O2 and the Inclusive Economy Partnership by Mark Evans, CEO

At O2 we have a long-standing commitment to deploy innovation and enterprise to not just analyse and understand problems, but to take action that delivers practical solutions to them.  This determination drives our work to be the mobile operator that delivers the best possible service to our 25 million customers.

We also firmly believe that ‘doing good’ is good business and we are committed to playing our part in creating a fairer and more sustainable world.  That is what our people at O2 want, what our customers want and what is increasingly required of a modern, responsible business.

I am delighted, therefore, to be joining other CEOs and senior civil society leaders today at the launch of the Inclusive Economy Partnership – a new venture that brings together government, business and civil society organisations to address deep-rooted challenges faced by the UK’s 5.8m low and middle income households.

The Partnership has been commissioned by the Prime Minister; is chaired by Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport; will have further ministerial input from the Cabinet Office and the Department for Business, Enterprise, Innovation and Skills; and will benefit from active input and facilitation from the innovation foundation, Nesta.

5.5 million people in the UK are in unfavourable debt situations; 25% of the population face mental health issues in any given year; and 800,000 young people were not in education or employment in Q1 2017.  The Partnership has identified, therefore, Financial Inclusion, Mental Health and the Transition to Work from education as the first three priority areas to address in its 3-5 year programme.

Over 100 individuals from businesses, including O2, and civil society groups have joined the Partnership’s delivery groups to focus on the three priority areas.  With support from Nesta, they will identify and develop scalable solutions that will ‘move the needle’ and make a sustained positive impact.

We are a business that strives to ensure its ambitions are backed by commitment and action.  In recent years, O2 has funded over 8,000 youth social action projects; provided over 40,000 work skills experiences for young people through GoThinkBig.co.uk; and we’re on track to support 3 million families to stay safer online through our partnership with the NSPCC.

O2 is also a supporters of the Step Up to Serve youth social action campaign; a champion member of the government’s Social Mobility Business Compact; and earlier this year was selected by the Social Mobility Foundation for inclusion in the UK’s first ever Social Mobility Employer Index.

Our Wayra digital start-up accelerator programme this year launched a partnership with Fair by Design to support start-ups that will tackle the ‘poverty premium’, where people in poverty pay more for many everyday goods and services – such as energy, insurance, borrowing, transport and food – than those who can more easily afford them.

The Inclusive Economy Partnership now offers a new opportunity in our ongoing work to make a positive difference and achieve our ambition of helping 20 million people live better with technology by 2020.  We look forward to working with other supporters of the Partnership to make a practical contribution to its work that we believe will improve life chances, promote social mobility and help build a better, fairer and more sustainable United Kingdom.

The hard work starts now and O2 is up for the challenge.