Livity on Lobbying & influence

Does your company make representations to law-makers or government officials?

Yes

Livity's purpose is to make a measurable, positive impact on the lives of all young people. We therefore have a policy to explore any opportunities which may help us meet that purpose, including working with or making representations to law-makers or government officials. We do not take on all opportunities we are presented with but have, over the years, enjoyed a healthy working relationship with many central government departments and local authorities, with successful outcomes for all involved.

Livity therefore has a history of engaging with law-makers and elected/appointed officials within local and central government in a number of ways. These are listed below:

1. Via funding: Some of our projects have been entirely or part-funded by central or local government: e.g. Live Magazine which was part-funded by Lambeth Council between 2001 and 2010, as well as by Lewisham Council and part-funded by Lewisham Council 2003-2010 e.g. Write Here, Right Now - a six month pilot youth reporting programme aimed at engaging young people in international development issues, funded by the Department for International Development in 2010 (This not a comprehensive list.)

2. Through consultation and action groups' presentation and influence: e.g. in April 2012, we hosted a "Giving Space" roundtable discussion at the Department of Central and Local Government, focusing on (among other things) how we might work with local and central government to make the process of space brokerage for projects like somewhereto_ (a nationwide project delivered by Livity) more efficient. This resulted in the project's inclusion in the Giving Summit, the findings of which have helped to shape government policy around giving space.

3. Through ongoing communication, awareness raising and/or discussion about our work: Over the years we have hosted many individuals from central and local government at Livity, to present the work we do as well as discussing how we might work with government in the future. We have held many debates and discussions at Livity between young people and law-makers or government officials, and welcome ongoing discourse with law-makers and elected or appointed government officials to look at how we might complement each others' work and ambitions around youth engagement.

Livity have never engaged a specialist lobbying consultant or company to lobby on one particular issue. We do not have a specific policy against this but, to date, have not found a need for it.

Livity is unique in that the platforms our young people are engaged with (as mentioned above) are guided by those young people and not influenced by companies or individuals - an authentic 'voice of youth'.

Answered at 06:03PM on 20 Sunday Sep 2015

Free and open access to government is an important matter of public interest. In democratic societies, citizens and civil society groups have the right to express their interests and concerns to elected or appointed government officials at national, regional and local levels. It is also recognised that businesses possess these same rights. Indeed, extensive, open participation is considered essential in promoting informed, evidence-based decisions regarding policy and law-making. Lobbying public office holders is therefore a legitimate and necessary activity.

A variety of organisations, such as charities, NGOs and trade associations as well as businesses, engage in lobbying for many reasons, with varying levels of success and influence. As Georg Kell, the executive director of the UN Global Compact, wrote a few years ago in a report on responsible lobbying: "Ensuring that lobbying doesn't undercut corporate responsibility is of great importance .... But probably more important is the question whether and how lobbying can become a positive force to support, or even expand, a commitment to responsible business."

However, as Transparency International explains, the means by which interests are expressed can be open to abuse. It is not in the interest of wider society if some organisations can unduly affect the decisions made, whether in formulating policy or creating favourable regulatory regimes or, more crudely, awarding contracts or granting special permits or other favours.

Some organisations seek influence by engaging specialist lobbying firms. These have expertise in gaining access to government officials and in putting issues before decision-makers. The core function of such professional lobbyists is to influence government in a way that is favourable to their clients. It is predominantly large businesses that engage them - and may spend large amounts of money to do so. Between 2008 and 2010, 30 Fortune 500 companies spent more on lobbying than they paid in federal income taxes. It is also possible for corporations to have indirect influence through, for example, support of think-tanks that are generating ideas and policy. The fact that rich and powerful business interests, or even wealthy individuals, can buy influence, and the special privilege that flows from it, undermines basic concepts of fairness and representative democracy.

There is a difference between legitimate and illegitimate lobbying but it sometimes requires clear values and fine judgement to identify where a particular action lies along the spectrum. For example, there may be practical benefits to individuals moving between posts in government and related jobs in commerce and industry as this may enable the two sides to better understand each other and brings practical experience to policy making, with benefits to wider society. On the other hand, a "revolving door" between the public and private sectors may result in networks of former colleagues being used for private business advantage and/or individual gain. Some nations maintain a register of lobbyists and also set minimum periods before former government people can take up paid employment as lobbyists.

Nonetheless, as it is possible for a business to have great influence without ever abusing it, this question provides an opportunity to explain how a business ensures it is careful and responsible when making representations to law-makers or government officials. Examples of the steps it may take include:

  1. setting out guidelines regarding hiring lobbyists or donating to interest groups whose functions include lobbying (including policy think-tanks and campaigning groups, e.g. on environmental and human rights issues);
  2. being transparent about financial support for politicians, political organisations and campaigns;
  3. making public the briefing materials and consultation responses provided to public bodies or officials;
  4. recording and restricting the amounts of spending on receptions, meals, gifts etc.;
  5. setting out circumstances where a 'conflict of interest' might arise and set out guidelines for actions and steps to deal with the problem.
Responsible lobbying

'Responsible lobbying' occurs when it is consistent with the stated policies of an organisation, its commitments to stakeholders, and to core strategy and actions, and also where it advances the implementation of universal principles and values in business practice.

Lobbying

'Lobbying' is the practice of seeking to influence the opinions and/or decisions of members of government, politicians or public officials. Methods of lobbying vary. They can range from individuals sending letters to their elected representatives, to businesses and trade associations making presentations, providing briefing material to decision-makers, networking with decision-makers and using personal contacts to extend influence and access to decision makers or government officials. Methods of indirect lobbying include donating to campaign groups and funding think-tanks.

Answering YES

All Businesses MUST

Describe how they balance the furthering of their own private interests with those of their stakeholders and of the public at large

Indicate the proportion of their business or contracts that are with the public sector

Describe any issues on which they seek to lobby or influence, and explain why these issues have been identified

Describe how they engage with the law-makers and elected or appointed government officials, including through trade associations or membership bodies

Confirm that all information provided to decision makers is wholly truthful, and that the sources of this information are transparent

All Businesses MAY

Explain any philosophy or values which underpin their lobbying and influence practices

Describe any issues they champion that have no clear connection to their business interests

Describe any policies they have which inform engagements with public officials

Confirm that they make clear their interests when engaging with public officials

Confirm they do not make misleading, exaggerated or extravagant claims either in the media to influence public opinion or directly to public officials

Describe how they employ or work with current or former public officials (including Local Authority Councillors) or civil servants and how they manage conflicts of interest

Describe how they publicise any engagements with any public officials

Describe any interactions they have with political parties (contracts, donations, support)

Confirm they have met all legal requirements in terms of registering lobbying activity

Explain whether they engage specialist lobbying consultants/companies, indicating their reasons for doing so

Describe any future intentions regarding this issue

Large and Multinational Corporations (MNCs) MAY

Explain how their practices and policies on lobbying differ across different legal jurisdictions

Explain if and how they seek to lobby foreign governments

Answering NO

All Businesses MUST

Explain why they do not or cannot answer YES to this question and list the business reasons, any mitigating circumstances or any other reasons that apply

All Businesses MAY

List any responsible lobbying practices they pursue which are relevant, but not sufficient to answer YES to this question

Mention any future intentions regarding this issue

Answering NOT APPLICABLE

All Businesses MUST

Confirm that they do not engage in any lobbying activity and do not seek to influence public figures directly or indirectly

All Businesses MAY

List any practices related to the MUST answering requirements for answering YES

State any philosophies, values or beliefs which relate to lobbying and influence

Provide any other relevant information

DON'T KNOW is not a permissible answer to this question

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