CEO Blog: “Business as usual” is no longer good enough

56% respondents thought that capitalism as it exists today does more harm than good in the world, that is one of the key findings of the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual survey of people around the globe that looks at levels of trust for government, business, NGOs and the media.

I’ve written previously about the importance of establishing trust for successful businesses, and the intervening years have only further proved how vital trust is to business.

In fact, I am sure most of us can name a handful of big businesses over the past few years that have displayed some serious lack of governance and transparency resulting in their collapse, with huge impacts on the economic well-being of the supply chain and their combined workforces.

These behaviours have undoubtably contributed the poor showing in the results of the 2020 survey.

“… It can no longer be business as usual, with an exclusive focus on shareholder returns. With 73 percent of employees saying they want the opportunity to change society, and nearly two-thirds of consumers identifying themselves as belief-driven buyers, CEOs understand that their mandate has changed.” – Richard Edelman, CEO, Edelman

Much of this seems to be driven by a growing number of consumers who identify as “belief-driven” buyers, who expect the brands they support to represent their views and attempt to solve social problems, that these businesses can and should be a powerful force for change in society and are willing to vote with their wallets if brands don’t live up to these expectations.

And of course, these values often drive where these consumers wish to work.

With this years’ barometer also identifying income inequality as a greater factor than economic growth when it comes to determining overall trust; the weight of evidence supporting businesses that profit with purpose and give employees both a stake and a say is growing.

We believe that Employee Ownership can provide the answers to many of the concerns raised in the Edelman Trust Barometer; 83% of employees surveyed identified these factors as some of their major concerns about the future of work and their own employment:

  • Freelance/gig economy
  • Looming recession
  • Lack of training/skills
  • Cheaper foreign competitors
  • Immigrants who work for less
  • Automation
  • Outsourcing jobs to other countries

These factors seem to point to a growing disconnect between employees and the organisations that they work for, Employee Ownership could relieve these feelings of disconnect by giving employees a real stake and a say in the organisations that they work for while allowing them to express their values.

Which is why our next event The Robert Oakeshott Lecture 2020, will see Naomi Climer CBE, Co-Chair of the Institute for the Future of Work delivering a lecture titled The Rise of the Robots: What Role for Employee Ownership in the 2030 Economy?”.

“Socially responsible automation is critical to spread the benefits of tech. We must craft the future of work, so it works for us all.” Naomi Climer CBE, Co-Chair of the Institute for the Future of Work

Employee Ownership is one of the ways that can help a business relieve these feelings of disconnect by giving employees a real stake and a say in the organisations that they work.

“Companies today realise that the more their customers trust in their products and their behaviour, the more their employees trust in their values….they realise that to create value financially, they need to meet the expectations to create value in wider society too. Put simply, trust is good for business” – Greg Medcraft, Director of the Directorate for Financial and Enterprise Affairs, OECD

I am confident that this decade could be the best yet for employee ownership and the findings of the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer suggest a real opportunity for business to reclaim public trust, but only if businesses are willing to be innovative, to challenge the more extractive models of capitalism that so many people seem to be dissatisfied with.

We call on those in power to support businesses that are less extractive and create more shared value.

We call on businesses to focus on their people who in turn can be empowered to drive performance and productivity, innovate and unite behind a common purpose.

With this in mind, if your business is planning its ownership succession or looking to scale up, then take the time to consider putting your trust into those who help your business to thrive – the employees  and talk to us to see if there is a model of employee ownership to suit your type of business.