"Unless a company has a clear point of differentiation it does not have a strategic vision. Setting a strategy, rather than deploying a series of tactics, is the biggest challenge for any new business.”


Empowering Para-athletes to fulfil their dreams

I grew up in a family where giving back to society was always considered important. But successful philanthropy is not just about giving – it’s about giving effectively. That means looking at who else is funding projects in the area that interests you, identifying the gaps and finding a way you can make a difference.

I have always been interested in sport and was proud to chair the Business Advisory Board for Commonwealth Games, raising money for more than 500 athletes to travel to Delhi for the 2010 Games. So, I am delighted to be involved in an exciting new project that is helping talented female athletes fulfil their dreams of taking part in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.

Path to Success is a charity run by my mother, Anita, and of which I am a director. The charity has a long record of helping people overcome their disabilities and now it is focusing exclusively on a sponsorship scheme for 12 leading para-athletes. The athletes are all competing internationally and winning titles in their sports, Para Powerlifting, Para Badminton, Wheelchair Basketball and Wheelchair Tennis, but funding is a huge problem for them. They have to pay for coaching, training, travel, equipment and specialised sports wheelchairs – but it is hard to find sponsors in these so-called unfashionable sports.

Path to Success has pledged more than £100K to the campaign over the next three years, which will give these talented, motivated, inspirational women the chance to realise their potential. Not only that, but these athletes will also inspire and empower a new generation of Paralympic stars, creating a legacy that will last beyond their own careers.

Who, after all, could fail to be inspired by the story of Mary Wilson? She is former Army nurse, who served in Afghanistan, but had to give up her military career when she was diagnosed with MS. At the age of 54, she is one of the world’s leading Para Badminton players, having won nine titles, and is gunning for gold in Tokyo when the sport makes its debut in the 2020 Paralympics.

She has invested a big chunk of her military pension into her career and I hope that the additional support from Path To Success will help her achieve her dreams. It is gratifying to know that when you have a vision and set clear and realistic philanthropic goals, you can make a real difference to people’s lives.

The Holy Grail of CSR

The way we do business, and the impact we make as we do it, defines our identity, just as much as the bottom line on our companies’ balance sheets.

Plenty of CEOs talk the language of Corporate Social Responsibility but how many embed it in their businesses? A Harvard Business School study found that the CSR function is typically housed at least two levels below the CEO – too often, it exists in a silo and a company’s CSR programme is neither integrated with its broader business strategy or aligned to its purpose and values. Run by internal managers, often without the involvement of the CEO, the danger is that they become a set of uncoordinated initiatives rather than a coherent plan of action.

When companies start hiring a vice-president responsible for CSR and reporting directly to the CEO that would indicate progress – but you could argue that the day they start firing them is a better sign because it means they are being held accountable and the issue is being taken seriously.

Social responsibility should be at the heart of every decision a company takes, not bolted on as an after-thought. Commerce and justice need to be intrinsically linked, not treated as separate entities.



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