Guest Blog from George Gordon
More than ever before, people want to know how businesses and their brands are run and to see what they stand for. And with every new generation, responsible business practices become even more important in deciding what products and services to buy, and where they choose to work.
As we begin to recover from Covid, the social and environmental challenges are laid bare and there’s now more onus on businesses, and their CEOs, to take a lead on the biggest issues. Post Covid, business is the most trusted UK institution and 66% of people think CEOs should take the lead on solving society’s biggest challenges.1
Despite this, corporate responsibility, sustainability and ‘ESG’ remain complex and baffling, aimed at persuading analysts in financial institutions rather than better informing customers in the high street.
So, when we launched TSB’s first responsible business strategy last year, we set out to do it in a better way, to help our customers, and those considering banking with us, to really understand our contribution to society.
The Do What Matters Plan does what it says on the tin: it focuses TSB on doing what matters for customers, small businesses, colleagues, communities, and the environment.
In developing the plan, we carried out extensive customer research and consulted with hundreds of colleagues and stakeholders. This pointed us to do three things:
1. Focus on delivering the improvements that matter to our customers and are core to TSB’s capabilities.
2. Embed the plan in the business and commit to its delivery over the long-term, aligned with others.
3. Measure and communicate progress in a clear and authentic way.
As a result, the Do What Matters plan is deliberately simple in its set up and has a mixture of measurable short and long-term actions, aligned to relevant national and international targets. It is designed to be refreshed and to build up in impact over time, so there is no question of resting on our laurels.
The plan is led from the Board and the programmes within it are sponsored by five members of the Executive team. We named it after one of our corporate behaviours – doing what matters – and we’ve incorporated it into our strategic goals, so delivering it is in everyone’s targets, as well as their interests. To embed it, we launched it internally three months before we shared it externally, and after just a few months nearly four-fifths (79%) of TSB colleagues said they understood their role in delivering the plan.
Once we had developed the plan, we wanted to find a way to communicate progress in a way that was simple, compelling, increased colleague and customer participation and, in doing so, helped deliver a meaningful contribution.
That’s why TSB became the first high-street bank to be accredited by the Good Business Charter. Just as Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance accreditation have helped consumers understand how fairly and sustainably their food has been produced, the Good Business Charter gives customers a clear standard on the kinds of ethical behaviours they expect from a business.
The Good Business Charter (GBC) requires us to measure our behaviour across ten key components, from employment practice and customer treatment through to tax and the environment. As well as making sure we comply with requirements, it has also already helped us step up in some areas, for example speeding up how quickly we pay small suppliers.
The Charter is supported by both the Trade Union Congress (TUC), with their expertise on the social aspects, and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), who have a breadth of understanding of the business issues and good practice. This provides reassurance in the standards being set for accredited businesses, their employees, other stakeholders striving to make a difference and, ultimately, the customer who sees the GBC logo.
The challenge now is to build awareness for the GBC with the general public, and those who influence them, as a new gold standard for business behaviour.
Every time we report progress on the TSB Do What Matters plan, we explain where it fits in our GBC accreditation. And we’ll continue to find new ways to communicate it, in direct customer communications, on our website and in our branches. It’s incumbent on every accredited business to take responsibility for increasing awareness of the Charter, as well as their progress against it. The combination of demonstrating progress, against easy to understand high standards, can help demystify ethics and sustainability and better inform customer choice.
The Good Business Charter is a welcome addition to help businesses engage with their customers. And I’d recommend participating in it to good businesses everywhere, as well as those who strive to be better.
About George Gordon
George Gordon has been Communications and Corporate Affairs Director at TSB since 2018. He leads teams in media relations, colleague communications, government affairs, stakeholder engagement and corporate responsibility.
Prior to joining TSB, George worked for Tesco for eight years, where he played a key part in the reputational recovery of the business and the development of its sustainability work, including serving as UK & Ireland Communications Director.
George also worked for Unilever for 14 years and held communications roles at national, European, and global levels. He spent two years on secondment at the Cabinet Office advising ministers and policymakers on better regulation.
TSB is a UK retail bank with a trusted customer brand with a heritage stretching back to the start of the savings bank movement 200 years ago. TSB offers full retail banking – through digital, telephone and its national branch network – to more than five million customers.