A coalition of 34 multinationals has joined forces with the Business for Inclusive Growth (B4IG) scheme – a global CSR initiative spearheaded by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). 
In an announcement published in the run up to last weekend’s G7 meeting in Biarritz, the OECD announced that the firms have “committed to step up business action to advance human rights throughout their value chains, build inclusive workplaces and strengthen inclusion in their internal and external business ecosystems”. As such, “they will advance G7 government-led efforts to strengthen equality of opportunity, tackle regional disadvantages and fight gender discrimination”.
The statement noted: “B4IG members have a global footprint, cover a broad range of sectors, employ more than 3.5 million people around the world and have combined annual revenues of over $1 trillion. The B4IG coalition is the first business-led initiative of its kind, thanks to its 360-degree approach to tackling inequality, [via a] multi-stakeholder approach focused on building synergies between companies, governments and philanthropic organisations.”
As the announcement explained, the coalition’s strategy rests on three pillars:
- a Business Pledge Against Inequalities to advance human rights and workplace diversity and inclusion, as well as value-chain inclusiveness;
- an incubator to design or expand new, inclusive business models, thereby piloting social innovation and private-public collaboration at the micro-economic level, and
- an inclusive growth-financing forum to promote innovative financing mechanisms between business, governments and philanthropic actors.
Emmanuel Faber, chair and CEO of coalition signatory Danone, said: “The middle class is shrinking in most G7 countries, whereas it is the foundation of market economy around the world. And we know that beyond a certain threshold, inequalities are economically damaging. Smartphones used by Gen-Z make inequalities more visible than ever, and shift social consensus. The result is that market economy will not last without more social justice.”
Faber added: “It’s not a matter of ideology, it is hard realism that calls us to a collective and inclusive action, for both governments and companies. With B4IG, our aim is to build a constructive dialogue to advance social inclusion, pilot and scale innovative, inclusive micro-economic business models, and thereby help inform macroeconomic policies.”
Other members of the new coalition include IKEA, Mars Inc, Unilever and BNP Paribas. What should leaders learn from the aims of this group?
The Institute of Leadership & Management’s head of research, policy and standards Kate Cooper says: “Marx commented that capitalism periodically restructures itself and reforms. And for a long time now, our Institute companion Charles Hampden-Turner has called for a more conscious capitalism – one that recognises that multiple stakeholders must be rewarded fairly for their contribution to the corporate entities they serve, or are involved with. The B4IG coalition is very much in that mould: a commitment to the idea that one, small group cannot, should not, or will not continue to reap benefits at the expense of many other groups – whether they happen to be suppliers, customers or employees.
Cooper notes: “Rather like our blog earlier this week on FTSE 100 executive pay, transparency – as in the availability of information on corporate activities and the ease with which it is shared – is key. If there is to be a war for talent, and if the impact of technology is such that less-skilled jobs are going to be automated, then people will want to work for firms that closely reflect their values. And one value that seems to be growing more and more important to people is an awareness of the interconnectedness of business – that a purchasing decision in one place has an impact thousands of miles away. That’s what this movement is tapping into – and the fact that so many big companies have signed up to it suggests that the coalition’s aims make sound business sense, too.”
She adds: “As some of our recent research demonstrates, one of the values that we at the Institute hold in particularly high regard is collaboration. We’ve consistently argued that our increasingly complex business world requires much bigger solutions to the problems it faces, and that neither one individual, nor one organisation, is sufficient to provide them. It is only when organisations form around a movement that real change is effected. As such, the B4IG coalition is an encouraging development, and the leadership lessons operate at a micro level: look at your own supply chain; look at your stakeholders. Are they all being treated in a way that you can be proud of, and is open to scrutiny?”
For further insights on the themes raised in this blog, check out the Institute’s resources on social responsibility
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