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Ed Miliband has called for a new social contract for business that ends the “fast buck culture” and rewards producers over predators; industry over finance and good business over bad. At this stage, details could best be described as “sketchy”. But, after extensive analysis, we feel able to throw the clock forward to 2015, shortly after Labour’s election victory and the unveiling of Britain’s new National Council for Useful Production, recently rebranded BizGood!
Members of BizGood! kitemark panel are interviewing business leaders. First in is John from Surrey, seeking official approval to help secure government contracts and tax breaks.
Hello, I’m John and I run the largest fruit-grower and importer in the country. I’m looking for your BizGood! kitemark so I can hold my head high in our new “something for something” society.
So you grow and sell fruit? That sounds socially valuable. We all need our six a day. What kind of fruit?
Everything really. Apples, pears.
Good. Do you sell kumquats?
Pity. Kumquats are elitist, predator fruit, not something respected by the producing class. Now, I see you are expanding rapidly. How are you financing that?
Well, we borrow against future revenue to buy new farmland.
So you are hocking future fruit for short-term financial gain. What about all the people relying on you for fruit, when you find you can’t pay your bills? This is mortgaging the future. I know, I was at the Treasury with Gordon Brown.
It’s how we grow the business.
Why do you need to grow the business? Can’t you be satisified with what you’ve got?
If we grow, we make more money and employ more people.
Look, you’ve got the basics of a good business but you’ve got some issues to work through before we can allow you to supply fruit plates to the civil service. Oh and we’d like to see a greater diversity of berries, in line with best practice guidelines.
Next is the owner of a small business.
My name’s Steven, I run a luxury goods firm, employing 20 people.
How did you get started?
I took out a mortage on my house.
What’s wrong with that?
Speculative asset-backed financial engineering. And why do we need luxury goods when so many can barely afford the essentials. When I was growing up, we needed nothing more than a second-hand copy of Marcuse and a sandwich with Tariq Ali.
What is your material benefit to society? You cater to the haves rather than the have nots, fuelling the selfish acquisitive streak that has undermined social cohesion. It’s pampering to the vested interests when we should be thinking about the unvested interests.
Now, er, Phil. It says you run the UK’s largest weapons manufacturer. Bombs, guns, grenades, all that sort of stuff; aircraft with huge carbon footprints. Why don’t you use that expertise to make something socially useful, such as supermarket trolleys without wobbly wheels, or windmills?
We are producers. We employ 50,000 staff; we are committed to training and invest a healthy chunk of our profits into R&D.
And what about your remuneration policy? Do you have any ordinary people on your remuneration committee?
Our finance director went to a grammar school ... and our chairman’s on your manufacturing working group.
We’ll be in touch.
Next in is a social housing corporation.
So you provide low-cost housing to those who cannot afford to buy?
That’s right – we help the poor into homes.
Isn’t that exactly the kind of irresponsible property speculation that caused the financial crisis?
No, our properties are rented.
So you’re nothing better than buy-to-let property speculators?
We’re not speculators; we’re social investors.
You say potato, brother ... Next.
I run a bank.
Wait. We make loans and invest in small companies.
You mean you encourage indebtedness? And on what criteria do you lend to business. Do you take account of their green policies, their incorporation of workers’ councils?
We tend to concentrate on their P&Ls and forward projections.
So it’s all about profits for you. I’m sorry, but what kind of way is that to judge a business?