At Labour party conference in 2011, Ed Miliband made a clear distinction between ‘productive’ and ‘predatory’ forms of capitalism. Since then, all political parties have, to a greater or lesser extent, expressed a desire to engage more directly with the way the economy functions and build a more ‘responsible capitalism’.
Companies should serve the interests of a wider group of stakeholders, and not just shareholders, promoting long-term strategies for growth while being rooted in communities and recognising their wider obligations. Clearly, Britain must begin to map out a new relationship between government and industry. Previously, business policy has been seen as a choice between two opposing pathways: burdensome government regulations that risk stifling growth; or a laissez-faire model of untrammeled market freedom.
But this dichotomy is no longer tenable. As new YouGov polling for this report demonstrates, the reality is that people are wary of building a new political economy on the foundations of ideology. Instead, they call for a much closer partnership between state and business – one where responsibility is shared, where there is collaboration as well as competition, and where the needs of local communities are met.
Government needs a much more subtle, symbiotic and strategic relationship with businesses, big and small, built on trust and shared endeavor. But how can this be achieved in practice? Can governments make a difference to the private economy? How are government and industry going to work more closely and more effectively together to create a responsible business model? Various pathways are explored here, from initiatives that provide more skills and training to the smart companies who are bearing the torch for innovative and sustainable business models. These are ideas that help make business work for all of us – employees, consumers, savers, communities and companies alike.