Todd Holden, Director Low Carbon and Social Inclusion, The Growth Company
In recent years there has been a growing realisation across the world that increasing economic prosperity does not necessarily benefit all in society. In fact, this lack of inclusion may cause lower levels of growth, not simply be a function of it. A lack of economic inclusion is creating a society which is more and more unequal, globally, nationally and locally within city regions. The impacts of this inequality are not limited to those who find themselves at the wrong end of the spirit level. There is a large body of research that highlights the more unequal societies are, the less positive the outcomes will be for everyone.
While it’s easy to dismiss such structural challenges as beyond the ability of any company to address, this would be a mistake. Many organisations are place based, anchored to a locality, co-dependent on its assets, skills and vision. Local authorities, hospitals and housing associations clearly fit the bill, but so do universities and large private sector organisations. After all, even the most globally active of organisations are based in a place.
Such Anchor Institutions are often the largest employers in an area, having considerable spending power through their supply chains and influence on the local economy and skills markets. However, more needs to be done if we are to realise the benefits that a more inclusive place-based economy brings.
Anyone who has shown a passing interest in the work of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the University of Manchester will know Greater Manchester is not immune to the challenges of sustainable, inclusive economic growth. The numbers are stark; one in five people in Greater Manchester’s labour market are classed as unemployed or under employed. But it’s not as simple creating more jobs when 19% of those in work earn less than the Living Wage, a wage that I and many of you reading this blog would find it difficult to live on. Greater Manchester needs more and better jobs - and it’s here that Anchor Institutions can play to their strengths.
Anchors can make a real difference by making relatively simple changes in three business areas:
Procurement – targeting spending towards local suppliers, particularly SMEs
Employment – recruiting and develop local talent, using the apprenticeship levy to full effect
Engagement – reaching out to local education, voluntary and public organisations
By walking the walk, not simply talking the talk, Anchor Institutions can drive forward changes which reduce their corporate risk, strengthen stakeholder value, increase economic and environmental resilience and make a positive contribution to the places whose wellbeing is intrinsic the theirs.