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Purpose on Payday

Green & Good (ESG and Impact)

SEC Newgate's view

By Sophie Morello

Despite the UK’s previously applauded leadership in the race to net zero, it seems that the momentum gained during the COP26 presidency is petering out (for now at least). At the end of last month, this was apparent in the delivery of the much anticipated “Green Day,” which was widely considered to fall short of what is needed to meet net zero targets, as laid out in Chris Skidmore’s Net Zero Review. Before any announcements were even made, it was telling that the day wouldn’t deliver what was hoped as it was widely renamed “Energy Security Day” instead.

But even though government leadership seems to be less ambitious, elsewhere, other voices are coming to the fore. This month saw the airing of David Attenborough’s ‘Wild Isles’ programme, about wildlife in the British Isles. It is considered by some as his most political yet. One episode, in which Attenborough pleas with viewers to take action against nature loss, was not aired live, and only shown on iPlayer. In it he says, “Every one of us no matter where we live, can and must play a part in restoring nature to our isles…This is our home, and this is the moment. We have just enough time and just enough nature left to save our wild isles for our children, and for future generations.” Many criticised the BBC’s decision not to air the episode and suggested it was for fear of political backlash, which the BBC denied.

And of course, lack of confidence in the UK net zero strategy has given more ammunition to climate protesters, which were out in force this month. Held over Earth Day, Extinction Rebellion staged a four-day protest in Parliament Square, which failed to achieve its key aim of getting ministers to stop new fossil fuel projects.

Back to government leadership on climate change, this will again come under the spotlight at the upcoming G7 summit in Japan at the end of May. As ever, these summits are an essential forum for reinforcing international commitments to decarbonisation. However, global conflict will be the main focus. Japan is deliberately hosting the event in Hiroshima as a reminder of the devastating impact of nuclear attack and to emphasise its commitment to peace. It remains to be seen what progress will be made at this important moment in the run up to COP28.

We also can’t forget that this month, King Charles, widely accepted as one of the most significant environmentalists in history, will be crowned. While he will be formally stepping back from his ecological initiatives, he will no doubt remain a key figure in the fight against climate change and nature loss, and in ensuring that the UK remains a leading force. What also seems clear is that businesses have the opportunity to be the real leaders in the race to net zero, as policy and change seems to be moving at snail’s pace.

Leadership under the spotlight

By Sara Price

This month, the professional conduct of both business leaders and politicians has been under the spotlight. Businesses, institutions and membership bodies are now looking closely and taking stock of their governance structures. This includes how their senior leaders conduct themselves with colleagues and in meetings.

The period of reflection follows the sacking of Tony Danker, former CBI Director General, on 11 April for misconduct and the resignation of Dominic Raab MP, former Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Justice, on 21 April following the publication of a report into bullying claims from civil servants.

The CBI Board deemed Danker’s conduct to fall short of what was expected following the outcome of an independent investigation into complaints of workplace misconduct. While Raab resigned from the Cabinet after an official inquiry found he had engaged in “abuse or misuse of power” and was “intimidating and insulting” during his time at the Ministry of Justice. However, Raab claimed in his resignation letter that the “findings are flawed and set a dangerous precedent for the conduct of good government.”

In the political arena, effective leaders are considered to be strong figures, who need to have a significant amount of personality and strength of conviction to achieving their manifesto commitments. Those that appear weak don’t stand the test of time – a key example being Liz Truss who lasted 45 days as Prime Minister. However, a softer approach can produce wins. King Charles can, in same regard as the Queen, promote the UK’s interest on the world stage though soft power. His ability was recently highlighted during his trip to Germany last month, where he successfully positioned himself as a statesman worthily of listening to.

In the business world, to attract and retain talent, there has been a considered move in recent years from business leaders towards fostering workplaces where respect is a core value. From regular employee satisfaction surveys to team bonding that doesn’t involve alcohol or overnight stay, companies are looking to appeal to a workforce that is willing to be vocal and call out bad behaviour. New management and leadership styles are being embraced that a decade ago would not have been considered necessary.

The role of leaders will remain under the spotlight for the foreseeable future. This is while investigations continue into complaints raised against MP and the CBI grapples with the uncertain path from “culturally toxic people”, according to CBI president Brian McBride.

Suzie Langridge, Head of People and Culture at SEC Newgate, said:

“Employee expectations in 2023 are a world away from what they were in 2003. Many of the behaviours I witnessed in my early career would not be accepted in the workplace now, and rightly so. DEI, mental health and wellbeing are huge areas of focus for businesses. Gone are the days where Senior Leaders could hide behind their seniority and brush inappropriate behaviour under the carpet.

The role of people & culture (traditionally HR) is shifting. There is a newer (and welcome) emphasis on how employees experience the workplace as well as an understanding of how business leaders are responsible for either making or breaking this. 

The generational shift in culture will continue to expose those who are not demonstrating core values, regardless of their value elsewhere in the business. Senior leaders need to ensure that their conduct inside the business also translates to how they show up outside of work.”

The road ahead

By Sara Price

May is set to be a busy month. First off there are the local elections on 4th May in England. Over 8,000 council seats are up election with the Conservatives set for losses in Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s first real electoral test. The priority of those going to the ballot boxes range from potholes and council tax to local services and the state of the economy.

The Coronation of King Charles III will take place on 6th May. If you are hoping to see the royal procession, it is advisable to queue early as London is expected to swell with people coming to celebrating the momentous occasion. 

Veteran SNP MP Angus MacNeil has been elected to Chair the new Energy Security and Net Zero Select Committee. Over the coming months expect to see MacNeil set out his agenda and areas of focus for the Committee.