The Chancellor has recently had the benefit of some very useful figures which suggest that after several years of decline the country might be recovering, whatever this means. The figures suggest: that we are all suddenly better off, that the economy is picking up, we have more money to spend. I am not sure many of us feel that.
However, the other news items such as Syria can make us feel very grateful for whatever we have and so as a business owner I have been thinking about corporate responsibility. What does this mean? Does it mean being a good employer providing decent wages, good working conditions and generally a pleasant working environment? Or does it mean giving to wider society and is that locally in the UK or further afield? We at Cotswold Family Law certainly feel that we can and should therefore give a percentage of our profits away, in our case through Oxfam to those who are in a far worse situation than possibly anyone in this country. Anyone who saw the recent documentary on Syria’s children couldn’t help despair at the awful circumstances in which they were existing – it could hardly be called living. What those children have seen and experienced is probably beyond words and there seems to be no end in sight for them or their parents. At the same time, Will Hutton was writing in the Observer about his despair at what he refers to as “a procession of industries demonstrating their unnerving and effective capacity to block efforts at making them work more in the social and public interest”. The UK drinks industry had no fewer than 130 meetings with ministers in the run-up to last July’s abandonment of the commitment to set a minimum price of 40p for a unit of alcohol.
No drinks company will have to pay the NHS bill for alcohol-related illnesses or crime. The sugar industry is busy fighting its corner and British house builders argue that house prices will rise if they are forced to comply with the 2010 Flood Defence Act requiring new developments to improve much depleted flood defences. They will not have to pay for the social consequences either. Who does pay the price?
We are all aware of the fact that the biggest companies appear to pay very little in tax by moving their money around the world – so is this good economic news good for ordinary people?
I do not have an answer and I am not sure that anyone does. Each political party has its own interpretation of events so it all seems to boil down to how you feel as an individual both in terms of being better or worse off and in terms of any sort of social responsibility.
So do businesses and individuals have to be forced to behave or do we naturally “do the right thing”?