I had a really interesting dinner with Justin King, Chief Executive of Sainsbury’s, recently. About a dozen of us were invited to supper for a discussion on youth issues. Sainsbury’s record in youth employment is impressive: they have set up an internal youth structure and a third of their employees are under 25. One of their own young people in Nottingham set up this local regional mechanism and it is not tokenistic – they have a direct line in to the board. The whole set-up is so much more extensive than in most voluntary organisations and in the public sector, and it had a genuine integrity. Youth development is built into its culture.
Anna Ford is a non executive director and chairs Sainsbury’s CSR group and was able to talk in great depth and with great conviction about why Sainsbury’s was doing certain projects in the community and the impact it was having. In addition, the impact measurement was also streets ahead of even what Changemakers is able to do. I decided afterwards that it was using a businesslike, focussed and some may say hard-nosed commercial approach to CSR. Overwhelmingly I am beginning to conclude that a lot of best practise is happening in the private sector, and it is being seen as a logical commercial step. As Justin said, “Why wouldn’t we?”