Mary Portas & Douglas Lamont, Tony’s Chocolonely CEO spearhead Better Business Day campaign in Westminster
The IoD, the Impact Investing Institute & ShareAction among voices calling for change
London, 26 April 2022: The vast majority of the UK public (78% pro1) are now backing a change to company law that would see the interests of people and the planet sit alongside those of shareholders when making boardroom decisions. New research shows the proposed shift, known as the Better Business Act, is consistent across party divides, with strong support among those planning to vote conservative (73%2) and current Labour supporters even more likely to be in favour (87%3).
The proportion of the public who support giving businesses additional responsibilities to people and the planet alongside profit has increased five points from 72%4 since the same research was conducted in 2020, as a result of poor business conduct and widening societal inequality over the past three years. In the polling5 and in focus groups conducted alongside it6, voters cited the cost of living crisis, the treatment of Amazon’s workers and the excessive windfall profits of energy companies as examples where an overriding profit motive had driven poor decision making. Current legislation allows businesses to solely maximise their profits at the expense of other stakeholders, and many see it as their responsibility to do so.
The Better Business Act is calling for an amendment to Section 172 of the Companies Act, which sets out the ‘job description’ for company directors to ensure they align social and environmental impact with shareholder returns.
Voters increasingly feel that the current law is not fit for purpose: just one in ten believe that businesses should have a legal responsibility to solely maximise their profits. Over two thirds would support the Better Business Act’s proposed changes.
The public support comes on top of a chorus of business voices campaigning for change to the law. On Better Business Day (26th April), Mary Portas and Douglas Lamont will be campaigning in Westminster, alongside a coalition of nearly 2,000 businesses, to convince the government to wake up to better business. They include Virgin, Iceland, Suez and many more. Other members of the coalition who have already made the proposed legal change include Patagonia, innocent, Kin & Carta, and Danone UK & Ireland.
Mary Portas, Co-Chair of the Better Business Act campaign, commented:
“We know business is about profit. But the values of biggest, fastest, cheapest no longer resonate — and are no longer tenable. We need a new value system in which businesses don’t just grow and mindlessly make more money, but thrive. They have to find ways of creating profitable solutions for the problems people and planet face, rather than profiting from them. That's every business’ brief today. And this small change to the law could drive a big impact.”
Douglas Lamont, CEO of Tony’s Chocolonely and Co-Chair of the Better Business Act campaign, added:
“The challenges facing our planet are wide-spread and urgent. Solving them is not an optional endeavour for a small coalition of the willing, we need all businesses, the government and the general public working in partnership. All businesses must be given an unambiguous, legal framework that requires them to step up and be part of the solution. This change would see all UK businesses given the freedom to think for the long-term, to find a balance between the interest of all stakeholders, rather than leadership teams being trapped by a short term legal responsibility to maximise profits for their shareholders whatever the cost to their employees and the planet. It’s a much needed change that cannot come quick enough — today’s research shows that the public agree that the Government must act.”
Chris Turner, Campaign Director, added:
“It’s now been two years since we launched the Better Business Act campaign. In that time we’ve attracted the support of thousands of business leaders — and we have proven again and again that it is in Britain’s interests to make this change. The UK can take the opportunity to lead the world, or we can continue to sleepwalk towards climate and social disaster.”
- In a poll of 2,052 UK adults, 78% said they agreed with the statement: “The law should change to ensure businesses have a responsibility to look after people and the planet alongside making a profit.”
- Of those intending to vote Conservative at the next election (381 UK adults), 73% said they agreed with the above statement.
- Of those who said they were intending to vote Labour at the next election (711 UK adults), 87% said they agreed with the above statement.
- In 2020, Hanbury Strategy ran a survey of 2,175 respondents. Fieldwork was conducted between 22 - 25 May 2020.
- In a poll of 2,052 UK adults, 53% cited the cost of living crisis as a factor in changing their view of the responsibilities of business. 44% cited the windfall profits of Shell and other energy companies. Of those who said the cost of living crisis changed their view, 82% said it made them think business should be more responsible to people and the planet.
Notes to Editors
Field work notes
Research conducted by Opinium. Opinium polled 2,052 UK adults between 22 - 23 March 2023. Results are weighted to be politically and nationally representative of the UK population. In addition, Opinium conducted 2 x focus groups attended by ten UK adults on 5th April 2023. An executive summary of the research & focus group outcomes can be found here.
On the morning of the 26th April, we will be hosting a breakfast reception in the House of Commons for MPs, policy makers, business leaders who are interested in business acting as a force for good and members of the Better Business Act coalition. At the breakfast, we will be welcomed by Mary Portas and Douglas Lamont, Co-Chairs of the campaign and then will have a short panel hosted by Chris Turner, Executive Director of B Lab UK and Campaign Director, Better Business Act. Chris will be joined by Darren Jones MP and Chair of the BEIS Select Committee, Anu Chugh, CEO Pukka Herbs and Holly Branson, Chief Purpose and Vision Officer, Virgin Group.
About the Better Business Act
The Better Business Act (BBA) is a business-led campaign, driven by leaders who recognise that the law has fallen behind business culture and who have proven that this approach to business works for everyone.
The BBA is urging all of Britain’s business leaders to call on the Government to amend Section 172 of the Companies Act to ensure businesses are legally responsible for benefiting workers, customers, communities and the environment while delivering profit.
To achieve this, we are bringing together a broad and growing coalition of leaders from across all sectors and all regions of the UK to help deliver this new contract between business and society.
For further information, please contact:
Better Business Act