After over a decade as a Member of Parliament, Sadiq Khan became the Mayor of London in 2016. In his seven years as Mayor of London, Khan has prioritized investing in innovation and entrepreneurship and creating a greener future for the city. Whether it’s through his recently launched London Climate Resilience Review, the Good Work Standard, or the London Living Wage Initiative, Mayor Khan has launched significant initiatives to serve entrepreneurs, create jobs, and improve the livelihood for the residents of London.
I spoke with Mayor Khan about his past seven years tenure, recent initiatives, and what it means to be the First Muslim Mayor of London. Below is our conversation, edited for clarity.
Rhett Buttle: You’ve just hit seven years as Mayor of London. What have you learned while serving and what should the business community know about the work you’ve accomplished?
Mayor Khan: When I was first elected, I vowed to be the most pro-business Mayor that London had ever seen – and I am working tirelessly every day to help boost economic prosperity across the city. Brexit, Covid, soaring inflation and the cost-of-living crisis have created one of the most testing periods for business and industry in living memory. Despite these challenges, I am doing everything I possibly can to make London the best place in the world to start, scale, and grow a business.
My administration has supported more than 1,100 overseas companies to set-up and expand in London and our programs have added more than £1.8 billion to London’s economy. Since 2016, I have also supported more than 12,000 businesses to start and grow in an ever-changing economic landscape. I have also created more than 330,000 jobs. I’m always proud to champion our capital and I’ll continue to bang the drum for business and investment in London at home and abroad at every opportunity.
Rhett Buttle: London continues to make advances in technology and innovation. How does this support burgeoning entrepreneurs?
Mayor Khan: Over the past decade, our tech sector has grown to become an international success story, creating jobs and economic growth for all Londoners. In fact, London has attracted more new international tech companies than any other global city in the past decade and the sector is worth an eye-watering £47 billion to the UK economy.
London is also now home to 75 startup companies with a value of over $1 billion, otherwise known as unicorns – making it the unicorn capital of Europe. From its roots in East London to the emergence of a fintech cluster in Canary Wharf and the knowledge quarter of Kings Cross – we are seeing investment and jobs in tech across the whole of the city. As a result, entrepreneurs in London are starting and growing game-changing tech companies at a faster rate than any other European hub.
London is now a hot-bed of entrepreneurship in sectors including fintech, health tech, and climate tech – and is one of the world’s leading AI and innovation ecosystems. In fact, my Deputy Mayor for Business, Rajesh Agrawal is himself a London entrepreneurial success story. Rajesh arrived in London from India in his twenties with almost nothing and started his own successful fintech company before ultimately deciding to give back to our city through service at City Hall.
I was delighted recently to launch Grow London with London & Partners, our trade, destination, and business growth agency, which is an exciting new programme designed to support start- and scale-ups to grow in London and to internationalize.
Rhett Buttle: Your administration has shared its commitment to a higher quality of life for London’s residents, including access to high paying jobs, emphasis on continued education, and lowering the cost of living. How is the business community engaged to ensure you have broad buy-in for these important initiatives?
Mayor Khan: London has an unrivaled business ecosystem – and I am working closely with our business community to create a safer, fairer, greener, and more prosperous city for all Londoners. My Deputy Mayor, Rajesh Agrawal and I work with the business community through my Business Advisory Board and other forums to ensure they are engaged in the policy making process.
I am particularly delighted to support the “London Living Wage” scheme that has seen 3,000 businesses now commit to paying the lowest earners in our capital a decent wage, including cleaners, security guards, porters, and home carers. I have also worked with employers and trade unions to set a benchmark for good employment practices, the Good Work Standard, recognizing those employers that exemplify best practice in fair pay, investment in skills and progression, and commitment to equality, diversity, and inclusion.
We’ve attracted billions in private investment to modernize the city’s digital connectivity, with London’s gigabit-capable infrastructure up from only 4% in 2017 to 89% now – the highest in England. I have also appointed London’s first Chief Digital Officer, who runs open calls to the tech sector addressing specific challenges faced by the city and developing impactful solutions that are revolutionizing delivery in urban planning and electric vehicle charging.
Rhett Buttle: One of your goals in the Making London Greener initiative is a zero carbon London by 2030. As you know, solutions to civic issues are often solved through collective entrepreneurship. In which ways can entrepreneurs work towards a zero carbon London?
Mayor Khan: The climate emergency is the biggest threat we face today – and there is simply no time to waste.
Technology is already helping to tackle climate change in transformative ways. I recently launched the London Climate Resilience Review to explore how London can better adapt to, and prepare for, the impacts of a changing climate and the role that data and technology can play to improve our climate resilience.
Here in London we have embraced technology whenever possible as we strive to hit net zero by 2030. This includes our network of hundreds of air quality sensors providing real-time pollution alerts to Londoners, zero emission bus fleets, the installation of more than 13,000 new electric charging points, and contactless payments and journey planning apps which improve Londoners’ travel around the city using public transport.
Rhett Buttle: One of your initiatives is to ensure that London’s street names, statutes, and public landmarks are representative of the diverse culture of London. How has your experience as the First Muslim Mayor of London influenced this initiative?
I have always said, “that if you can’t see it, you can’t be it.” Growing up there were very few public role models from backgrounds like mine that I could look up to and believe I could emulate. But London gave me all the opportunities I needed to succeed, and that’s why I feel compelled to give back. It’s also why I want to make sure that the young people of today see themselves in the world around them – and are inspired to aim high.
London is one of the most diverse cities on the planet, with over 300 languages spoken and people from all over the world now calling this great city home. Our capital’s diversity is our greatest strength. And we have to do more than just tolerate our differences. We have to celebrate them.
That’s why I don’t shy away from my Muslim heritage. Even though I don’t call myself a “Muslim” politician – I am not a spokesperson for the whole faith or a religious leader – I understand how it feels to be underrepresented in the public realm. It is crucial that our rich and diverse history is celebrated and properly commemorated. People of all faiths and migrants from all over the world have made London what it is today. To ignore that is to deny our collective heritage and history. That’s why I created the Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm to ensure that our statues, street names, and public landmarks better reflect London’s story.
Rhett Buttle: What would you add?
Mayor Khan: Being the Mayor of the greatest city in the world is an absolute privilege and I am working tirelessly to build a better London for everyone. Whether it is starting a record breaking 116,000 genuine affordable homes, reducing air pollution, or providing free school meals to hundreds of thousands of primary schoolchildren, I look back on these seven years with huge pride.
But I’m not done yet, I recognize there is plenty more work to do as we continue to build a safer, fairer, greener, and more prosperous city for all Londoners.
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