A New Philanthropic Age is Dawning. How will your business respond?

There comes a point with every social movement when momentum becomes irresistible. We have seen this throughout history and we’re seeing a new social contract being formed for a post-pandemic world. The recent elections in the UK and a couple of telling interviews from City heavyweights add further momentum to the growing consensus for the ‘New Collectivism’.

The easing of lockdown in the UK this week will provide an interesting acid test for many brands. We’ll discover whether the British public’s feeling towards these companies has changed in the last 14 months according to how those brands behaved during lockdown. This could inform the choice of where we shop to the pubs we drink in.

As Grayling unveiled this spring, there’s been a sea change in the attitudes of senior business leaders in recent years. We’ve seen a shift away from a ‘profit-first’ approach to capitalism towards a more inclusive model that embraces stakeholders and seeks answers – and poses questions – to the challenges of our time. Grayling’s New Collectivism Report reveals that nearly two thirds (63%) of senior European decision-makers believe that – alongside making a profit – businesses have a collective responsibility to the society in which they operate.

Brands whose values do not align with the public’s shifting priorities could find it harder to attract both customers and talent, and risk being called out on social media.

Levelling up

This sea change is being noticed – and practiced – at the highest levels of business. As successful hedge fund manager, Andrew Law, stated in a recent interview in The Times, capitalism is at a tipping point and inequality cannot be ignored any longer. Law puts his money where his mouth is; he is the chairman of ‘Speakers for Schools’, which places high-profile speakers to visit state schools to inspire pupils. He also donated nearly £6 million to the University of Sheffield, where he studied, the largest single donation it has ever received.

I expect we will see more of this kind of philanthropy going forward. You just have to look at the almost universal revulsion from public and government alike to the proposed European Super League to see that chasing profits without consulting stakeholders – in this case, football fans – simply won’t wash any longer.

In addition, the high turnout at the local elections – particularly mayoral elections – demonstrated that there is a consensus for a move away from the centralism of London to a focus on local solutions to local challenges. As BlackRock’s Rupert Harrison argues in the Evening Standard, locally-led independent projects can bring together stakeholders to attract business and investment to an area far more effectively than central government can.

Everywhere you look, the New Collectivism reveals itself. Although many sectors still have a long way to go – for example, the City, where women and people from BAME backgrounds are still woefully underrepresented – the direction of travel is one that we can all be optimistic about.

What is your business doing to embrace the New Collectivism? Make sure you download our report and if you need expert counsel in communicating how your business is changing for the better both internally and externally, please contact me.

Tom Nutt is Head of Corporate, UK & Europe, for Grayling.

Contact: tom.nutt@grayling.com