The global financial crisis damaged trust in financial services organisations. There is a common perception that businesses like ours are elitist, removed from society and do not play their part in addressing broader social and environmental challenges.
As a global investment business, we have significant potential to address these common challenges. We can do this as a fair and inclusive employer, through our investment activities, and through advocacy and influence. We have developed approaches in each of these areas, both directly and using our influence to have a broader impact.
We offer inclusive employment which pays a real living wageand provide supported pathways to help people join our workforce. These include qualification-blind internships for school leavers, internships for ex-military personnel, a women returners’ scheme and apprenticeship routes.
Our charitable partnerships enable us to have a wider impact, both locally and nationally. For example, we funded Bounceback to deliver training programmes at HMP Brixton, helping individuals to gain skills and recognised qualifications, so they can join the workplace after release.
We worked with SkillForce to develop and launch the Prince William Award in schools across the UK, to help children develop life skills. We also collaborated with the Prince’s Trust to develop Get Hired!, a national programme matching young people with jobs in small and medium sized enterprises.
We integrate environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations into our investment processes. This means we influence the companies we invest in to help mitigate or solve societal and environmental problems.
We have also launched two impact investment funds. The Global Equity Impact Fund uses the UN Sustainable Development Goals as a framework, to identify companies addressing these global challenges. The UK Equity Impact – Employment Opportunities Fund, in partnership with Big Issue Invest, invests in businesses offering decent work. This includes providing good jobs in deprived areas, paying the living wage and offering high-quality training and progression.
Advocacy and influence
We have a reputation for speaking up. Our Chairman and Chief Executives have spoken about trust in business, the importance of doing the right thing and the need to improve diversity in the workplace. Our ESG Investment and Stewardship team speaks on behalf of clients at company annual general meetings, on matters of environmental and social responsibility.
We also use our sponsorships to have a positive influence, especially in relation to diversity, inclusion and responsible investment (see below).
Our purpose, values and activities have a significant positive impact and are helping to create trust among our stakeholders.
Through supported employment programmes, we helped 90 people into work in our company last year and mentored many more. We are in the top 50 in the UK Social Mobility Employer Index, a BITC Best Employer for Race and hold a Gold Defence Employer Award.
In total, 20,866 children and young people in the UK benefited from our charity partnerships and employment and skills programmes last year.
While we still have further to go, we increasingly have a reputation for promoting inclusion. Our sponsorships include:
- wheelchair tennis player Gordon Reid
- equal support for the ladies’ and men’s Scottish Opens in golf
- bespoke events such as Good Money Week
- the Scottish Diversity Awards
- Power Up Scotland, a scheme supporting social businesses, in partnership with Big Issue Invest, the Scottish Government and the University of Edinburgh, and
- the recent Gender Summit in Edinburgh.
These visible commitments are changing the culture in our business and more widely. In our last employee engagement survey, the most improved scores were for colleague views on ‘being a responsible business’ and ‘respect for diversity’.
Our external recognition includes being listed in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, FTSE4Good and the CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project). We were also recently recognised as Financial Services Company of the Year at the Better Society Awards.
We have focused on the areas where we can have a particular impact through the nature of our business, especially as an employer and a global investment company. In particular, we have harnessed the skills, expertise and enthusiasm of our people. The areas where we focus are integrated rather than separate, meaning our approach is authentic and commercially beneficial and we can make a much greater and more sustainable contribution to addressing some of the world’s big issues.
In addition, we find collaboration and involving people in programmes builds their engagement and trust. We therefore work in partnership with charities, government and other stakeholders to achieve our goals.