George Osborne has been facing criticism after he called on the Institute of Directors (IOD) to defend the free market economy against the “anti-business views” of “plenty of pressure groups…trade unions.. and charities”.
Many of those in the IOD will no doubt have dismissed Osbourne’s statements as naïve, and one of the issues with certain professional politicians is that they live in a theoretical world, with little experience or understanding of the nuances of business, nor of the importance of demonstrating a human face to our customers.
This morning, an unfortunate store manager within the Morrisons estate experienced the social media backlash of exactly what happens when you put business-before-people, after he allegedly forced an 89 year old pensioner to stand outside in the cold to sell his poppies. Morrisons’ head office has been back-peddling fast but will not be thanking their store manager for this PR gaffe. (#Morrisons Taunton is currently trending).
It is no coincidence that most successful major businesses expend significant resource developing Corporate Social and Environmental Responsibility (CSER) policies and practices; building relationships with their work-force; partnering with a variety of Charities and NGOs; and listening hard to pressure groups.
Open any company report and you will find statements around caring for the environment; championing the use of natural and sustainable ingredients, sourcing from fair-trade farms and factories where employees are not abused or enslaved; using recycled and recyclable materials; reducing waste; choosing lower carbon transport solutions; and examples of how the head office employees have got together to raise funds for charitable causes.
These policies and practices aren’t just about “doing the right thing” because it makes us feel good. These are hard nosed commercial businesses, who make these choices because it makes good business sense:-
– Reducing waste reduces costs.
– Avoiding potentially harmful ingredients reduces risk of future litigation.
– Spending time getting the unions and work-force on board pays dividends as happy teams work harder, and less production is lost through dispute.
– Making healthier, environmentally and socially sound choices and tying in with good causes makes customers trust our brands more than other brands which are less caring.
Recognising these facts demonstrates “Good Corporate Governance”, – one of the absolute keys to successful shareholder management
The world has changed. In this connected world, dodgy practices can no longer be swept under the carpet, and businesses (and politicians) need to demonstrate they are in touch with the hopes, fears, wishes and needs of their customers.
It all boils down to one word:- TRUST
Get the right balance of “People, Planet and Profit” and your business will grow.
Follow Mr Osbourne’s mono-dimensional advice and, in pursuit of Mammon, ride rough-shod over the global communities who you rely upon, then you will be found out and very publicly called out. Such poor governance risks a business being abandoned by its consumers and customers, its employees, and ultimately its share-holders.
I’m not in the business of writing speeches for the leader of the opposition, but I imagine this could be held up as an example of Mr Osbourne not just being out of touch with the public, but out of touch with business too.
Chris Collis is an award winning CIM Chartered Marketer and Director of Marketing Walk.