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Economy

Lisa Nandy MP: saying goodbye to ‘antisocial’ business

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Lisa Nandy, Labour MP for Wigan and chair of the all-party parliamentary group on international corporate responsibility, speaks to Alex Blackburne about the role of government in encouraging sustainable business.

More than 1,000 workers died when a Bangladeshi garment factory – the Rana Plaza – collapsed on April 24 last year. It is one of the worst factory disasters in history.

The Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, signed by major retailers like H&M and Marks & Spencer, was introduced less than a month later. Nevertheless, the incident cast dark shadows on western fashion brands whose products were manufactured in Bangladesh and at other factories elsewhere in the developing world.

For Lisa Nandy, the Labour MP for Wigan, Rana Plaza represented the latest in a long line of tragedies that place key social or environmental issues centre stage. She is chair of the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on international corporate responsibility, which she founded in 2010. Former Green party leader and current MP Caroline Lucas is vice-chair, as are Labour’s Jon Cruddas and Lib Dem Martin Horwood.

Established because of what Nandy calls the “growing sense” among politicians that business needed to be held to the same legal standards and moral responsibilities as the rest of society, the APPG’s brief is to “raise awareness on issues surrounding business, human rights and the environment”.

Nandy explains that it watches how businesses respond to disasters like Rana Plaza with keen eyes.

“Another disaster will then crop up in some other area of business, and that’s when the spotlight will fall on that. That’s one of the reasons why we actually set the group up – actually, we don’t think that that’s good enough.”

The APPG’s pressure is primarily directed at British-based multinationals. Nandy says its actions build on work by Cruddas and fellow Labour MP Jon Trickett, who had lobbied to make sure there were ways companies could be held to account in the UK – often because it was sometimes difficult to do so in countries where the offences were taking place.

The Companies Act passed through parliament in 2006, putting in place some measures to hold companies to account for their actions overseas. Four years later, the APPG was set up with Nandy as chair. One of its priorities, she says, is to work with companies in advance of disasters to check they’re doing the right things.

She explains, “We’ve brought in companies to parliament who are trying to operate to much higher ethical and environmental standards and other people in their field to try and showcase the work that they’ve done. But the trouble with the current system is it doesn’t recognise or reward that sort of behaviour.

One of the points that businesses consistently make to us is that when they do try to do this, they’re undercut by other companies who aren’t doing the same. The UK government’s response to that by default is often that British businesses can’t do this alone.

We don’t think that’s good enough. We think that the UK government has to firstly bring pressure to an international level to make sure all businesses are operating to those same standards, and secondly, we think that it also should be working with UK businesses, to help them meet their obligations.”

Of particular concern to Nandy and the APPG is the strategy deployed by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), which she says has chosen to  to target emerging or developing countries since the financial crash.

She picks out Colombia as one example, saying the country has “real problems” in terms of human rights and environmental standards – which the government and British companies investing there are not tackling quickly enough.

We don’t think that the government – especially when you look at countries like Colombia – will be able to mainstream those conversations. The trade conversations happen separately from human rights conversations. That’s not sustainable and doesn’t produce the results we need”, Nandy says.

So what’s the answer? Nandy believes the government could do much more to incentivise best practice in terms of sustainability. Those businesses leading the way on social or environmental issues could be given a lot more support.

On the other hand, she says the current system “supports businesses that aren’t operating ethically”, pointing towards UK Export Finance – the UK’s export credit guarantee department set up to underwrite the activities of UK businesses operating abroad.

The APPG wrote a report in December 2012 that found the vast majority of export finance funding went towards the aerospace industry. Furthermore, it failed to conduct thorough checks on a company’s supply chain and didn’t require information on ethical activities like child labour. Despite the apparent “will” in government to accept the report’s recommendations, Nandy says there has been little  action so far.

As for the feedback from business on the APPG’s work, she claims responses have ranged from uninterested to committed. Others see social and environmental sustainability as a tokenistic add-on.

Nandy accepts that the issues are by no means simple. Long-term commitment from every aspect of a business is required – from the CEO to the employees on the ground. But she adds there are some companies who clearly do get it.

I’ve come from the perspective that there’s no such thing as good or bad businesses; there are businesses that are trying and ones that aren’t. Our point really is that the government isn’t doing enough to make sure the odds are stacked in the favour of companies who get it and not skewed towards those companies that aren’t interested.

As Caroline Lucas has said before, no business has the right to behave antisocially. This is an antisocial form of behaviour and it is a moral issue. A number of business leaders have made that point to me – they didn’t go into business to destroy the environment or harm people’s lives. At the end of the day, this is a moral argument.”

Further reading:

Report calls for businesses to move from ‘doing less harm’ to having positive impact

21st century leadership: from business as usual to business as a force for good

M&S among four UK firms named on world’s ‘most ethical’ companies list

Why businesses must ‘shape and innovate’

Success means seeing ourselves as part of the bigger system

Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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Economy

Report: Green, Ethical and Socially Responsible Finance

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“The level of influence that ethical considerations have over consumer selection of financial services products and services is minimal, however, this is beginning to change. Younger consumers are more willing to pay extra for products provided by socially responsible companies.” Jessica Morley, Mintel’s Financial Services Analyst.

Consumer awareness of the impact consumerism has on society and the planet is increasing. In addition, the link between doing good and feeling good has never been clearer. Just 19% of people claim to not participate in any socially responsible activities.

As a result, the level of attention that people pay to the green and ethical claims made by products and providers is also increasing, meaning that such considerations play a greater role in the purchasing decision making process.

However, this is less true in the context of financial services, where people are much more concerned about the performance of a product rather than green and ethical factors. This is not to say, however, that they are not interested in the behaviour of financial service providers or in gaining more information about how firms behave responsibly.

This report focuses on why these consumer attitudes towards financial services providers exist and how they are changing. This includes examination of the wider economy and the current structure of the financial services sector.

Mintel’s exclusive consumer research looks at consumer participation in socially responsible activities, trust in the behaviour of financial services companies and attitudes towards green, ethical and socially responsible financial services products and providers. The report also considers consumer attitudes towards the social responsibilities of financial services firms and the green, ethical and socially responsible nature of new entrants.

There are some elements missing from this report, such as conducting socially responsible finance with OTC trading. We will cover these other topics in more detail in the future. You can research about Ameritrade if you want to know more ..

By this report today: call: 0203 416 4502 | email: iainooson[at]mintel.com

Report contents:

OVERVIEW
What you need to know
Report definition
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The market
Ethical financial services providers: A question of culture
Investment power
Consumers need convincing
The transformative potential of innovation
Consumers can demand change
The consumer
For financial products, performance is more important than principle
Competition from technology companies
Financial services firms perceived to be some of the least socially responsible
Repaying the social debt
Consumer trust is built on evidence
What we think
ISSUES AND INSIGHTS
Creating a more inclusive economy
The facts
The implications
Payments innovation helps fundraising go digital
The facts
The implications
The social debt of the financial crisis
The facts
The implications
THE MARKET – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Ethical financial services providers: A question of culture
Investment power
Consumers need convincing
The transformative potential of innovation
Consumers can demand change
PUTTING FINANCIAL SERVICES IN AN ETHICAL CONTEXT
An ethical economy
An ethical financial sector
Ethical financial services providers
GREEN, ETHICAL AND SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE ISSUES IN FINANCIAL SERVICES
The role of investing
Divestment
The change potential of pensions
The role of trust
Greater transparency informs decisions
Learning from past mistakes
The role of innovation
Payments innovation: Improving financial inclusion
Competition from new entrants
The power of new money
The role of the consumer
Consumers empowered to make a change
Aligning products with self
THE CONSUMER – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
For financial products, performance is more important than ethics
Financial services firms perceived to be some of the least socially responsible
Competition from technology companies
Repaying the social debt
Consumer trust is built on evidence
Overall trust levels are high
THE ETHICAL CONSUMER – SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE ACTIVITIES
Payments innovation can boost charitable donations
Consumer engagement in socially responsible activities is high
Healthier finances make it easier to go green
SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE COMPANIES
37% unable to identify socially responsible companies
Building societies seen to be more responsible than banks….
….whilst short-term loan companies are at the bottom of the pile
CONSUMER TRUST IN THE BEHAVIOUR OF FINANCIAL SERVICES COMPANIES
Overall trust levels are high
Tax avoidance remains a major concern
The divestment movement
Nationwide significantly more trusted
Trust levels remain high
CONSUMER ATTITUDES TOWARDS GREEN AND ETHICAL FINANCIAL PRODUCTS
For financial products, performance is more important than principle
Socially conscious consumers are more concerned
CONSUMER ATTITUDES TOWARDS TRANSPARENCY
Strategy reports provide little insight for consumers
Lack of clarity regarding corporate culture causes concern
Consumers want more information
THE ROLE OF FINANCIAL SERVICES FIRMS IN SOCIETY
The social debt of the financial crisis
THE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF FINANCIAL SERVICES FIRMS
For consumers, financial services firms play larger economic role
Promoting financial responsibility
CHALLENGER COMPANIES AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Consumer trust is built on evidence
The alternative opportunity
The target customer

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