University of Edinburgh Business School
Inclusive and Sustainable Growth: Making our Economy Work for Everyone
June 22, 2017

Lively debate and a multitude of themes were discussed at this joint CRSN and RSA event, including quality of jobs, diversity, productivity and devolution.

If there was ever an indication of the breadth of the Inclusive Growth agenda, the SBI’s Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Network (CRSN) event on 15 June said it all. The event was in collaboration with the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce), and in the wake of the publication of their Inclusive Growth Commission findings.

It was a pleasure to welcome thinkers, disrupters and business people working and leading the way in this space. After hearing about the Commission and findings, delivered by Atif Shafique (leading researcher for the Inclusive Growth Commission, RSA), the panel members took their positions. We were delighted to host Sheila Fazal (Director, PwC), Dr Sarah Ivory (Early Career Fellow – Climate Change and Business Strategy, University of Edinburgh Business School) and Chris Oswald, (Head of Policy and Communications, Equalities and Human Rights Commission).

The lively debate ranged over quality of jobs, low carbon, diversity, city and non-city challenges, productivity, place, automation, infrastructure, land, social structures and devolution. The topics relevant to inclusive growth came thick and fast as chair Ross Martin strove to capture as much comment as possible from a great audience.

Any one of the themes could have absorbed an independent event, but some recurring ideas emerged:

  • Firstly, the evident complexity of the inclusive growth agenda. Neither reducible to soundbites nor the ‘one thing’ which the media demand – this is about system change. So achieving the depth of understanding needed means taking the ideas to wider audiences – not all of whom may agree.
  • Secondly, notwithstanding PwC’s support of the IG Commission’s work, the recognition that business has not, thus far, been sufficiently inspired to engage. Yet if real progress is to be made, this is a prerequisite. “Where is the discussion on jobs and internationalisation?”, queried Liz McAreavey, CEO of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce.
  • Thirdly, differing interpretations and definitions of growth. Not just of what ‘growth’ could or should mean but long-held assumptions about competition, economic success and measuring progress; all came under the spotlight.

IG is nothing if not going back to fundamentals of the purpose of an economy.

Closing the event, the Chair reflected that whatever else, there seemed to be a powerful conviction that there has to be a ‘better way’. Considering the energy in the room, the conversation seems set to continue, with a role in particular for business to help articulate tangible actions. The vibrant conversation continued over a drinks reception which was enjoyed by all.