Justine Greening MP: Business is the solution to tackling social mobility
Addressing the Bridge Group’s conference "Raising the Stakes: Collective Action in Pursuit of Social Mobility" at KPMG, Justine Greening MP spoke of the urgent need to address social inequality in Britain and called upon business to do so.
Speaking at the Bridge Group’s conference at KPMG, Justine Greening MP stated that improving social mobility was “probably the most important challenge facing our country today” and that it was “untenable” in the 21st Century to have a country where young people do not have the same opportunities.
She said that “people’s willingness to accept inequality is crunched down and I think rightly so.”
Greening described the changing circumstances from when she was growing up, stating “partly because of things like social media, there is a new generation of young people growing up in our country and indeed more broadly around the world, who can see inequality of opportunity.”
When discussing why this has not been tackled successfully before, she said that it was complex and needed a “sophisticated response and that means working in partnership.”
Describing the previously “siloed” approach to tackling this issue, with actors working separately including the education system, government, business and civil society, she asserted that the “key to success now is bringing these groups together.”
Greening particularly emphasised the role that industry plays in this, stating that she saw “business as the solution on social immobility.” She also said that educators play a “key role” in helping to drive social mobility but cannot do it on their own. She stated that what they need is the help of a whole range of other partners and in particular, business.
As an example of businesses working to tackle social mobility, Greening highlighted the Social Mobility Pledge that she launched earlier this year for businesses and employers, of which KPMG was a founding signatory. This pledge asked companies of all sizes across the UK to commit to doing three things;
Firstly, to partner up with schools, working upstream and helping to lift young people’s sights higher, and give them some inspiration about careers.
Secondly, it asked businesses to open themselves up. Greening stated that “there is a big gulf between the numbers of work placements and experiences that our young people want and what’s on offer. “
Thirdly, the pledge called for action on recruitment. She stated that there was a need for a “level playing field on recruitment” and called for employers to look at the work that was already making a difference such a name-blind recruitment.
Beyond tackling inequality of opportunity, Greening said that improving social mobility would improve productivity saying: “it is about our economy.
“If you’re a business sat in this room today, I would argue that tacking social immobility and the role that you can play in doing so, is the smart thing to do.
“In the 21st century, businesses that fail to understand how to get the most out of our country’s human capital, will simply to do worse.”
The MP for Putney went on to describe the architecture that business can look at for its own policy development, to do the maximum they can on improving social mobility.
She identified three areas: employability, open recruitment and progression. On employability, she discussed the importance of schools opening up to help develop work skills. Secondly, she described the issue around simply being open and accessible to all people coming into the workplace. Thirdly she stated “I think the final point is perhaps the least well understood but absolutely crucial, which is getting a grip on progression.”
She emphasised the need for collaboration between businesses, stating “companies need to work collectively to look at what good looks like on those three different areas and to share knowledge in spite of obviously competing.”
She also discussed Britain’s international reputation of historic class entrenchment. She stated in the 21st Century and with Brexit being a catalyst, that Britain can reinvent itself as “the most innovative, the most daring, the most activist on driving equality of opportunity for the long term for people across our country.”
She concluded “to my mind, that would be something hugely exciting and would definitely be a revolution I would be up for.”