Princess of Wales urges business to ‘think radically’ as healthy children rely on happy adults

·4 min read
Princess of Wales - AFP
Princess of Wales - AFP

The Princess of Wales has urged business leaders to champion the social and emotional development of employees as she continues her mission to transform attitudes towards early childhood.

She said it was time to think “radically” in order to create a workforce that is “resilient, flexible and able to work through differences with each other” because “the healthy development of our children relies on healthy adults”.

The Princess has assembled some of the most influential business leaders in Britain for a new taskforce that will back her early years initiative.

Nine global firms, including Unilever, Ikea, Aviva, Deloitte, Co-Op and Lego, have already signed up and it is hoped that many more will join.

It is considered the next chapter in the Princess’s Shaping Us campaign, which was launched in January and aims to raise awareness of the critical importance of the first five years of a child’s life.

In the long term, it is hoped that the taskforce will create broad principles about staff wellbeing that big business will adopt.

The Princess hosted its inaugural meeting at NatWest’s headquarters in the City of London on Tuesday and issued a call to arms for its support.

The Princess of Wales is greeted by NatWest CEO Alison Rose (L) upon her arrival at NatWest's headquarters - Reuters
The Princess of Wales is greeted by NatWest CEO Alison Rose (L) upon her arrival at NatWest's headquarters - Reuters
The Princess of Wales hosted the inaugural meeting of her early years taskforce at NatWest’s headquarters in the City of London - Reuters
The Princess of Wales hosted the inaugural meeting of her early years taskforce at NatWest’s headquarters in the City of London - Reuters

She said: “We need the ability and capacity to be self-aware enough to manage our own behaviours and actions, in order to build meaningful relationships with each other.

“We need the ability to manage things like stress and conflict, to be adaptable to change and stay motivated when faced with challenges.

“This comes from our social and emotional skills, the foundations of which are laid in childhood.”

The Princess was met at the NatWest headquarters by Dame Alison Rose, NatWest Group’s chief executive, Peter Flavel, CEO of wealth businesses at Coutts, and Amanda Berry, chief executive of the Royal Foundation.

After a brief introduction, she was ushered upstairs for the meeting, which was chaired by Sir Ron Kalifa, a trustee of the Royal Foundation and a non-executive director of the Court of Directors to the Bank of England.

The taskforce watched the 90-second Shaping Us animation that charts the social interactions of a little girl as she navigates various milestones from birth until her fifth birthday.

The Princess told the assembled leaders that individual relationships and connections were “vital for collaboration and a core element to the culture and functionality of your businesses” - AFP
The Princess told the assembled leaders that individual relationships and connections were “vital for collaboration and a core element to the culture and functionality of your businesses” - AFP
The Princess of Wales with members of her Business Taskforce for Early Childhood - AFP
The Princess of Wales with members of her Business Taskforce for Early Childhood - AFP

The Princess, who has vowed that early years development will be the key focus of her life’s work, then gave a short speech in which she said she needed the support of “the most powerful business leaders in Britain” in order to create societal change.

She said that not enough emphasis was placed on building environments that nurture social and emotional skills.

“I believe therefore that we need two things to really transform society for generations to come,” she added.

“The first is to prioritise creating working environments that provide the support and training your workforce needs to cultivate and maintain its own social and emotional wellbeing.

“This will benefit them personally and professionally as well as creating a better working culture within your organisations.

“The second is a more concentrated effort in supporting the social and emotional development of our youngest children.”

The Princess said the initiative was “about looking at childhood holistically”.

She reiterated her desire to make early childhood the societal equivalent of climate change by ensuring that “social ecosystems” were protected with as much vigour as environmental ecosystems.

The Princess of Wales with NatWest CEO Dame Alison - AFP
The Princess of Wales with NatWest CEO Dame Alison - AFP

The Princess told the assembled leaders that individual relationships and connections were “vital for collaboration and a core element to the culture and functionality of your businesses”.

She asked: “But does your workforce have the skills and capability to build and maintain these vital relationships?”

Among those present were Amanda Blanc, Group CEO at Aviva, Lord Bilimoria, former president of the CBI, and Shirine Khoury-Haq, CEO of Co-Op.

Dame Alison said: “Fundamentally, the growth of the economy is inseparable to the growth of our nation’s children.

“The businesses represented in the room today all play a vital role in driving the change needed to ensure that children, families and communities up and down the country are empowered and equipped to meet their potential, both within and outside of our organisations.”

“We’re really looking forward to discussing how the business community can support Your Royal Highness to ensure that we create an economy and a society which shapes and supports our children’s future, building on your incredible leadership in this area.”