Before Covid-19, we were witnessing an accelerating public demand for transparency and ethical practices in all aspects of life, particularly business.
Something, quite rightly, changed after the worldwide anti-sexual harassment movement ‘Me Too’, which has now progressed to a more general non-acceptance of bullying, disrespectful or overtly domineering behaviour in the workplace. Younger employees (those lucky enough to be categorised as Gen Z) are more aware of their rights, and of what they deem acceptable or unacceptable, than anyone ever has before. Many criticise this group for being soft and weak, but perhaps there’s a strength and confidence in their stance. So long so long as they treat other people as they wish to be treated themselves, you could argue that there’s a true fairness in their approach.
Then of course, 2020 happened. I need not point out the huge influx of public support and appreciation for key workers and NHS staff this year. The pandemic highlighted (if by some it had been forgotten) the vital role all of us play in society. Those working stacking shelves, driving our buses and on our hospital wards suddenly became the most important people in the UK, but they were always important, all the pandemic did was amplify the urgent need for the jobs they did.
It’s something I have often been aware of. I had a very challenging background; it was abusive on many levels and money was always an issue. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I often didn’t know where the next meal was coming from. It would be easy to say that my heightened empathy for the suffering of others – particularly children, was a result of my own past. Perhaps I would have had this quality anyway, I’ll never really know – but it certainly made me more conscious of the privilege my position gave me when it did arrive. After years of hard work, I had my own successful business, Stocks 2015 Ltd, which trades in surplus stock – and it was time to give back.
I now organise an annual fundraiser at the Hilton Hotel on Deansgate in Manchester called the Michael Josephson Summer Ball. Sadly, we had to cancel this year but we’re now working on plans to hold it next year – bigger and better than before. I’m also currently Chairman of Patron’s for Variety and Variety North West, which works to support children, young people and their families who are sick, disabled or disadvantaged. I’ve been a Trustee of the Silver Line, a free confidential phone line offering help, support, friendship and advice for older people, and an ambassador for the Seashell Trust, a charity in the north west that provides education and care for children and young adults with complex learning disabilities. I’ve seen first-hand how charities have struggled this year, but also how much warmth and understanding for the plights of others has triggered so many wonderful acts of giving and philanthropy.
The world was at a turning point before Covid-19, we were becoming more conscious and the public desire (and in some cases demand) for a better way of living and treating others was growing. My only worry is that a recession may put the breaks on this slightly, but as business owners we have a social responsibility to help those who work for us, and those in society that are vulnerable. If CSR was not on the agenda before, it needs to be in the ‘new world’. I understand it may be pretty low on the list of priorities currently, but if the rate of public opinion keeps it’s current speed and trajectory towards better business practice and respect it may be that those who ignore CSR live to regret it in a few years.