Responsible business can help solve social ills - MP
BRITAIN S social ills cannot be solved by legislation and regulation alone – only the collaboration of enlightened business and other social groups can deliver the results, says Huntingdon s MP. Jonathan Djanogly, who is also a corporate lawyer, has devot
BRITAIN'S social ills cannot be solved by legislation and regulation alone - only the collaboration of enlightened business and other social groups can deliver the results, says Huntingdon's MP.
Jonathan Djanogly, who is also a corporate lawyer, has devoted much of the past year to developing a policy on "responsible business" that could shape a future Conservative Government's attitude to public governance and business ethics.
During that time, he and the five co-authors of his report interviewed more than 150 organisations, including most of the FTSE 100 companies before concluding that enlightened self-interest in big business had a crucial role to play in social problem-solving and in helping and encouraging SMEs to play their part.
In a polemic running to 20-pages the authors conclude that Government should step back from trying to solve problems on its own. Instead, it should lead and facilitate a series of "responsibility deals" involving relevant businesses collaborating with other groups in society to address issues of public concern.
The group cites matters such as obesity and problem drinking as opportunities for responsibility deals, pointing out that the market for organic agriculture emerged from the interests of farmers, retailers, investors, consumers and civil society coming together to achieve a common goal.
The working group says new laws are not needed. "We believe that encouraging more responsible business practice does not require significant new legislation. Much of the legislation and regulation needed is already in place. It simply needs to be used more effectively."
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Although it moves a long way from the Thatcherite economics of the 1980s, the group maintains that markets are still the most effective mechanism for producing goods and services with both a financial and social value and in generating innovation and responsible business practice.
The authors believe companies' responsible behaviour will usually be seen to coincide with their commercial interests. "Many business leaders believe that responding to wider social and environmental challenges is simply the right thing to do." But they stress that it is the Government's responsibility to step in when free markets produce undesirable social and environmental outcomes.
Under responsibility deals "Government, business and civil society would jointly define the issue needing attention, agree which party is best placed to do what and move forward with defined responsibilities and agreed goals and targets.
"Participants would be drawn from businesses and business-representative bodies, non-government organisations and the voluntary sector, academic institutions, regulators, government bodies and investors."
They offer tackling obesity as an example of how the scheme might work. Overseen by, say, the Secretary of State for Health, relevant civil, governmental organisations would be identified. The deal would have to tease out how different factors such as the role of regular exercise, the composition of various food products, and education might combine to address the problem, and then to decide who would do what and do it.
For example, companies might change the ingredients of the goods they sell or change their advertising, schools might improve education of healthy eating, and the Government could weigh in with a campaign to promote better diet.
Corporate "laggards" would have to explain publicly why they were not taking part in the process.
INFORMATION: The full report is at