Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has long been synonymous with businesses making a commitment and contribution to the communities in which they operate: but to leading Cambridge entrepreneur – Peter Harris, the Co-Founder of Hotel Chocolat – CSR extends beyond just fundraising, recycling and charitable work.
"Ignore the 'green issue' at your cost", says Cambridge entrepreneur
According to Mr Harris, CSR transcends to the way businesses operate and conduct themselves in a corporate context. Speaking in the build up to Ernst & Young’s prestigious UK Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards, in which Peter Harris and Co-Founder Angus Thirlwell have been shortlisted, Mr Harris said that environmental and ethical policies are increasingly becoming an integral part of business decisions and are having a noticeable impact on relationships with suppliers and customers.
Mr Harris said: “Green issues, whether you are talking about sourcing products ethically, the environmental impact of your supply chain or ultimately, carbon footprints, are playing a growing role in corporate decisions. Customers are increasingly making decisions which are influenced by business’ environmental and ethical policies.
He added: “Hotel Chocolat’s ethically led policies have had a positive impact on the relationship with our customers, and consequently on our turnover.”
“Our branding is based around a commitment to high quality products, produced in a sustainable environment. We grow cocoa beans on our own estate, so we are able to control conditions and farming methods. Our shops and factories are fitted with energy efficient air conditioning and lighting systems, and we have a team of energy champions keeping internal awareness high..”
Continuing, Mr Harris explained that environmental issues also have an impact on their choice of suppliers. He said: “Considering the environmental impact of our business is intrinsic to the way we operate, and so we are working in partnership with our suppliers to drive commitment to ethical and environmental working practices.
“Similarly our customers expect our values to be consistent in every stage of our business from the bean, to the factory, to the store, it is what they have come to expect and demand.”
Mr Harris added: “Increasingly businesses in East Anglia and the UK are being judged by customers on their environmental and ethical policies, and the sooner the business community embraces this shift towards ethically led practices the stronger their bottom line is likely to become. Failure to do so may result in missed business opportunities, lost customers and reduced profits.”
Julian Jenkins, senior partner of Ernst & Young’s Cambridge office said: “Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards recognises the achievements of the UK’s leading innovators and business minds.
“Entrepreneurs are the life blood of the Cambridge and UK economy, driving progress and helping to shape the issues of the day. It is imperative that their insights and experiences are provided with a platform through which their voices can be heard and recognised, and the Entrepreneur Of The Year awards play an integral role in this.”
Peter Harris and Angus Thirlwell, the Co-Founders of Hotel Chocolat, fought off competition from 32 of the region’s top talent to win the overall Ernst & Young South Region Entrepreneur Of The Year award and the ‘Business to Consumer’ category award at a ceremony in June. The duo are now off to the national awards on 1 October, which are being held at The Grosvenor House Hotel
Cambridge will also be represented by Richard Longdon, the CEO of AVEVA Group Plc. Richard was awarded the ‘Quoted’ Entrepreneur Of The Year award at the South Region finals, in recognition of his ‘leadership skills’ and the ‘growth of the business.’
Ernst & Young is one of the leading professional services firms in the UK, providing integrated, financially based solutions to businesses across a wide variety of sectors. Our services fall under three broad headings – Advisory and Assurance Business Services, Tax and Transaction Advisory Services.
The UK firm employs 8,600 people in 21 offices. For the financial year ending June 30 2006 revenues were £1.13bn. Globally, Ernst & Young member firms operate in 140 countries with more than 114,000 partners and staff. Worldwide revenues for year to 30 June 2006 were US$18.4 billion.
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