Social responsibility in business

However, to those who insist there must be a crony-based explanation why government, both national and local, favoured Carillion so much, here is a suggestion: the business was a model for what politicians now demand from such firms. It ticked every box of the corporate social responsibility agenda, and then some. In fact, its chairman, Philip Green (no, not that one) had been a “corporate responsibility adviser” to prime ministers David Cameron and Theresa May.

Go to the company’s website (now a sort of accidental memorial) and you will find the greatest prominence is accorded to its virtuousness, not its profits. There is page after page of its “sustainability strategy”, under the main slogan “Making tomorrow a better place”, subheaded “Better communities”, “Better environment (tackling climate change)” and “Better business”. Underneath that divine triptych, Carillion boasts that it can make “specific contributions to at least nine of the UN sustainable development goals”.

Hmmm….

25 comments on “Social responsibility in business

  1. Did Carillion also have a new HQ with a fountain in the front ?

    Alas this is Josef Schimpeter writ large. Corporations forget why they are there. Instead of just making widgets, they become cleaners, dustmen, prison guards and the focus is forever lost. How many once-great companies have we seen that have dissolved like alka-seltzer because they couldn’t keep all their balls in the air at the same time ( sorry rather tortured mixed metaphor there ).
    The fad for “Diversity” is rampant in the IT industry, it is excellent that we try and get more women in the business, but there’d be more demand for embedded C programers than a firm made up entirely of corporate relationship managers.

  2. More of the west’s slow suicide, as assets are shifted from achievement toward virtue signaling (a process the Paris Accord accelerates).

    Reading Ford Motor Company annual reports is a similar experience. How much corporate resources did it take to ensure an approved mix of women and minorities in each photo of the factory floor? (Though, unlike Google, no one yet with a surgically forked tongue.)

  3. BnliA

    ” Corporations forget why they are there. Instead of just making widgets, they become cleaners, dustmen, prison guards and the focus is forever lost. How many once-great companies have we seen that have dissolved like alka-seltzer because they couldn’t keep all their balls in the air at the same time ( sorry rather tortured mixed metaphor there ).”

    I recently made this point elsewhere: The problem with the PFI model is that it needed either a building company to run services, a services company to build first or a JV of the two incompatible companies.

    Not only were these companies getting outside their core competencies, it needed a massively complicated contracts, which as we know from the much missed Burning our Money blog, the Simple Shopper was going to be incapable of writing.

  4. BnlIA,

    I don’t quite agree. Sucking up to big state stuff is nearly all of what Carillon was about. This isn’t going away from the focus. This is the focus.

    This is mood music for the sort of people who run government. It’s like Superdrug hiring Zoella. The sort of people who shop at Superdrug like Zoella. The sort of people running government like the UN and eco shit. Do you think Philip Green cares a toss about any of this stuff?

    And where possible, these companies then lobby for this bollocks to become part of the process, because then, it creates barriers to competition. Contrary to what Dominic Lawson has written, it’s very much about cronyism.

  5. Spike,

    “Reading Ford Motor Company annual reports is a similar experience. How much corporate resources did it take to ensure an approved mix of women and minorities in each photo of the factory floor? (Though, unlike Google, no one yet with a surgically forked tongue.)”

    In Ford’s case, they’re based in Detroit. It’s probably more difficult to make it look not too diverse (my criticism of Eastenders is that it’s far more white than the East End actually is).

  6. Actualy Anon, you aren’t really disagreeing. It is all part and parcel of the same inevitable process. The bureaucratisation of capitalism.

    It is also the phenomenon of corporations being run by accountants or lawyers, long term planning and investment is sacrificed for the bottom line. Debts, skill shortages, dodgy contracts are the legacy of not thinking expansion and diversification through. By the time the various chickens have come home, those who made the crap decisions have gone off to infect some other unsuspecting corporation. I have seen it time and again as have I’m sure most of our colleagues here.

    How many companies actually train their people these days ( I mean proper training, not diversity re-education bollx) ?

  7. Is there any large company that lives for more than a few hundred years?

    I view the experiment with diversity suckholing and so forth as somewhat useful because the clever businessmen are watching carefully. “Diversity” will not exist in 20 years. It will be an historical joke, an anomaly much laughed at.

    The unfortunate thing is that we’ll have invented some new idiocy in 20 years.

  8. Why didn’t Carillion have separate legal entities for its biggest ventures? So that, if, say, a prison build goes wrong, it wouldn’t drag the whole company down?

  9. Anon: Point taken. And yes, Ford headquarters is actually in “Dearbornistan,” though there are factories all over the place. I seem to have discarded last year’s Annual Report, because it’s unreadable and I don’t even want to look at the pictures, but I don’t recall seeing any birqas in the executive suite. However, you haven’t convinced me that the photos weren’t studiously planned to showcase skin colors.

  10. BnLiA,

    I agree that sort of thing happens. I’ve worked in large corporations and see how the bureaucracy infests them like a cancer and management just do things they want rather than what’s good for shareholders. The CEO of YouTube seems more interested in sucking up to Hollywood than doing what YouTube does well.

    But I don’t think that’s the case in Carillon’s case. I think they understood that they had to do this nonsense.

  11. If anyone thinks that the photos in Corporate Reports are simply shots taken of the workforce I have a bridge that I could sell you

  12. Have a look at wedding photos in the paper sometime. Lots of whites marrying whites. Where is the diversity? Where are the non sexist, non ageist, non racist people getting married?

  13. Dennis the Peasant – yes people get paid regardless of result. Its called pay.

    If you are going to pay staff EXTRA based on results you call that performance related pay or bonus, depending how its set up. That’s not pay, that’s extra on top of pay.

    You want to hire me for a management or director job at a company then you have to pay me a wage. That’s how the employment system works.

    For some strange reason its illegal in this country to not pay staff. Something about slavery perhaps.

  14. @ Fred Z
    Since the concept of “Company” has only existed for a few hundred years, the answer is “not yet, but wait and see”. P&O was (one of) the first company to beincorporated by an Act of Parliament and is still going, albeit under foreign ownership.

    It made itself vulnerable to takeover by following the previous (or last-but-one) fashion for prestigious companies. Fashions are disastrous – forty-five years ago my late lamented boss (he was really good and we were shocked when he dropped dead) pointed out that all the quoted companies that sponsoesd brass bands had gone bust)

  15. all the quoted companies that sponsored brass bands had gone bust
    Caterpillar are still in business 🙂

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