Business leaders are as keen as anyone else to make Ireland work in the future
Opinion: Campaign aims to encourage people and enterprises to give 1% of their time or income to charities and non-profits
Students sleeping out for charity at Christmas. The campaign aims to celebrate the givers and encourage more people to give.
There are very strong signs that the Irish economy is finally leaving behind the worst and longest recession in our recent history.
It has been a tough time for business and for the Irish people. We have seen unemployment rise and emigration return. There is hardly a family in Ireland that has not to some degree been impacted by both. We still have a way to go before we have healed all the damage caused by the crisis.
It is an opportune time to start thinking about the kind of country in which we want to live in the future. Ibec and the Irish business community are ambitious for Ireland. We believe that by working with Government and civil society we can help to create a better Ireland for everyone. We want an Ireland that is not just a great place to do business, but also a great place to live and work.
To get Ireland working again we now need an unrelenting focus on growth. It is this growth that will allow us to create jobs, overcome our debt burden and create the prosperity, public services, jobs and quality of life that this country can legitimately aspire to.
Sustainable and balanced
The growth however, must be sustainable and balanced – no one, least of all business, wants a return to the imbalances of the Celtic Tiger era. The main responsibility of business is to ensure that it is competitive, that it creates wealth and thus generates jobs. There is no social programme which can rival the business sector when it comes to creating the jobs, wealth and innovation that improve living standards.
However, a successful society depends not just on business or government, but on the joint efforts of business, government and civil society working together. We need to move beyond a confrontational view that somehow these three sectors are in conflict, to a position where we concentrate on creating shared value.
Business leaders are citizens with as much a stake in the future of Ireland as anyone else and are they just as eager to work to make Ireland a better place.
That is why Ibec and Irish business strongly support the One Percent Difference Campaign which, in association with National Giving Week, is about encouraging everyone to give 1 per cent of their time or income to a cause they care about. Just as with individuals, not every business can give 1 per cent of their income, but we would strongly encourage those businesses that can’t to look at facilitating volunteering.
Irish business is already doing a great deal. Last year the 42 members of Business in the Community donated more than €20 million to good causes and the staff contributed 140,000 volunteer hours. That, however, is only scratching the surface of the contribution that business is making to the good causes in Ireland.
Could business in Ireland do more? Absolutely, but if we are to encourage business to do more, we need to celebrate these companies who are doing great things rather than continuously questioning their motives. Many companies actually give well in excess of 1 per cent, but will not talk about it for fear that they will be attacked if they do.
Businesses are rather like individuals in this regard. About 15 per cent of the Irish population are altruistic, about 11 per cent will never give anything and the remainder, if asked properly, are inclined to give. That is why I am delighted that the One Percent Difference Campaign intends to celebrate the givers, to encourage others to give.
Finally, I would also encourage business leaders to look at taking up board appointments in charities and other non-profits. I think their experience and insight could make a very serious contribution to the growth and development of the not-for-profit sector in Ireland. The sector already employs in excess of 100,000 people, and it has the potential to employ many more.
If, as a society, we can focus on creating shared value, on working together to achieve our goals, I think we can make huge progress in building a better and a fairer Ireland.
Danny McCoy is chief executive of the Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation. National Giving Week, this week, aims to demonstrate the importance of philanthropy to the future development of Irish society.