New Covid Recovery Commission report reinforces case for increased stakeholder involvement as UK bounces back

The Covid Recovery Commission’s new report is out. Its findings back up the growing trend for ‘New Collectivism’, where businesses need to be purposeful to help Britain to build back better. Here’s my take on it…

The Covid Recovery Commission’s first report into Levelling up Communities is out and it makes for fascinating reading. Working with researchers from WPI Economics, the report highlights that the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the already deprived neighbourhoods the most in terms of both lives and jobs. The report also reveals that the effect of the pandemic on the British public’s mental health is also most felt most acutely among the least well-off in society.

While the findings are stark, the Commission’s chair, John Allan CBE – also chairman of Tesco and Barratt Homes, and vice-president of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) – believes business has a key role to play alongside government in national recovery.

On the BBC Today programme, Allan affirmed that we have seen the need for business to be more purposeful. Businesses must not be solely shareholder-focused but also include a wider range of stakeholders, he argued.

New Collectivism in a post-Covid world

The Covid Recovery Commission’s report backs up the findings of Grayling’s own recent report on the New Collectivism, in which we argue that business must think in a more rounded manner to deliver a broader range of outcomes.

Grayling’s research finds that nearly two-thirds (63%) of senior European business leaders believe that – alongside making a profit – businesses have a collective responsibility to the societies they operate in*. This move away from a shareholder-first capitalism was highlighted recently in the swift collapse of the proposed European Super League, brought down by near-universal disgust at the shelving of tradition in the pursuit of more money by 12 big clubs.

New Collectivism extends beyond more inclusive, flexible working practices. This collective responsibility also includes closer scrutiny by businesses over their supply chains to make sure their ethics and values are being shared at every stage. It also challenges business to improve its environmental impact.

The pandemic offers the chance to press ‘reset’ on business

The Covid Response Commission report’s authors make some interesting arguments, such as devolving decisions from central government to those closest to the challenge to create an environment where local business can succeed. It also highlights areas where Britain has opportunities to lead, such as in digitalisation and a move to net zero emissions.

And it’s not just in the UK that significant change is happening; the pivot towards a new collectivist approach is a pan-European movement. In my role as Head of Corporate for UK and Europe, I speak to senior decision makers at businesses across the continent who are driving change and want to know how to navigate the communications around that.

As John Allan said in his Today interview, we are at a point in history where significant business change really could happen. At Grayling, we agree. You can read the full New Collectivism report here and if you are looking to embrace change at your organisation and want the best advice on how to communicate it, we’d be delighted to talk, please drop me an email.

*Study conducted of 500 senior business decision makers in international businesses across micro (1-9 employees, small (10-49 employees), medium (50-249 employees) and large corporations (250+ employees). Field study conducted 3-8 Feb 2021 by Opinium Research.

Contact Tom Nutt, Head of Corporate, Grayling UK & Europe: tom.nutt@grayling.com