Do organisations in our industry have a moral responsibility to try and improve the world?
It’s perhaps not a question which many of us ask as we go about our day-to-day business, but I believe that won’t be the case for too much longer.
The rising importance of ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) issues, particularly for investors, makes it more pressing for people to consider the impact which their actions – or the lack of them – have on the world around them.
While some companies are still taking a ‘tick box’ approach to ESG, many are becoming much more sophisticated and exacting when it comes to investments. As a result, projects and schemes which do not come up to scratch in terms of their positive impacts on society are getting increasingly short shrift.
However, despite these laudable intentions, there is still a danger that even well-meaning projects which are backed with a good level of funding can fall short.
A recent report from an all-party group of MPs found that the Government’s current Levelling Up policies were not making much headway in some of the country’s most “left behind” areas.
Identifying a total of 225 neighbourhoods in England as “left behind”, the report said these places continue to experience high levels of deprivation and community need and low levels of investment and resources.
The MPs said that one of the major problems facing “left behind” areas is that attempts to improve the communities tend to be made on a top-down, national level, which can mean local needs are not properly addressed and local people do not feel like they are in control of how money is spent.
Paul Howell, the Conservative MP for Sedgefield and co-chair of the all-party group, said the correct approach had to be to “give communities the capacity to do things themselves”.
I couldn’t agree more.
This is one of the key reasons and guiding principles which we follow at GB Bank.
We were set up with the express purpose of making a difference in the communities that need it most by investing in the expertise and experience of local SME property developers and investors.
These are the people who understand their communities best, who appreciate local needs and concerns and who know how to turn ideas into reality.
We work with them via our network of local Relationship Managers who are experts not just in finance but also in their local areas, and we take a flexible approach to funding so that the finances fit the project rather than the other way round.
So far we’ve helped on everything from assisted living accommodation for adults with learning difficulties and affordable accommodation to expanding a chain of children’s nurseries and breathing new life into a neglected high street.
While relatively small compared to grand property schemes, these developments are making a real difference in their communities.
They’re also helping to power our own progress as GB Bank. We have ambitious plans to fund many more transformative developments across the country as we look to grow further and continue trying to make the world that little bit better.