What kind of world do we want to live in? If the events of the past 12 months have presented human society with huge challenges, they have also offered each of us a historic opportunity to take stock of our lives and our direction.
From the social and economic faultlines laid bare by the pandemic, to the ongoing struggles for equality and safety on the streets. From the future of democracy and capitalism to the almost overwhelming realities of the climate emergency. Rarely in human history has there been greater urgency for us to be at our best and make positive changes for each other and our planet.
This turbulent, extraordinary year has touched every individual, but also poses huge questions to businesses. How do we recover and come back stronger in the short term? What will we do to protect and preserve our planet? Are we ready to acknowledge our responsibility in making positive change for the society in which we operate?
As business leaders, how to align the long-term interests of all stakeholders – from shareholders to our employees and the planet – is the key question we all face. What those who have succeeded have been able to demonstrate (many of whom are leaders of fellow B Corp companies) is that it is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do. They have proven emphatically that it’s possible to deliver strong returns for investors while behaving in a responsible way.
This is why I’m a passionate supporter of the Better Business Act, which has its Parliamentary Reception today. Its ambition is to create a clearer legal framework for directors to align the long-term needs of all stakeholders with a simple amendment to the existing Companies Act.
Behind the Better Business Act is a broad – and growing – coalition of businesses, including many within our industry: household names like Waitrose, Iceland, Danone, Ben & Jerry’s, ourselves at Innocent, BrewDog, Cook and Abel & Cole, as well as hundreds of others, of all shapes and sizes, across the UK. And it is not just businesses who are behind the BBA: a range of thought leaders and academics including Paul Polman, Social Value UK and the Institute of Directors are vocal supporters.
As co-chair of the Better Business Act coalition, I believe our sector can and will lead the way. The dynamics of businesses within our industry mean that balancing people, profit and planet is nothing new for many of us, but we need to make sure that it becomes the mandated mindset for all companies across the UK. We have shown in the past 12 months that we can rise to a challenge as a sector: I ask that we maintain that can-do spirit as we all work to build back better. If you share this vision, please ensure your company pledges its support for the campaign on our website and spread the news of our efforts. For the image of business to be restored in the eyes of the public, it is essential that the leaders of today are seen to be shaping new and higher standards for tomorrow.
With enough support from businesses at every level, we can work with those at Westminster to turn our vision into reality. The UK has a proud tradition of leading the way in corporate governance, and this proposed change will represent a hugely important step towards a reset that is long overdue. In a year when the eyes of the world are on us as we host the G7 and COP26 summits, this revised act would be both a strong symbol of positive change and a powerful mechanism through which it can be achieved.
The opportunity for action is directly in front of us. If we seize the moment as leaders, I am confident that business will be at the heart of securing a fairer and more sustainable future for everyone.