The time has come for ethical capitalism, not as an optional extra, but as something that is critically important for consumer trust in business to flourish in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The public is brassed off with businesses not paying their dues to society and their voices are getting louder. They are sick of staff being badly treated and exploited, especially those who have zero-hours contracts imposed upon them, and rightly feel that those essential workers we have depended on during the pandemic deserve better treatment and better pay.
Yet this is not just about the workers, something which local employment charters may overlook. The public is also fed up with consumers being ripped off, suppliers being bullied and the environment being abused, not to mention the ogre of tax avoidance, depriving the state of much needed funds.
This recognition that all is not right in the world of UK business has been rumbling away in the background for years but the current climate is bringing the importance of responsible capitalism into the forefront of discussions and hopefully practice. The state is going to be in huge debt for the short to mid-term and everyone has to pull their weight. As such, all the clever scams that businesses employ to avoid UK tax, which are ostensibly legal but morally and ethically wrong, need to be brought into the spotlight as unacceptable. We need to demand a better way and the government must clamp down on them.
The Good Business Charter is a robust accreditation scheme which brings the public together across all the political spectrums to recognise care for employees, customers, suppliers and the environment, all whilst paying taxes according to the spirit of the law. It is wholeheartedly supported by the CBI, the TUC and trade associations. It launched in February but interest has remained high, in spite of Covid, from companies and charities of all sizes, (such that the GBC has recently extended its scheme to include the smallest businesses with less than 10 employees).
We are absolutely delighted than an iconic brand such as the TSB is working to these standards and making this important commitment by signing up. The first high street bank to do so, it joins other prestigious companies like Brompton, Capita, Deloitte, and London City Airport as well as many smaller organisations. We want to encourage many more organisations to join the GBC, to differentiate themselves and display their true colours with regard to their ethical position. We believe this will be in their interest because it will help consumers identify the good guys when it comes to choosing where they work and who they buy from.
The Good Business Charter is really simple to join and heavily subsidised in order to make it as accessible as possible. I believe it has a really important role to play in the post-Covid world and want to assure the public that we will be monitoring our members to ensure that our standards are upheld.
In these unprecedented times and with many challenges ahead, the collective efforts of these businesses has the potential to rebuild the world for the better.
Julian Richer, author of ‘The Ethical Capitalist’ and founder of the Good Business Charter, TaxWatch and ZeroHoursJustice
As published by City A.M. Monday 3rd August, 2020.