Many were surprised by Theresa May’s first public address, as the new UK Prime Minister, when her core demand was for: “A country that works for everyone, not just for the privileged few” and for responsible capitalism and curbs on executive pay and rapacious takeovers.
In fact, the PM’s demand stems logically from the result of the referendum and the underlying discontent revealed by the vote for Brexit. In large parts of the UK people felt disconnected from any success globalisation has brought over the past decades. These people believed that the ‘Establishment’, including the country’s banks and big businesses, which had taken all the benefits of globalisation, was indifferent to their plight. While London and the City were booming many post-industrial communities remained in decline as a result of globalisation and these communities voted for Brexit.
In a recent article, ‘Society for All?’, Professor David Grayson, Director of The Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility, at Cranfield School of Management, looks in depth at this development and suggests that it presents “an opportunity for a national and maybe even international conversation about how globalisation can be made to work for the many and not just the few: how to create a fairer, more inclusive, responsible and sustainable society.”
In a business context two themes, often previously covered by IEDP, are fundamental to building a more responsible capitalism. First is the establishment of better corporate governance reflecting the need for greater diversity in boards and for boards to raise their focus from short term profit to encompass wider stakeholder needs. Secondly the rebuilding of trust in corporate leadership. Which is where executive education can play a major part.
Initiatives to promote responsible business are not new. The Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility was established in 2007. The thing that is new is the growing pressure for change, which began with the 2008 financial crisis and a sense that irresponsible bankers and businesses have not been held to account. This has accelerated with many revelations about corporate malpractice, with accusations of massive tax avoidance by global giants such as Amazon and Google, and now with uncertainty about the value of globalisation.
Added to this the voices of protest have been greatly strengthened by the recent growth of social media which facilitates the exposure of bad practices, feeds into 24/7 news coverage and militates towards greater transparency and ultimately more responsible better business.
The Doughty Centre defines a 'responsible business' as one that:
- Is committed to minimising any negative impacts on the environment and wider community
- Adopts ethical and transparent business practices with respect for employees, the environment and wider community
- Is designed to deliver sustainable value for stakeholders and communities
- Fully integrates sustainability and responsibility into day-to-day business practices
According to Grayson there is no shortage of ideas for how to create a more inclusive, responsive, sustainable and long-term form of capitalism and society.
Let the debate proceed in earnest and in the UK at least with the explicit backing of the Government.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE ‘SOCIETY FOR ALL?’ HERE
The Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility, at Cranfield School of Management