Oh dear. That’s usually my reaction when I see something like this in my inbox: “Building a country that works for everyone: Independent Panel publishes report on putting values at the heart of our businesses.”
The main aim of these panels seems to be to allow the worthies that make up their membership to pat themselves on the back when they’ve done their work and to allow the Government to pat itself on the back at the same time. Look, see, we’re doing something!
For some reason the one that issued the above communique was put together under the auspices of the Department for Culture, Media & Sport, as opposed to, say, the Business Department, or (even better) the Treasury.
Were it have recommended anything requiring real action on the part of Government, and especially real money, as opposed to vague talk of partnerships and persuading people to be nice, it would have found its way into Chancellor Philip Hammond’s recycling bin.
But it doesn’t. So that’s alright.
“On a Mission in the UK Economy. Current state of play, vision and recommendations from the advisory panel to the Mission-led Business Review 2016” contains ten core proposals that are all about being nice. It is true that among them is a request for businesses to to put up some money. But no one’s going to force them to if they don’t want to.
Look, I’ve no doubt that the members of the panel are sincere. The chairman is Nigel Wilson, the boss of life insurer Legal & General. I was once invited to pay homage to the great man, and came away with the impression that here was someone that actually bought into some of the stuff about inclusion, ethical behaviour and businesses being a part of society that I’m always banging on about.
The idea of a mission business - a profit driven enterprise that aims to have a social impact - sounds good in principle, if you can get past the terrible name. Mr Wilson and his friends even have some ideas about helping them get bigger.
But here’s the thing. Does a fractured society that has fallen right out of love with big business really need “mission businesses”. Or does it just need ordinary businesses to take a hard look at themselves and consider the context in which they operate.
I’m thinking the latter. I spent five minutes mulling over the issue and came up with a few recommendations of my own that I think would go some way towards creating a society that works for all. It wasn’t all that hard. My list is shorter even than the aforementioned report’s executive summary.
Here it is: Treat your employees fairly.
Start hiring from a wider pool of candidates (and sack your recruitment consultants if they won’t help) so that your workforce better reflects the diverse society we live in.
Stop paying executives absurd amounts of money that they don’t deserve and that damage social cohesion.
Do right by your customers. Listen to them, I mean really listen to them, rather than simply relying on survey companies to do the job.
Stop mucking up the planet.
Put a few quid back into the community.
Tell your business lobby groups not to complain so loudly when businesses are asked to pay their fair share in tax. Tell your business lobby groups not to complain so loudly when someone suggests that it might be an idea to give workers a fair shake.
Did I miss anything there?
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