Message from Dr Adam Marshall, Acting Director General at British Chamber of Commerce
It’s no accident that Theresa May’s first speech as Prime Minister focused on the need to change the dynamics of capitalism in the UK. She – like all of us in business – is well aware that the referendum vote to leave the European Union was also a way for people to express their disquiet over the direction of travel in British society, in the economy, and in their everyday lives.
Westminster thrives on a 24/7 media diet, with businesses very often cast as the pantomime villain. So it’s no wonder that, having been fed a steady diet of misdeeds at BHS, Sports Direct, and a handful of other household names, plus high pay settlements for top executives at a few others, politicians reach instinctively for the levers of legislation and regulation. They want to be seen to be taking swift action to change what ails our society. By making an example out of a few high-profile firms, they say, they will change business as a whole. Except, as I argue so regularly, ‘business’ isn’t monolithic. For every business facing opprobium for bad behaviour, there are tens of thousands of amazing firms focused on long-term value, a great workplace culture, innovation, investment, and a strong commitment to the cities and towns where they work.It’s time for us – as a network of these great businesses, large and small – to begin a new narrative for capitalism in the UK.
A narrative focused around learning the lessons from our army of great businesses, rather than making examples out of those few that lose their way. A narrative that focuses on changing culture and raising productivity, rather than on the creation of new red tape that addresses some of the symptoms of discontent without treating the cause. And a narrative that focuses on what businesses can, and will, do to boost Britain during a time of transition and change. Chambers can and will play a key role in making capitalism work in Britain in future. A can-do, civic capitalism focused on the role played by businesses in their communities and in society as a whole. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: in these changing times, Chambers of Commerce are more important than ever. Let’s get out there and make our voice, and that of the great businesses we bring together in counties, towns and cities across the UK, heard loud and clear. Best wishes for the summer break, if you’re having one. More from me soon – but as ever, don’t hesitate to get in touch.