By 2035, the global population is expected to rise from the current 8 billion up to almost 9 billion. This will bring significant challenges, including a greater demand for energy and natural resources, climate change, and pressure on housing and global finances.
However, there will also be developments in technology and attitudinal changes that will help to address some of these future trials and provide opportunity. For example, the European Parliament and EU member countries recent agreement to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2035, supported by the development of electric vehicles, and the UK government’s setting of the world’s most ambitious climate change target to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035. Decisions like these will positively influence the world of tomorrow, not just benefiting our generation, but generations to come.
The golden thread running through Howard Group, is that everything we do will have a positive social, environmental and economic impact. In 2035, Howard Group will be 100 years’ old. Our new Centenary Vision focuses on how we shape our business over the coming years to ensure that we are responding in a responsible and meaningful way to the many challenges ahead. It ensures that we maintain a strong focus upon what it means to be ‘responsible stewards’ across all aspects of our business, for the benefit of future generations.
Positively shaping the future
The concepts of stewardship, responsible ownership and legacy run very deep within our business. We believe that responsible stewardship means handing on a business that is not only financially resilient and profitable, but one that nurtures and protects our environment and makes a positive and lasting impact upon society.
There are many ways to positively shape the future: from small acts like planting an orchard at Unity Campus and changing individual lives through apprenticeships, to advocacy on youth homelessness throughout the UK and investing in socially conscious companies, like mOm, whose vision is to give every child the best start in life through smarter healthcare technology. Earlier this year, mOm received regulatory approval for its mOm Essential Incubator, an affordable, compact, and lightweight infant incubator offering a safe thermoregulated environment for newborns to thrive in. Since then, mOm has gone on to do some amazing things, including helping babies during the challenging times in Ukraine by sending 51 mOm incubators to the country amidst increasing premature birth rates. Ukraine has since requested 100 more mOm incubators which is a great endorsement of the simplicity and flexibility of the product and its use in a challenging situation.
The impact of these actions and investments will be far-reaching and long-lasting, creating a legacy that will be cherished and preserved long after the Howard Group business has transitioned to the next generation.
Being a responsible investor, caring about legacy and being a steward for the longer-term are central to our Centenary Vision.
The dangers of short-termism
It goes without saying that there will be bumps in the road that are out of our control. The potential for unforeseen, disruptive events along the way cannot be ignored and we therefore believe a premium should be placed on flexibility, adaptability and resilience in terms of people, innovation and investments rather than employing knee-jerk reactions.
Taking a short-term view can have a lasting, damaging impact on society; what we do is different. Of course, some of the investments we make today will have immediate outcomes - such as our capital venture Koalaa, which provides prostheses to children with limb difference. But as a private, family-run business we are a team with a distinctly longer-term view, and we share a desire to make a positive impact on the communities where we invest, striving to support and nurture the local economy and contribute to enriching community life across generations and not just quarters.
Our north star
Our Centenary Vision is our north star looking out to 2035. It unites the three strands of our purpose - people, planet and performance - and is a demonstration of our commitment to ensure we approach all our business decisions, practices and behaviours with these three strands in mind.
Of course, while you can’t compel anyone to buy-in to a purpose, you can provide the insight into what the vision looks like if achieved through working together, and offer them the opportunities to explore what that would mean for them, their friends and family and the wider community who would benefit.
Providing this insight to our team is something we strive to do every day. For example, physically connecting people to projects, like a recent team visit to see the progress at Unity Campus - our exciting new urban innovation district 8 miles south of Cambridge. Already home to 12 leading life science and technology companies, Unity Campus is undergoing a major expansion which will provide three new laboratory buildings by the end of next year. These visits foster a sense of ownership and satisfaction, enabling the team to see their individual contributions to a wider goal. In this case, that goal is providing much needed space for innovative, life science companies to undertake their game-changing work, which will in turn help to solve some of today’s most pressing healthcare issues in the longer-term.
Holding up the mirror – positive people development as a foundational element of social impact
What have we learned as a team over the last few years? One thing has become clear; how we support and nurture individual team members is critical to coping with, and learning from, adversity. Every person sees the world through a different lens and it is important to recognise and respect that and respond with sincerity.
A fully-stocked staff room and new IT equipment will only go so far in informing company culture – an authentic company culture runs much more deeply than that. It encompasses our behaviours, reactions and responses to one another, our partners and our communities.
Our culture of candour in a responsible way, has led to an openness in communication which is building a high level of resilience and flexibility into our business. We encourage the sharing of opinion and feedback to hold a mirror up to our ways of working and the projects we are working on. We embolden staff to make decisions, take action and create opportunities – it’s a dynamic two-way approach and not as commonplace as you may assume.
Howard Group is at its heart a people business and as such is only therefore as durable as its people. If, in the midst of challenges and disruption we can continue to support our team to be proactively agile and direct, provide the tool kit, the encouragement and support, then we will have successfully built resilience into our workforce and therefore our business.