Corporate governance: government consultation

I have submitted the following to the government’s consultation on corporate governance:

1. Ethical conduct
My proposal applies to all companies, but especially those operating in other countries and continents. It is based on the principle that companies should openly state their values, so that they can be held to them. It applies especially to industrial operations which have toxic waste products, but it also affects human rights of those whose lives and livelihoods are affected. The proposal is that companies be invited to sign a declaration on the following lines:

This company undertakes to conduct its operations, and to dispose of any waste products, in a way that does not impact unfavourably on the life, health or livelihood of employees or people living in the locality.

This is deliberately stated in general terms, because its observance is intended to be a matter of abiding by its spirit, rather than a legalistic interpretation of, for example, words like ’employee’ or ‘locality’. Companies which subscribed to this statement could be held to it by public opinion; those which did not, could be asked Why not?

2. Governance.
As to governance, it is proposed that greater encouragement be given to running firms on the co-operative principle, in which employees are regarded as partners and share in decision-making, including decisions as to remuneration (and bonuses if any). An example is the Scott Bader chemical company, http://www.scottbader.com/ , where “the people that work at Scott Bader can become Members of The Commonwealth [i.e. the company] and as such become trustees-in-common of the company assets. Each generation must ensure the ongoing success of the organisation so that future generations can benefit from its continued existence.”
This company has also adopted a more detailed version of the declaration proposed above:
“We pioneer the future of chemistry, making a positive difference to all businesses we serve and each life we touch.

As a company, we intend to fulfil this purpose statement by;

Taking decisions with care balancing ecology, humanity and business
Using our chemistry expertise to innovate responsible solutions for the world today, and tomorrow
Exceeding our customers’ expectations
Using our resources sustainably to minimise the impact on the environment
Unleashing the diverse potential and goodwill of our people
Sharing our profits and use our talents to develop a more inclusive and harmonious society”.
I offer this only as an example; I have no shares or other financial interest in this company, nor am I knowingly related to anyone who works there.

Modern slavery

The way people and their land and water are treated in many countries is comparable to slavery in its disregard for human beings, and made worse by its degradation of their environment. Companies should be invited to sign and display a pledge: ‘This company undertakes to conduct its operations, and to dispose of any waste products, in a way that does not impact unfavourably on the life, health or livelihood of people living in the locality’. How could any well-run company refuse to sign?