Travers Smith LLP has partnered with the CBI and UCL to launch this year's London Business Survey, which draws together views of nearly 200 of the capital's business leaders on topics including Brexit, Covid-19, sustainability, diversity and equality.
The survey findings reveal how deeply coronavirus has impacted on London’s economy in 2020, and how much uncertainty remains within many businesses' prospects for recovery. However, the survey also shows reasons for longer-term optimism, and demonstrates that London businesses have set their sights on rebuilding a fairer, greener and more inclusive economy in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, despite two thirds of firms in the capital experiencing lower output this year.
Travers Smith's contribution was particularly notable in the fields of diversity, allyship and the concept of engaging with the majority to help drive positive change for the minority and/or underrepresented.
The findings indicate that diversity and inclusion (D&I) is a key focus for businesses in the capital city, demonstrating their commitment to fairness, and, critically, a determination to improve further.
A number of businesses are recognising the importance of allyship and employee network groups in helping them achieve their D&I ambitions. 45% of business respondents stated that they have a formal or informal allyship programme and/or policy in place, with an additional 19% stating they would like to develop a programme. Companies also articulated the desire for partnership working, with 61% of respondents stating that they believe government and business should work in equal partnership to reduce inequality across society.
Other key survey findings include:
- Almost one third of respondents (32%) said they were unprepared for the impact of a possible no-deal Brexit – and 58% said Covid-19 had impeded their Brexit preparedness.
- A trade deal with the EU, including comprehensive services coverage, was a priority for London’s recovery with more firms (72%) than any other factor.
- Four out of five respondents (80%) said their output had been impacted by the pandemic. 68% had yet to see trade return to normal (even before the second national lockdown) and 34% expected to still be operating below normal levels in a year.
- Companies operating in arts, entertainment and recreation face a tough outlook. 94% of respondents from this sector have yet to see a recovery, and three quarters (75%) expect their business to still be suffering in 12 months’ time.
- Investing in innovation and technology (55%), supporting employees’ mental health and wellbeing (53%) and supporting new ways of working (51%) were immediate priorities for most respondents.
- In the longer-term, improving diversity and inclusion (58%), developing or enhancing sustainability and net-zero strategies (53%) and supporting social mobility (45%) were the most common goals.
Travers Smith's Senior Partner Kathleen Russ said: "The ongoing pandemic, coupled with Brexit uncertainty, has created unprecedented trading conditions for London's businesses across many sectors.
We are pleased to have partnered with the CBI and UCL on this survey to investigate the impact of Brexit and Covid-19 on London's economy, and explore the importance of sustainability and equality for future growth. While a number of businesses are encountering serious challenges to adapt to the current conditions, it is heartening to see that many are optimistic about long-term prospects of recovery and see the investment in a greener and fairer economy as the way forward. It is equally encouraging that there is a real desire from businesses to tackle systemic inequalities and develop fairer and more diverse communities accounting for everyone’s needs.
I hope that the survey findings will provide a good template for how we can start to rebuild London's economy and support businesses in the capital to unlock their potential in the post-Covid world."
CSR and Diversity Director Chris Edwards said: "Diversity and inclusion have long been priorities for Travers Smith, and it is clear from the survey that it is a key priority for London businesses too. Diversity and inclusion is not a box ticking exercise. It goes far beyond tokenism and instead should focus on creating a workplace where everyone feels able to fully contribute and reach their career potential.
We all need to recognise the systemic barriers which face minoritized people and take concrete action, as a collective, to challenge these unequal systems. Doing so is not only the right thing to do, but will help mitigate some of the roots of London’s associated risk-factors, enhancing equality across the capital, and create a society we can all be proud of".
You can view the full report here: https://www.traverssmith.com/media/6484/cbi-london-business-survey-2020-december-2020.pdf