Business in the Community (BITC)
As a cross-industry consultancy with more than 830 member companies, BITC claims to be the UK’s largest business membership organisation committed to corporate responsibility.
Set up in 1982, it seeks to promote community regeneration and small business development. BITC enjoys mainstream establishment support; in addition to being one of Prince Charles's charities, David Cameron spoke at BITC’s Leadership Summit in 2011.
BITC has a ‘race to the top’ ethos and hopes to play the role of a ‘critical friend’ to business, seeking to promote sustainability through networking and facilitation.
Along with Global Reporting Initiative, BITC has been credited with making corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting a mainstream business practice in the UK.
The Prince of Wales has been the BITC President since 1985. The Board of Trustee Directors, which determines the organisation's mission and purpose, is made up almost entirely of current and former CEOs and other business leaders.
BITC also has a number of Leadership Teams that provide strategic guidance on a range of issues.
BITC's more than 830 member firms employ a sizeable proportion of the UK's private sector workforce, and many thousands of people are involved in various training initiatives and campaigns run by BITC and a host of partners.
The CR Index is comprised of 98 companies; 30% of which are FTSE listed. Companies are from across industries and are eligible to participate if they operate in the UK.
BITC does not verify member companies against a specific code of conduct. Instead, it focuses on self-assessment against the BITC Corporate Responsibility Index.
The CR Index requires members to report to BITC on an annual basis in four key areas: corporate strategy, integration, management, and performance and impact.
BITC then reviews submissions to ensure consistency and reliability across company submissions. Companies are given a ranking each year based on their sustainability reports. In 2014, the average company score was 85%.
The high average CR Index scores opens up BITC to the criticism of setting unambitious benchmarks, while the initiative’s inclusion of firms from controversial industries such as mining, oil and tobacco raises questions about potential conflicts of interest with its purported sustainability goals.
Moreover, despite being a 'praise for good performance' rather than a 'name and shame' initiative, BITC has even been criticised by some leading company members for not challenging them enough.
Despite its 30-year history and staunch support from the political and business establishment, general consumer awareness of BITC is low.
In response, it is attempting to up its profile in two ways:
1) The annual Responsible Business Awards
2) CommunityMark - a national standard that publicly recognises excellence in community investment. Recipients are effectively allowed to treat the CommunityMark as a certificate, and are permitted to display the logo in branches and on their website.
BITC does not publicise the details of how companies are verified against the claims they make in their reports.
For this reason, it is difficult to measure the actual impact of this initiative.