Who else is going to do it?

Ewen MacPherson, Group Chief People Officer at Havas UK explores why it might be the company’s responsibility to try and fix society’s problems.

If you spoke to me six or so years ago, I would have probably told you that I didn’t believe it was a company’s responsibility to try and fix society’s problems.

In the context of our world today – the fallout from a global pandemic, climate emergency, war in Europe, an energy crisis, oppression of women in the US and Iran, increasing homelessness, you name it – I can no longer say that with any degree of confidence.

As we sit back and watch governments fail to take meaningful action on these critical issues, the pool of people best positioned to enact change seems to be drying up as each day goes by. Instead, we’re increasingly seeing action devolving to citizens, both locally and globally, with ‘everyday activists’ stepping up to drive change.

Now, as we add another issue to the list in the shape of unchecked inflation and a subsequent cost-of-living crisis, the responsibility seems to have fallen onto companies to help protect their people. To their credit, many are rising to meet the challenge.

Ewen MacPherson, Group Chief People Officer at Havas UK

Given the growing uncertainty about rising costs and the very real impact this has, at Havas we wanted to provide targeted, practical support to our people to help relieve some of the pressure.

For those most likely to be impacted, we have implemented direct financial support:

  • A cost-of-living support payment of £100 net per month over the next six months, available to all employees on a salary of £30,000 or under.
  • An interest-free cost-of-living / crisis loan of up to one month’s salary for all employees on a salary of £50,000 or under.

While we’ve consciously tailored support to those most in need of it, we have also implemented wider support available to everyone, such as free lunch in our café every day the week before payday, and expanding our financial wellbeing offering via Havas Equalise, our award-winning health and wellbeing programme.

We have also taken the opportunity to remind our people of the various money-saving benefits already available to them through a new cost-of-living support pack, which brings together all the existing ways our people can save and earn money, such as our partnership with YuLife which rewards people with YuCoin whenever they participate in healthy activity like walking or meditating which can be converted to retail vouchers.

Historically, ‘the company’ – for the most part – existed as an identity in its own right, largely separate to the individual employee or citizen. Today, we see (whether by design or not) companies being redefined as a collective of citizens – and that perspective should force everyone within a company, particularly its leadership, to consider their part in driving meaningful change.

Rather than asking ‘should it be a company’s responsibility to try and fix society’s problems?’, I think the new question should be ‘Who else is going to do it?’.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and were submitted in accordance with the IPA terms and conditions regarding the uploading and contribution of content to the IPA newsletters, IPA website, or other IPA media, and should not be interpreted as representing the opinion of the IPA.

Last updated 01 May 2024