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Big business needs purpose and partnership

Capitalism, like democracy, is not perfect, but globalisation has lifted a huge number of people out of poverty in recent decades. At the same time technology has advanced society rapidly. And yet, these transformations have come at a price for some. Significant numbers feel left behind, and unequivocally the gap between the haves and havenots has grown.

The CBI surveyed the general population in 2014 on attitudes to business and it was a wake-up call. Only 30% of those surveyed thought businesses acted ethically and only half thought business was a force for good. Those attitudes were probably reflected in the way the Brexit vote played out – many people simply didn’t believe all the economic warnings from business leaders about the impact of the UK leaving the EU.

Business today needs to be clearer about its purpose and the role it plays in society. That includes treating all stakeholders fairly – employees, customers, suppliers and community. That’s the route to sustainability and profitability. Most businesses understand that and most, too, will welcome the idea of a return to the notion of strong partnership with government and the idea of a clear industrial strategy. 

There are real advantages for business in working in partnership and in co-determination – not just partnering with government but working with trade unions and other interest groups. Partnership and mutual understanding are the way ahead; that includes reaching to areas of the UK that have been left behind economically.

A strategy for the UK is not just about backing winners but lifting everyone up across all parts of the economy.

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