It’s a New Year, a fresh start, a chance for us to put 2017 and all it brought behind us and look forward. So that’s what we’ll do. Well, that’s what we’ll try to do. It is early January and already we’re enveloped in the usual worldly horrors, namely the collapse of Carillion. While the story itself and the tremors we can expect to feel are only starting to unfold, one of the facets to come out of it is the pay-out to the current and former board members either as dividends/bonuses or salaries. While this is, currently at least, very much a side point to the huge job losses, unpaid bills, and public sector services in disarray, it is the same story we are hearing time and again, the big guy staying protected and the little guy loses out.
The demise of Carillion comes swiftly after ‘Fat Cat Thursday’. This special day, just three working days into the year, is the day in which the country’s top CEO’s have taken home the same (if not more) money than the typical UK worker would earn in a year. Days and practises such as these do not do the world of business any favours and as we all know, it is an area that really could avoid yet more bad press. Yes, there are companies that are doing okay but even those success stories are still being tarnished by other factors. As such, leaders and boards are being thoroughly interrogated and asked what value are they actually bringing? There are 253 working days in 2018 so for one to match the average salary of 253 days with just three, these big bosses must be delivering over 80 times more value.
I appreciate it is easy to quote scaremongering statistics, a role which the media plays all too often, frequently negating the whole picture and allowing public frustrations to heighten. But, my point is that with the New Year, we can’t help but wish for a more positive outlook for the society we live in. And, is this too much to ask? Frankly, I’m tired of hoping for a fantasy which is quite simply is not feasible with the current societal structure, and I don’t think I’m the only one. I don’t think it is impossible for businesses to deliver value and do their best to work towards a fairer society.
In 2018, I look at our fragmented landscape and notice how many resistance groups there are, how many movements and drives exist against the current business, political and societal environments we live in. It is tremendously uplifting to notice the wider engagement from the public with the spheres of influence and power and how an individual can use the grassroots power of social media and positive action to provoke change. But, at the same time, I wonder how much is being listen to? How much will really change?
I look at Carillion and I look at ‘Fat Cat Thursday’, I look at the pay gap, gender inequality and the disproportionate living standards in our society and I realise that what’s needed is systemic change. We can no longer exist on this survival of the fittest principle, which, quite frankly, has been around for too long.
In 2018, we, as society, need great leaders to unify us. Whether we need to be re-educated that true wealth is not about your earnings or your position, but about your life experiences. Or whether actually the true mark of a great leader will be those that say, ‘I have enough’ and share their excess with others around them, I don’t have the answers, but one thing I know for sure is that we need change.
This year, why shouldn’t we challenge businesses to stretch themselves beyond the returns of pay to the board and value to the shareholders? Why shouldn’t we ask them to demonstrate their worth? Why can’t we demand more? I want to live in a world where we can celebrate the earnings of our great leaders as they have achieved incredible things and offered us real value. Ultimately, I suppose I want to look forward to 2018 as the year when we, as a society, question what represents success and how, together, we can achieve amazing things, things that are worth celebrating.
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