The Commission on Big Society has emphasised the importance of the business sector in implementing the agenda's aims, but claims that the current corporate social responsibility (CSR) model is "more about marketing than making a difference", in its report released yesterday.
Calling for a strengthening of responsibility towards social good in the business sector, the report stated:
"We see enormous potential for businesses to empower people and support them to take responsibility for the world around them, and we see some examples of excellent practice. But we also see too much ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ (CSR) which is tokenistic, more about marketing than making a difference."
The statement is flanked by a call to the government, Business in the Community, the Confederation of British Industry and the Institute of Directors to work together to create a "sea-change" in business leadership, asking for "more Jamie Olivers" to shift the focus of CSR to a central aim, rather than an "afterthought".
According to research conducted by the Commission, which surveyed 2,500 adults across the UK, 64 per cent of people believe companies have a duty to give something back to their communities.
The Commission believes that the government needs to facilitate businesses' ability to do so:
"We also recommend that brokerage between business and voluntary organisations be scaled-up, and that government incentivise employers to encourage and facilitate employee engagement with charitable giving," the report adds.
Specifically, an amendment to the Employment Rights Act 1996, extending employees rights to take time off to volunteer for public duties, is suggested as an opportunity to shepherd improved collaboration between the two sectors.
Voluntary sector response
NCVO chief executive Stuart Etherington praised the report's "strong recommendations on the importance of getting business on board in building the Big Society", while the Institute of Fundraising added that partnerships between the business and voluntary sectors should be "long-term and strategic" to gain maximum benefit.
The Commission was launched in December by Acevo and comprises members of the voluntary and political spheres, chaired by Lord Rennard. Its report calls on government to "fill in the blanks" in its Big Society agenda, a move it sees as integral to improving giving.
Payroll giving is currently used as the primary vehicle to enable employees to give to good causes, but only 3 per cent of employees do so, the report highlights. The Commission calls for the government to facilitate an increased take-up of this fundraising method, and awaits the results of the Philanthropy Review on methods to do so.