Economy Minister welcomes Greggs CEO and senior business leaders to responsible business summit in Belfast

As the world grapples with pressing societal and environmental challenges, CEOs and senior business leaders from across Northern Ireland convened at an exclusive event in Custom House Belfast to discuss economic growth and social mobility in Northern Ireland.

Organised to provide a platform for business leaders to connect, learn, and exchange insights, the event underscored the imperative for companies to operate responsibly, help those who face additional barriers to gaining employment and proactively address pressing societal issues.

Social mobility refers to a change in a person’s socio-economic situation, either in relation to their parents or throughout their lifetime. It is linked to equality of opportunity: the extent to which people have the same chances to do well in life regardless of the socio-economic background of their parents, their gender, age, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, birthplace, or other circumstances beyond their control.

It can be measured in terms of earnings, income, or social class, but it can encompass other dimensions such as health and education.

The engaging lineup of speakers from organisations including Allen & Overy, PWC, Ulster University, gave solid examples of how their organisations are redefining traditional approaches to community engagement and business practices. Roisin Currie shared the Greggs approach to supporting those with criminal convictions to gain access to employment and how the business is reaching out to inspire and support primary school children through its Breakfast Clubs.

Addressing the attendees, Economy Minister Conor Murphy said: “Our economy is characterised by deep-seated problems of low pay, low productivity, and severe regional imbalances. These issues can’t be addressed overnight, however, I am optimistic about the potential for change, and I’m determined to get as much done in the time available.

“My Economic Vision, which I am pleased to note was very well received by the business community, identifies four outcomes that economic policy and growth should be directed towards – Good Jobs, Productivity, Regional Balance, and Net Zero – and we now need to see delivery. To this end, I recently appointed four independent experts to provide critical advice. My Department will soon be presenting our plans to these experts to get some critical feedback and to ensure that we are doing enough to really turn the dial.

“All these policies and initiatives will need to be underpinned by partnership and I am encouraged in the knowledge that this is something Business in the Community recognises the importance of.”

Kieran Harding, Managing Director, Business in the Community said: “We recognise the challenges employers face in relation to attracting talent and skills. These are compounded by Northern Ireland’s high level of economic inactivity. As a result employers increasingly recognise the need to consider the opportunity that addressing social mobility can bring, whilst appreciating the complexity and flexibility that embracing social mobility requires. Making a real and lasting difference requires employers to foster workplaces that are fair and inclusive as they seek to provide opportunities for everyone.

“By bringing together CEOs and senior leaders from diverse sectors, we aim to facilitate meaningful discussions, drive collaboration, and inspire actionable solutions that positively impact society and business.

“I am heartened to see so many businesses striving to tackle the issue of social mobility and I am encouraged that together with government and society, business can make a lasting impact.”

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