amazing things that businesses in the Midtown area are integrating into their day-to-day operations. Steve outlined Mitsubishi’s brilliant initiatives with trusted, on the ground NGOs in Africa to contribute to finding solutions for local societal and environmental issues.
Mike explained how integral Rosewood aims to be to the area, once again stressing their desire to become a positive part of the Midtown neighbourhood. He added: “We have a number of environmental programmes running around the hotel. Last year we sent linen to Africa and we recycle all of our paper. All of our food waste is taken off the property and we’ve reduced our food waste dramatically. We have 30k bees in a hive on top of the roof that provide us with honey. We do try to put back into the community. We invest in literacy and help children around the world and in the UK to learn to read and we have a campaign for the local community in our support of Great Ormond Street Hospital”.
Staff as Citizens
Nancy described the work that MediaCom do, particularly relating to diversity, inclusion and authenticity within the workplace, but acknowledged the business benefits: “we know workforces are more effective when they can come to work and be themselves, and we know that it’s important that we as an organisation give back and do things that are morally responsible.” When asked if she believed that companies have a duty to make their employees good citizens she added “You can’t force people to be “good citizens”, it would be a waste of time, but people largely want to give back – most people will walk towards the opportunity to be a good citizen”.
As the discussion was opened to the floor, one audience member suggested that “intention is good but execution is flawed” with Nancy agreeing that there is always more to be done by big corporations. Jacques stressed that “CSR has now become integral to business, rather than an add on they have to pay lip service to”, and explained “the hopeful part of me thinks there’s a business reason to get us out of this mess. That makes me hopeful as opposed to despairing.”
It was a night of interesting analysis from both the panel and the audience, as well as proof that the Midtown Big Ideas Exchange is an unmissable opportunity for both businesses and individuals to join in the conversations that matter to Midtown.