With the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow underway, the timing of a week of activities focused on businesses who want to be a ‘force for good’ could not be better.

Oxfordshire’s Power of Purpose2021 is celebrating social enterprises, community interest companies and businesses who simply want to be more purposeful. And whatever the outcome of the COP26 climate conference, everyone in business is going to have to look at more than their financial position.

For the last few years, OxLEP Business, the county’s Growth Hub, has had a specific progamme for businesses committed to making an impact on environmental and social issues.

Sarah Beal of OxLEP Business says there is increasing interest from businesses wanting to make positive environmental changes: “The level of interest in doing business more sustainably is certainly rising.

“People are reacting to the news they read. Seeing the surge in electric vehicle sales, energy reduction and the big push to massively reduce how much carbon they use are big changes. So, interest in taking positive steps to be more sustainable is part of a general change we are seeing.”

Oxford Mail: The POP Marketplace

Sarah hopes the centrepiece of the week will be a Marketplace which is open to anyone in business. “We work with hundreds and hundreds of small businesses every year.

“This is a chance for all of them to meet, regardless of their commitment to make a positive impact.

“But with the theme clearly on making a difference, it is a perfect opportunity to find how being more environmentally and socially engaged can also be very good for business. It will also be the first time we’ve been able to get everyone together, so we expect a lot of talking.”

Grant Hayward of OSEP and one of the organisers of POP2021 says the idea of having a purpose has really taken off. “No one is challenging the golden rule ‘No profit, no business’, but a lot more people want their enterprise to do something ‘good’ as well.”

He adds: “There are dozens of businesses who will be taking part next week. They can learn a lot from each other and there are some special skills needed to be successful. This year, what’s really exciting is that we are reaching out to people new to the concept too at some events.”

Business park owners Jennings, recently announced they had achieved Net Zero in carbon emissions and are waiting to be assessed as a B Corporation, an international standard for businesses as a force for good.

Their sustainability champion Chris Williams said: “We took the view that we had to take action.

“We couldn’t simply watch from the side-lines and waiting for legislation to address climate change. And the same is true for other social initiatives we’ve taken, for instance on mental health and wellbeing at work.

“We know it matters to everyone and we were delighted to see some of the tenants on our Monument Business Park site have noticed and approached us to find out more about our experiences asking what they can do.

“We’re a property management business, but we are firmly focused on much more with these other initiatives.”

Jennings will be taking part in POP2021, alongside other smaller enterprises like Non Plastic Beach a company which emerged from the pandemic selling products that are ethically sourced, use no plastic and are totally sustainable.

Gareth Dean set the business up with his wife Nicola. Like many other young families they wanted to be in business without making the world worse for their young daughter Isla.

He believes are now part of a trend which will soon become much more mainstream. “We may have felt a bit pioneering when we began, almost as a side hustle.

But people are literally buying into our approach. It suits people’s changing lifestyles. Now we are full time, with one other employee, premises and all the serious daily challenges of a rapidly growing business.”

After COP26 ends, attention will be on changing the world of work in a race towards ‘net zero’ carbon emissions.

As Chris Williams at Jennings observes: “You can either start making changes in your business now or wait until you have no choice. But having your own ambitions to be sustainable and managing how you do it is a heck of a lot easier to manage than waiting for new rules and regulations. Better to take your own first step.”

Find out more about POP2021 at osep.org.uk/power-of-purpose-week