A force for good
Derbyshire Life|October 2020
Derbyshire Life speaks to East Midlands Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles about the prominent role of businesses within our communities
Nathan Fearn

Covid-19 continues to influence pretty much every aspect of our daily lives and it’s difficult to find many positives from this extraordinary period – they are, undoubtedly, few and far between.

Yet some can be found. There are the frontline, key workers we are all indebted to. There’s the sense of spirit that has been fostered – demonstrated through drawings of rainbows which still adorn house windows up and down the country and the clap for carers initiative, which succeeded in bringing people together in those dark early days of lockdown.

This sense of community has stood us all in good stead through the challenges and it’s here that we’ve arguably found another plus point; our communities’ increasing connection and synergy with business.

Given the largely rural nature of life in Derbyshire – certainly in bygone years – you could argue a tangible link between businesses and communities has always existed here. Thoughts turn to the family-run local firms in our towns and villages that have passed through the generations, the independent high street shops, the local newsagents, fishmongers, bakers, florists and all the long-lived institutions we take pride in supporting.

Even the larger companies, multinationals, household names and the like, are upping the ante with regards to their growing commitment to our local communities. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is now much more than just a buzz word or a concept to pay lip service to.

The corporate world is, and needs to be, cut and thrust and competitive. However, the days of ‘profit is king’ may be drawing to a close as priorities shift and the mood music of how businesses use their influence gradually changes.

And Covid-19 has perhaps accelerated that re-evaluation of businesses’ visions and values – subsequently bringing businesses and the communities they serve closer together. It’s a view Matlock-based Scott Knowles, chief executive at East Midlands Chamber of Commerce, certainly subscribes to.

‘You’ve definitely seen that strengthening of the link between businesses and communities,’ argues Scott.

‘When we’re on the other side of the pandemic, many businesses won’t be measuring success purely on the greatest return for shareholders, there will be other recognised measures of success and I think one of those will be about how businesses support the communities in which they operate and about how businesses demonstrate their sustainability and green credentials.

‘As the region’s largest business support organisation, you might assume every enquiry we deal with is about helping businesses survive given the pandemic, but that hasn’t been the case. We’ve had a great number of enquiries from businesses centred on becoming more sustainable and green-focused and that’s really interesting.’

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