Leading business voices launch organisation to be the voice of responsible business

Sarah Walker-Smith

A group of prominent business leaders has launched an organisation that has the ambition of inspiring a generation of responsible business leaders.

vocL, pronounced “vocal”, has two central aims – to make the voice of responsible business a louder part of the national conversation and to mentor the next generation of business leaders.

It has been founded by industrialist Juergen Maier, the former chief executive of Siemens who is an influential figure in the areas of innovation and skills, and has a strong line-up of founding associates.

They include Timpson chief executive James Timpson, Be The Business chair Sir Charlie Mayfield, former CBI chief and current London First chair Paul Drechsler, and Sarah Walker-Smith, chief executive of professional services group Ampa.

“We feel that business has got so much value to give, particularly in the time we are in,” Maier told TheBusinessDesk.com. “But we don’t feel that business is in the conversation enough.”

Maier, who is also the vice-chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, highlighted the challenges being created by climate change, new technologies, and the pandemic recovery.

He said: “My message is we are looking for a stronger and more responsible relationship to resolve these challenges.”

vocL will be run as a Community Interest Company, reinvesting profits back into the organisation to support its mentoring programme and community initiatives.

A website and app has been created as a “positive” platform to bring like-minded business leaders together and “mentor the next generation” who are demonstrating they have high potential.

The group is particularly keen to support up-and-coming individuals from less privileged backgrounds.

“In business very often you tend to look at the here and now, and try and solve today’s problems,” said Maier. “We are doing this for the long term.

“In a few years’ time, if we have identified half-a-dozen or a dozen next-gen business leaders who are real role models for the country, then that would be the ultimate measure of success.”

The ambition is to enrol 150 mentees in the first two years. Mentees will be put forward by businesses across the UK, and will be expected to show high potential in their careers over the coming decade.

Sarah Walker-Smith, who runs Ampa, the group which owns Midlands law firm Shakespeare Martineau, said there is a “very, very strong sense of shared values with the founder members”.

“We believe in responsible business, in business leaders stepping up, and in supporting the next generation,” she said.

“This is about being very positive, future-focused. It’s a response to what we see coming up, and how do we play our part.

“There is a lot to be done.”