Wales needs a purpose beyond profit

As part of Responsible Business Week 2018, Matt Appleby (Director, BITC Cymru) considers the kind of business Wales needs. 

Wales needs a purpose beyond profit if it is to succeed in this brave new world. 

In a world of mistrust of institutions, experts, fake news and disconnection from the political process, now is the time to embark on a dynamic and challenging conversation about the kind of growth, and the kind of business we want to see in Wales. 

We can't continue with the status quo

Ever since its inception, Business in the Community (BITC) Cymru has firmly believed there is a fundamentally positive role for business to play in society. Without successful businesses at the heart of communities, we cannot hope to build thriving and sustainable places. But what kind of business do we want?

Corporate scandals and behaviour driven by short-term financial incentives have undermined trust in business. These stories are exacerbated by the changing nature of work, huge demographic shifts and the disruption and displacement of many roles in industries affected by increased automation and digital capacity. Recent reporting put as many as one in three jobs in Wales at risk because of increased automation and digital capacity.

What we need next

Companies that put the pursuit of profit ahead of the needs of employees, customers and communities are not sustainable. What Welsh business needs is a purpose beyond profit – we need more responsible, purposeful businesses. 

We have moved on from Milton Friedman and the business of business being business. The idea of CSR predicated on “doing less harm” is also behind us. Now in front of all of us, is the ever-increasing expectation that businesses will seek opportunities to actively do good as part of day-to-day operations. Responsible business is about how employers make money, not just about how philanthropically any profits are spent.

More consumers and prospective employees want to buy from and work for companies which doing good and making a genuine, positive difference. Reports from GlobeScan (June 2016) shows that 65% of consumers want to support purposeful companies and the Deloitte Millennial Survey (2016) indicates that 60% of young employees want to join businesses with a purpose. People want to spend their time and energy in support of organisations which a clear, identifiable purpose.

The business Wales needs

A responsible business puts purpose, values and leadership at its heart. In turn, these help to drive positive, employee and community focussed behaviours. It is a different way of doing business and an opportunity for us all to contribute to creating a fairer, more sustainable Wales. 

This is the kind of business that Wales needs – responsible, purposeful and values-led.