Living in the UK and travelling regularly to other European countries, I can’t help but notice the protectionist tone in the elections and the challenges being made to large international companies on their local behaviour.
These corporations are probably feeling a little uncomfortable. The backlash against capitalism that began during the 2008 global recession has never truly abated. Whereas once we loved them for providing us with cheap products and employment, in the new world order we are demanding more from multinationals – both for ourselves and for others.
I understand why people feel that it’s no longer acceptable for businesses to simply focus on making money for shareholders in a faraway country, and that they also need to be a good citizen, globally and locally. Given this growing sentiment among their customers, being responsible makes good business sense and thus becomes a win-win for both the company and the countries it operates in.
I understand why people feel that it’s no longer acceptable for businesses to simply focus on making money for shareholders in a faraway country, and that they also need to be a good citizen, globally and locally
Reflecting on a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, I’ve put together a list of top five of demands Brits should now making of large international businesses. Do you agree? Add your thoughts to the comments section, below.
Respect our environment, locally and globally
There are some great examples of environmental responsibility out there, one of the best is furniture giant Ikea, who source their wood, cotton, and energy sustainably to protect the environment for future generations. We also need to demand the removal of unnecessary risk from their businesses models, which can add up to a catastrophic event like Deepwater Horizon.
Treat employees fairly
Clever contract wording can reposition employees as third-party service suppliers, but a degree of common sense needs to be applied to ensuring workers in every aspect of a business model are respected and protected. Sweatshops are more often associated with clothing production in Asia but recent news suggests that some UK workers are not having their rights upheld to have a safe working place and the national minimum wage.
Be responsible about paying appropriate local taxes
I’ve seen research that suggests multinationals are able to reduce their tax burden by on average 20 percent against local competition – and this of course masks the extreme cases. Tax avoidance may be legal and a way of deriving a competitive advantage, but you are depriving us of UK tax monies for our hospitals and schools, and these taxes have been paid by UK consumers through channels like VAT on coffees or online shopping.
Protect our personal data, and fully and permanently delete it if we ask
Our personal data is increasingly being monetized by businesses. If they are going to benefit from us in this way, we should also get perks in return (like customised products and services) but also be able to understand what they collect, why, and how they protect it from being hacked and stolen. Luckily, legislation is on our side and the UK will be introducing the General Data Protection Regulation in May 2018 that will enable us to access, transfer, and delete most personal data held by businesses.
Use local businesses to thrive
There’s a perception that large corporations are out to crush local home-grown competition. However, there’s plenty to be said for working with them. High street banking is way ahead on this, as most multinational banks are working with UK FinTechs to innovate and trial new products and services.
Whereas once capitalism was driven purely by profit and return on investments, today the range of stakeholders has widened to include communities and the environment. As businesses begin to build sustainability into their business models, we must be sure that we are articulating our demands to them, and that they are listening.