On the day where business leaders are gathering at the Confederation of British Industry for its annual conference, Ernst and Young has told Huff Post UK there is increasing appetite for "responsible capitalism".
Martin Cook, managing partner for commercial at Ernst & Young UK & Ireland, said in the aftermath of the global economic crisis, business, political and religious leaders have all returned to the question of how successful corporations can put wider objectives than making money at the heart of their agendas.
"There is an increased appetite to understand how this can work. This isn't about stopping wealth creation it's about bringing about shared value for both the organisation and its respective stakeholders, from clients and customers to people and society," he told Huff Post UK.
"This is not about a series of bolt-on activities, however stunning in their own rights, but a philosophy or mission right at the centre of a business that drives what it does and how its people behave."
Diageo, with its commitment to significant reduction in water usage and Unilever with its Sustainable Living Plan, were highlighted by Cook as two firms leading the way with responsible capitalism. Other sectors, including professional practices, are developing their approaches on the wider agenda of shared value, he said.
E&Y itself also invests in a number of initiatives designed to make a significant contribution to social business problems, including its on-going work as one of the founders of the Social Business Trust, which invests in UK social enterprises; establishing the charity ThinkForward with the Private Equity Foundation, to help reduce the number of school children at risk of becoming Neets (not in education, employment or training); and Accelerate, a programme of free workshops for new business leaders and social entrepreneurs.
In it for the long haul
Martin said Ernst & Young is committed to growing successfully while at the same time making the difference to its people, to its clients and to society.
“We believe that only businesses with this approach will succeed in future. It is a virtuous circle,” he said. “The more we make the difference the more attractive we are to the people who want a career in our firm, the better the relationships and understanding we have with our clients, and the better the performance of our business.”
CBI president Sir Roger Carr is expected to touch on the subject during his speech to the conference on 19 November; he will say that businesses must act as role models if they are to succeed.
According to a pre-released speech excerpt, Carr will say: "We must demonstrate that we are a generation that is focussed not just on how much money we make, but how we make money; we must salvage the reputation of business.
“As businesses and individuals, standards have been variable, greed prevalent and fairness forgotten in a number of sectors – banking and media at the forefront, but others from all walks of life showing signs of bad behaviour.
"But lessons have been learned, banking boards and practices have been refreshed, media moguls chastised and executive greed contained – all by a mixture of regulation, legislation, stewardship and boardroom discipline. The direction of travel is positive – there remains more to do."
The CBI is the UK's leading business organisation, speaking for some 240,000 businesses that together employ around a third of the private sector workforce.