The Business Standards Bill will judge businesses based on their treatment of employees and the community, Politics Home, September 30, 2020, John McDonnell
Environment and wellbeing come to the fore
The pandemic has made us all reassess how our society and our economy operates. Of course, our main focus has to be on how we tackle and get through the pandemic.
But there has been a view expressed by many including the Prime Minister that lessons should be learnt from this crisis and he and others have said as we come through the pandemic we must build back better.
Within our economy the pandemic has exposed much of what’s good but also regrettably some of what’s just not acceptable.
If we are to learn lessons and build back better as the Prime Minister has urged us, we need a system that recognises and celebrates good practice in our economy. And one that certainly does not lend support to those that fail to live up to basic business standards and undercut others that do.
My Bill seeks to introduce system for accrediting businesses on their behaviour in a number of key areas – the treatment of their employees, their impact on the environment and the payment of taxes.
Through the WI lens
This article by the former Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer sets out a ten-minute rule bill he has proposed for demanding better standards of business. Coming from an isolated figure in the opposition, it has little chance of becoming law, but does resonate strongly with views being aired widely within the business world itself: that in ‘building back better’ after the pandemic, the culture of companies needs to change significantly for the long term. There’s a growing sense that ESG – Environmental, Social and Governance – considerations must play a bigger part in companies in future, and that’s partly because consumers are demanding it.
One recent survey, for example, found that 37% of UK and Irish consumers are more conscious of the environment as a result of the pandemic – perhaps because lockdown gave people time to reflect on it. It also comes from employees, with a strong sense that, as a result of many now working from home, the employer-employee contract will have to change.
Part of that is transactional. Why, for example, give employees perks like slick company cars, a trip to a sales conference or a season ticket loan, when what they really want is support with their mental wellbeing, help with childcare, and flexibility to establish a true work/life balance? In the new ‘consensual contract’ between employer and worker, what’s required is a commitment from the employer to safeguard the wellbeing of their people, and a commitment in return from employees to take personal responsibility for their performance of their job. Corporate culture, in other words, is due for a reset, and many think it is long overdue.
What this article goes on to explain is how positive thinking – described here as ‘thriving’ – can counter the effects that come from the negativity outlined above, from reduced memory to diminished performance. Based on studying people in a series of organisations in different industries, one of the authors has found that people who attain this state are more resilient, experience less burnout, and are more confident in their ability to take control of a situation
“Behind the jargon what this is really about is how we address the challenge of biodiversity under threat, move away from fossil materials like plastic and concrete, and use nature in a sustainable way, all of which could be summed up by “living in harmony with nature”.”
“In the new ‘consensual contract’ between employer and worker, what’s required is a commitment from the employer to safeguard the wellbeing of their people, and a commitment in return from employees to take personal responsibility for their performance of their job.”
“Could loneliness not only be damaging our mental and physical health but also be making the world a more aggressive, angry place? And if so, what are the implications for a cohesive society and democracy?”
“On such fragile foundations are built the first steps towards a more ethical kind of business, and who knows what virtuous circles might result?”
“Scientific evidence recently emerged that, contrary to earlier beliefs, Covid-19 can be spread by tiny droplets that we breathe out when we respire, called aerosols.”
“Economic wellbeing is part of the story, but it is also about finding less stressful lifestyles, in which healthy diet figures as a meaningful measure of success.”
“The industry has every asset needed to be a guiding light in the shift toward personal health priority. Will that become a prevention legacy, a ‘phoenix rising’ from the Covid-19 ashes?”
“Looking at the bigger picture, putting the measures in this order represents a lost opportunity that the pandemic could have offered for a cultural pivot pivot towards getting people more focused on their health, a powerful statement of intent.”
“Employment is necessary to fulfil our most basic human needs such as food and shelter. Any significant increase in long-term unemployment will spell a retrograde step for human wellbeing like no other.”