Politics, Poverty

We should be anti-bad business not anti-big business

George Osborne says that he is worried that the UK is becoming ‘anti-business’. What he means is anti-big business.

I mean, if failing mega corporations can’t hide their profits away to avoid tax and CEOs can’t claim obscene bonuses in peace why would they want to come to theUK? (Parliament reckon big business owes the tax man £25bn and that’s before we even start thinking about tax havens).

My greatest respect is saved for entrepreneurs that take personal financial risks and put in massively long hours to get their innovative idea up and running as a successful small business. It’s also small and medium sized businesses that create the most jobs and drive creative change.

Anti-bad business

But I’m not anti-small business or anti-big business, I’m anti-bad business that harms people and planet in the pursuit of profit.

As Rowntrees, the Cooperative bank and Marks and Spencer have shown down the years it’s perfectly possible to run large businesses that look after their workers and make healthy profits. Businesses don’t have to be doing something inherently ‘green’ or ‘charitable’ (e.g putting up solar panels or donating profits to ‘good works’) to be ethical.

Businesses can invest in and value their people rather than overworking them and then spitting them out. They can pay people a living wage and make it count by being rewarded by the best retention and productivity rates. Perhaps most importantly for big business they can rigorously investigate and take responsibility for their contracted out supply chains around the world. (When will IT companies stop wilfully shutting their eyes to wars and economic degradation that irresponsible mining of zinc and cobalt cause in central Africa?)

Jobless recovery?

Economists on both sides of the pond talk about a ‘jobless recovery’.

The phrase scares me.

It implies that companies are increasing their profits but not creating jobs. Economic productivity is not useful unless it creates quality jobs for the majority not massive wealth for corporations and a tiny minority. A recovery without jobs is no recovery at all. There’s little point in trying to get the benefits system right if we aren’t also focused on job creation.

Rebalancing and walking the walk

It’s easy for Labour and coalition politicians to talk about ‘rebalancing’ the economy, but it’s a tough ask. In practice they are terrified of losing the tax take from financial services that we are addicted to: £1 in £8 of the exchequers revenues.  Yet the city, aided and abetted by a negligent lack of political leadership and regulation have not contributed to the good of our society, but caused untold damage to the country which has not been fixed.

We urgently need to create a tax and regulatory environment that rolls out the red carpet for businesses of any size that pursues people, planet and profit together. As a country we should celebrate those businesses and people that are successful in doing this. We want reliable banks that lend well and wisely.

But for those not prepared to pull their socks up and contribute to the long term common good of the country it should be difficult to do business in the UK and George Osborne shouldn’t be frightened of saying so.

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