Business leaders back reforms to make UK a home for compassionate capitalism

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A new report published by research group, ReGenerate, sets out how the UK government could harness the power of business to tackle some of the biggest environmental and social challenges, including recovering from the impacts of Covid-19, reaching net zero by 2050 and levelling up.

The reforms are ultimately designed to free business leaders to benefit society and builds on YouGov polling conducted last year that revealed half of UK business leaders think the role of business is to be purpose-driven, rather than pursuing the maximisation of profit.

The report has four main asks:

  1. Make it easier for consumers to identify and support purpose-driven business, such as by creating a traffic light labelling system.
  2. Government to provide global leadership on impact measurement at G7 and COP26 to make it easy for all companies to understand and report how they impact society, such as by creating a clear policy goal to make the UK a centre of excellence for impact reporting.
  3. The UK Government to create a clear, obvious legal framework for purpose-driven companies, to make sure they are legally protected to operate in a way that benefits society.
  4. Turbo-charge support for companies that intend to profitably tackle the challenges we face, such as recovering from Covid-19, reaching net zero and leveling up the UK, both through grants from Innovate UK and also greater collaboration from existing support organisations.

The paper’s reforms would ultimately bring to life ReGenerate’s vision statement for the future of business where purpose-driven business will become the new normal. A purpose-driven business exists to benefit society and sees profit as one of its vital outcomes of its business activity, rather than the sole reason it exists.

The vision statement is gaining significant attention and has now been signed by over 70 business leaders to date, including Julian Richer (Founder of Richer Sounds), Nick Jenkins (Founder of and former Dragon’s Den investor), Fabienne Michaux (Director of SDG Impact, UNDP), Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones (Founder, The Black Farmer), Paul Dickinson (Founder, CDP), Sarah Gordon (Chief Executive, Impact Investing Institute), Stephen Muers (CEO, Big Society Capital), and Paula Fallowfield (Chief HR Officer, Natura & Co).

The report builds on ReGenerate’s research published last year, which  revealed the majority of the UK public (53%) think that capitalism is the best ‘way to manage society’, but that it ‘needs to be fixed.’

Another survey by Zeno Group showed that consumers are four times more likely to purchase, champion and trust a brand with a strong purpose, while a survey by McKinsey showed that 72% of employees think that purpose should receive greater weight than profit.

Commenting on the report launch, Ed Boyd, Co-founder and Executive Director of ReGenerate said: “We are at a moment in history where the challenges we face are significant, but so are the available resources to tackle them. Much of this resource is held in the innovative power of businesses. They are keen to play a bigger role in helping tackle the world’s woes. It would be crazy to not enable them to do so.”

Numerous business leaders have also backed the report.

Chris Hulatt, Co-founder, Octopus, said: “If you look at the scale of problems the world faces, whether it’s climate change or the widening inequalities in society, it is clear that more is needed from business. Businesses have such a huge power to innovate and deliver at scale, and we need this power focused on the big challenges we face. This excellent report from ReGenerate contains some great ideas on how to re-shape the economy to unlock the power of business to do more good.”

Peter Harrison, Group Chief Executive, Schroders: “This report by ReGenerate offers constructive proposals on how to further help purpose-driven companies thrive, and is a welcome addition to the debate.”

Kresse Wesling MBE, Co-founder, Elvis & Kresse: “This report is very welcome. Businesses need to step up and help tackle the climate emergency. We’ve been doing this for 16 years; we rescue and transform wastes, donate 50% of our profits to charity, and run on renewables. Is this easy? No. If the reforms in this paper are implemented it will be easier for businesses to operate in a way that benefits society, and will increase transparency around those that don’t.”

James Timpson, Chief Executive, Timpson, said: “There is a common misconception that business leaders just think about profits. In my experience, this simply isn’t true. Timpson was set up to benefit society, as I know so many other companies were. ReGenerate’s report is as timely as it is needed. The reforms it contains – to create a clear legal form for purpose-driven businesses, to make sure they are well supported and to turbo-charge efforts to understand the impact a business has on the world – will help ensure businesses make their full contribution towards the big social and environmental challenges we face.”

Sir Ronald Cohen, Chair, Global Steering Group for Impact Investment and Author of Impact, said: “There is now no doubt: we need the innovative power of business to help us recover from Covid‘s social challenges and to tackle climate change. This ReGenerate paper is a welcome contribution and its reforms would help make the impacts of businesses far more transparent and drive support of businesses that seek to have a more positive effect on society.”

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