Riversimple is an independent automotive company based in Wales, known for their innovative hydrogen fuel cell car, the Rasa. Riversimple have developed a multi-stakeholder system of governance to keep their business sustainable in the best sense of the word. Six custodians act as a legislative body for the Riversimple board of directors. Each custodian represents a different perspective– the Environment, the Customers, the Community (neighbours), the Staff, the Investors and the Commercial Partners.
The brief was to interview Riversimple custodians for a series of thought-pieces exploring new business models, on behalf of CQI .
PETER DAVIES, COMMUNITY
Peter Davies’ background is in business, working for the CBI, DTI and Business in the Community. He became the first Commissioner for Sustainable Futures in Wales in April 2011. Peter has taken a key role in the development of the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act, leading a national conversation on “The Wales we Want” and using the findings to create a framework for long term goals. He believes that the Riversimple governance system could help to rebalance the relationship between local and global from a business context.
Community – simply put – is about being connected. Community contributes to our sense of who we are and what we care about.
The “Wales we Want” conversation engaged 7,000 people across Wales. We found that feeling disconnected, in particular from decision making, is a significant issue for communities today. Many people don’t feel in control of what is happening to them. Many younger people don’t feel there is a future for them. The Riversimple model represents an opportunity to shape business in a way that re-connects with community, creating new opportunities, engaging young people in particular – and enthusing them.
On the best and worst things that a business can bring to a (geographical) community
A business can bring investment and jobs to a community – it can help to develop a local skills base and local supply chains. It can bring prosperity, not just in the form of jobs, but the long term resilience of the community and that brings with it a sense of pride.
But all businesses should consider the wider impact they will have upon a community. Its not just about winning support in the short term. Political and media rhetoric can tend to focus on job creation but whilst important, that is not the whole picture, quality of life for a community is dependent on the nature of those jobs.
Wales is a country that knows all about the adverse affect of heavy industry – the effect that it can have on air pollution and the long term health of the community.
We’ve had that experience and hopefully we are much the wiser. So a company like Riversimple, at the leading edge of socially and environmentally responsible business, is exactly what Wales needs to fulfill the ambitions of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.
What are you looking forward to?
Its very exciting that this radical change is being led from a company based in the heart of rural mid Wales. I’m looking forward to the first pilot in Monmouthshire – our first community. I have great regard for the leadership in Monmouthshire and together we have a chance to test out the car and the business model – demonstrate its value.
We want to show that we can attract the very best engineers and new technology to a rural area. That we can bring young people back to rural communities because there will be a business growing there offering careers that appeal to them – without damaging rural ways of life or the environment. I am very excited about that.