Banking on a powerful phase of CSRJuly 2013
Nick Wright, managing director of CR and Community Affairs, EMEA at UBS, talks about the changes he’s seen during his 10-year tenure at the Swiss bank
Q CSR impacts broadly on a business - how wide is your remit?
A Meaningful corporate responsibility in any company must, in my view, be woven through every strand of the business, be that the revenue generating, support functions, or supply chain. My remit is therefore similarly wide-ranging with an advisory and analytical component that is all encompassing and an executive aspect that is thematically focused to ensure best execution.
Q What are the key CSR areas for UBS?
A Our own Community Affairs programme focuses clearly on Education and Entrepreneurship within designated geographies. We concentrate on collaborative projects with a range of partners. We look to raise achievement and work readiness in deprived communities with the aim that through Educational and Entrepreneurship activities we can help transform lives and communities through raised levels of attainment, job and wealth creation. For corporate responsibility more generally, we take into account most aspects and concerns understood by the term, but with heightened focus on issues of specific industry relevance to us e.g. money laundering.
Q Where is your current focus (diversity, volunteering, etc)?
A Twofold: first to engage employees, our greatest asset and resource; second to deploy our unique and powerful skill set, position and business mix as agents for change and impact in the areas of Education and Entrepreneurship. This includes working with our clients as well as looking at structural change and product innovation through creative partnering.
Q Given your 10-year tenure at UBS, what have been the main changes you’ve seen?
A The increased centrality of the subject, its integration into and throughout the operations of companies, and its use as a transformational management tool. Corporate responsibility in a broad sense has come in many respects to frame the very debate as to the role, position and conduct of companies within society.
Q What are the main challenges in CSR today?
A The increased relevance of corporate responsibility has led to a commensurate rise in levels of scrutiny. The integrity, value and traction of such programmes therefore is more important than ever before, posing challenges for the measurement, evaluation, integration and governance of such activities. Given some of the statements made within the sphere, expectations are high!
Q What has been your most successful CSR initiative so far (and why)?
A Within my particular area of responsibility - The Bridge Academy, Hackney, London, where UBS has helped create and now partners a school, located in an area of significant deprivation. It is demonstrably changing the lives of students and the wider community. Public, private and voluntary sector expertise and action have been brought together to achieve outcomes that arguably might not have been possible through any one of these sectors individually. This project, which is a close fit to our values, has seen - and continues to see - deep levels of client and staff involvement. It also provides a hub and focus for a plethora of related but broader work than the purely educational and looks set to continue to provide a fertile platform into the future.
Q Some say the CSR debate has plateaued, do you agree?
A No. Arguably it has entered a new and more powerful phase. The debate over the relevance and application of corporate responsibility has shifted: even amongst many “free market commentators”. The questions now are increasingly about the “how” rather than the “why” or “what” of corporate responsibility. Indeed, not so much is it relevant or applicable in the world of business but how it should be driven, governed, managed and implemented.
Q How do you see the evolution and future of CSR?
A I see current trends being sustained with higher standards of account, and with the ability in the best cases to transform business models and become utterly mainstream.CSR will be the meeting point for the cross-over between the public, private and non-profit sectors.
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