B Corp’s Vision for an Inclusive and Regenerative Economy is a Blueprint for How Businesses Can Help Our Society Thrive Post-COVID
By Ian Porée, Seetec’s Chief Executive Officer.
The pandemic has raised a fundamental debate about how our society intends to continue to enhance inclusion and prosperity across all parts of the United Kingdom.
COVID-19 has stalled or reversed progress in some areas, unemployment is high, health inequalities are more obvious than ever, and a generation of young people have had their education and path into employment disrupted. There is a risk that the Government’s commitment to levelling up will be brought to a standstill. It will still take many years for us to fully understand the true impact of the pandemic, but we cannot afford to wait that long to take the opportunity to build a more inclusive society.
UK PLC has always had an important role to play in responding to the national prosperity gap, but niche or limited and sector specific targeted activity is no longer sufficient for our modern and globally connected society. There are too many interdependencies nowadays to be able to compartmentalise whole sectors off. Extending the reach of companies to deliver further environmental gains, working with disadvantaged communities to provide more opportunities and investing in workforce development are rightly no longer seen as fringe issues. These are now becoming viewed as the core operating principles for business. As a B Corp certified business, Seetec is committed to furthering the economic and social ambitions that this movement continues to provide leadership on.
B Corp wants to drive a new and meaningful change to the way commercial activity is delivered. It is about working to establish a better relationship between the private sector, the public sector and civil society, to remove structural inequality and provide a greater voice for those who feel marginalised. This is particularly relevant now as our society considers what a post-COVID world will look like.
One of the main public policy initiatives pursued by B Corp is the Better Business Act – which aims to change the law so that all UK companies take ownership of their social and environmental impact. This could be achieved by changing the Companies Act (2006) to include a ’director’s priority’ which is defined as pursuing the holistic interests of stakeholders, rather than primarily gearing the focus purely on the commercial success of a company. It is hoped that this legal change will encourage businesses to create shared prosperity for everyone in our society which will be more sustainable for us all. Now more than ever, this attempt to adapt the country’s existing model on how we conduct commerce is worthy of serious consideration as the lockdowns have paralysed our economy.
As an employee-owned business group, social value and how we enhance the opportunities available to people so that everyone in our society can achieve their full potential is a key priority. Extending opportunity forms part of the wider inclusion agenda B Corp continues to raise awareness of, which we fully endorse. Delivering a more inclusive approach to the recovery from COVID-19 will be crucial in the coming months with employee-owned businesses like Seetec being in a prime position to take a more prominent leadership role to help increase the country’s economic competitiveness through employment and skills support. Driven by a deep-rooted commitment to delivering greater social value in the communities that we serve, there is a willingness to work in the national interest to ensure the recovery from COVID-19 is a success.
Employee-owned businesses give a credible example of how a ‘Better Business’ approach operates in practice. They achieve greater democratisation of governance structures. This is through greater employee representation, proactive campaigns to enhance diversity and inclusion, and the promotion of environmental initiatives to reduce the impact of their carbon footprint. Importantly, they strive to build a culture that puts their customers or service users first.
The employee-ownership model we have pursued as a business has been transformative. It has enabled us to better align our commercial and societal objectives to establish a footprint that can strengthen the resilience of the communities that we serve. We, the colleagues who are the majority shareholders of the business, are also currently developing a new set of social pledges that will aim to complement this agenda. These new pledges will be ambitious and are focussed on promoting more tangible improvements that complement our environmental, societal and internal workforce priorities. In 2020, we supported 125,000 people through our Employability and Health, Irish, Justice and Skills business divisions, we want to do even more to improve life chances in future years.
To steer the development of a new vision for business-led prosperity that is linked to a stronger mission to deliver the inclusion agenda, B Corp has set out a clear roadmap to achieving greater progress in bridging the economic and social divide.
Seetec is channelling these principles through its employee-ownership structure to ensure nobody is left behind as the restrictions put in place during the height of the pandemic are gradually lifted and the ‘new normal’ becomes a reality. Our society cannot afford to allow the opportunity gap to grow wider and future generations depend on today’s leaders taking action now. We need to build a future economy where businesses are both growing successfully, and using the proceeds of their success to enhance life chances, empower communities and protect the environment through a holistic approach. This way we achieve a more inclusive model of capitalism.
B Corp’s approach has the potential to build a new consensus in future decades that challenges the economic status quo and transforms the way we do business to enable more communities to benefit from the collective prosperity of more socially conscious business practices.