One City – Working Together
I am looking forward to the end of the week, when I will be taking part in a very special dinner which I hope will reap real and tangible rewards for our wonderful City in the years to come.With the help of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, we are holding a One City dinner for businesses which, like me, love the Capital and are keen to see what they can do to make Edinburgh even better. They are coming to hear more, and to give their views, on our One City project, designed to engage with city companies large and small with a desire to enable all of our citizens to share in this fantastic, successful city of ours.
At the moment, sadly, that is simply not the case. Around 20% of our children live in poverty, above the national average despite the real affluence of Edinburgh. We still see health inequalities between rich and poor areas with a big impact on healthy life expectancy, and we see young people grow up with smaller, impoverished aspirations. None of that can be right. It has always been my view that we are all citizens – and as citizens we should be able to engage fully in the life of the city, and I absolutely include businesses as citizens. Indeed, businesses are enormously important members of our civic society.
At the dinner, we will be talking about how businesses can help to tackle the kinds of issues I have mentioned here – and help they most certainly can. One City will work with organisations who are already working in the kinds of areas I have mentioned – tackling poverty, working with unemployed young people, improving health outcomes for our citizens – and will put businesses interested in getting involved in direct contact with them.
But equally importantly, we are also asking businesses to consider carefully how they conduct their business day in and day out. How do they reward staff – do they pay the living wage? It is interesting, and concerning, that more than half of working age adults in poverty in Scotland are in employment. Working hard, but still stuck in the poverty trap, having to do without what most of us take for granted. How do companies recruit staff – do they consider looking at those young people who are out of work, or on the periphery of the jobs market? Could they help people gain new and important skills?
When people talk about businesses working within their communities, it is often referred to as Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR. I prefer to call it Responsible Business – as I believe that we truly are all responsible for the way we do business.
And there is genuine reason for companies considering the discussion to get involved. There are real costs to the taxpayers in dealing with poverty – many, many millions of pounds a year in Edinburgh. Businesses carry their share of this burden. There are talented potential workers who are going un-noticed. There are high quality staff who leave because of poor pay or poor prospects – with the hidden cost of recruitment a very real issue for businesses. And in addition, there is the growing body of evidence that shows that businesses who conduct themselves responsibly often find their staff more motivated, productive and loyal which drives healthily to the bottom line.
I anticipate an interesting and stimulating discussion at the dinner. And I believe real hope of progress is on the menu.