Not the Corporate Responsibility Election

As the UK general election comes to its conclusion, it is interesting to see how little comment has been made about business behaviour. Only the Liberal Democrats (and their campaign on breaking up the banks) have really given it much airtime. David Cameron’s Big Society philosophy has Steve Hilton behind it. Steve was one of the founders of Good Business, a CSR consultancy, so you might have expected the Conservative manifesto to have more to say about CSR. But for the Conservatives, the aim is not to legislate and enforce good behaviour, but rather to encourage businesses to take responsibility without coercion. The Labour Party managed to get the UK Bribery Act passed as its very last moment in government and would probably claim the Company Law Reform, minimum wage and bank nationalisation are all examples of willingness to drive up standards of responsibility in business.

The real reason, however, that corporate responsibility is not discussed in the election is because the term is too wide to be useful. Whether it is banking reform, paternity leave or fighting corruption, each aspect of corporate responsibility needs to be considered in its own right and not hidden under a CR label. None of our politicians are putting enough focus on business behaviour. However as our economy comes out of recession, the critical question should surely be how to promote private sector growth without re-encountering the ethical lapses of the past?