There is so much rhetoric around at the moment on responsible business! Think tanks are churning out reports at the rate of knots and even the CBI’s annual conference was titled ‘Build Back Better’. It has been encouraging to see the results of various polls that show that the public are demanding responsible behaviour and are outraged at the fact that even disreputable businesses may receive a government bailout or seem to be able to take advantage of government schemes, then act without scruples and face no consequences.
So, plenty of talk, but what about action? Why talk about responsible behaviour in the midst of a pandemic when even the very basics for a business are under threat? With a second lockdown in place and non-essential shops, hospitality, gyms and theatres closed again, where is there space to talk about this subject?
Firstly, we would state categorically that it is the right thing to do. It is morally correct to treat your stakeholders fairly, especially your own employees that as a business owner you rely upon so heavily. But more than that, it actually makes good business sense to act responsibly. It is proven to yield tangible results for businesses. Happy employees apply themselves better to their jobs which means they are more productive and they also treat customers better. There really is a virtual circle here.
The Good Business Charter is an accreditation that seeks to bring together various different components of being a responsible business. Each component has its own value but if you pay your employees well but abuse the environment, or pay your fair share of tax but exploit suppliers by not paying them promptly, the overall impact is damaging. The healthiest businesses are those that adopt a more holistic approach. They listen to their employees, treat them well and invest in their community including future generations through care for the environment and payment of taxes. They also seek to do right by their suppliers, throughout their supply chain, and serve their customers well.
Whether big or small, some organisations hold the importance of acting responsibly as a core value, whilst others are driven by profit at all costs. Are stakeholders seen as individuals with their own contribution to the business’ overall success, or simply ‘resources’ to be expended and dispensed with when no longer seeming to be useful? This is one of the things the pandemic has taught us. Essential workers should not further down the line become dispensable workers. During Covid-19 we have depended on some of the lowest paid workers in our society to keep things going – the supermarket stackers, health care assistants in care homes that have been family and everything to the residents during this time.
When someone decides to start a business, it is to contribute to society whilst making a profit and those that grasp the virtuous cycle of treating others well and seeing that benefit the business as a whole, find all this rhetoric about responsible and ethical business common-sense, a no-brainer. They should be rewarded for this, which is why the Good Business Charter accreditation exists, for businesses of all sizes to receive recognition for the care they give to their employees, suppliers, customers and the environment all whilst paying their taxes according to the spirit of the law.
Since we launched the Good Business Charter, many have told us of how it is a really good fit for SMEs – it is an opportunity for SMEs to lead the way and show the public that being responsible matters. We can only hope the big guys take notice and follow suit. In the midst of a pandemic there is no time to lose to show the general public what you prioritise.