Be good and get paid

Business in the Community wants companies to reward their employees for being responsible.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 07 Feb 2014

‘Do the right thing’ – looks great to head up corporate and social responsibility goals, but liable to get shelved if investors are baying for money or blood. Remember Google’s ‘Don’t be evil’ mantra and the hoo-hah when it exited China after coming under pressure to censor search results? It was doing badly there too.

Business in the Community (BITC), a charity presided over by Prince Charles, has now decided it wants to banish responsibility as a mere catchphrase and is exhorting businesses to reward employees for being good.

The charity’s chief exec Stephen Howard called on companies to incentivise responsible behaviour in the same way they reward hitting targets and generating profits, in a speech to over 400 business bosses in London last night.

‘Without responsibility being truly built into the DNA of companies, trust in business will continue to plateau,’ Howard said. ‘Chief executives and investors must move beyond financial value as the only recognised metric of business success.’

‘Business can form a new and more powerful contract with society – and re-claim its rightful place as an engine for social change and innovation,’ he added. Stirring stuff.

MT is all for jargon being relegated to the rubbish heap and companies pulling up their socks to regain public trust. However, businesses might get even more flak for rewarding responsibility if it involves cash – surely the essence of being good is that you don’t need to be paid to do the right thing.

A BITC survey of 215 company leaders found that employee objectives often don’t match up with corporate responsibility goals, which incentivises behaviour that conflicts with said goals. The sensible thing, then, for businesses to do would be to make sure the two do align. Then there would be no need to add an extra layer of incentives and even more conflict with performance targets.

After all, BITC reported that 90% of chief execs said their social purpose is wider than simply making a profit, while 70% thought too much attention was being given to short-term business aims. Getting your customers to trust you is pretty good business sense too.

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