Last week I heard David Jones, CEO Havas and Founder, One Young World, expounding some of the arguments set out in his acclaimed new book “Who Cares wins”. It expounds that good business is better business – that the biggest winners will be those that operate transparently and authentically. Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu said of the book “There are many major problems facing the world today. As David Jones argues in Who Cares Wins, business has both a responsibility and an opportunity to be part of the solution and should be a major force for good in helping to solve some of the most pressing problems of our time.” Prime Minister David Cameron said “..in the future the success stories will be those businesses who truly recognise their role in the Big Society – who acknowledge the social as well as the economic value they have the power to create, and who realise the difference we all can make by the decisions that we take”.
This led me to think about the behaviour of elements of our press, for example, in relation to phone hacking and other such activities that they have been using since before I joined Carter-Ruck in 1984. I remember completely fabricated material in a flagship television programme of that era which nearly destroyed the careers of two individuals. Will this really change due to pressure from digitally empowered citizens and socially conscious consumers?
I also thought about banks, other financial institutions and insurers on the other side of court actions which my firm handles. Rarely do their responses to claims brought by individuals and small businesses seem to be about what is morally right or socially responsible – they appear to be obstructive and designed to deter, however deserving a claim may be. Will this change?
Will consumers vote with their feet and boycott certain businesses, except in extreme circumstances? I am doubtful, although I think that the dangers for misbehaving businesses has and is rising because of the internet and speed with which news travels. Another important means by which to discourage malpractice is access to justice, to enable individuals to hold errant companies to account through the courts, although the Government’s current planned changes to costs in the civil justice system would seem to pose a real threat to this.