Monday, October 24, 2005
ENCOURAGING CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY - SCOT LIB DEM MOTION
Conference believes that:
1 Scotland needs successful people creating and developing enterprises if we are to deliver sustainable growth and thrive as a nation;
2 companies should work to increase their positive, and reduce their negative, impact on the environment and on society;
3 CSR is a way in which companies can be accountable for meeting the needs and expectations of stakeholders including customers, investors, employees, suppliers, regulators, special interest groups, communities and wider society;
4 in the long term, businesses can benefit from working responsibly through:
(i) making a positive contribution to good causes in the community;
(ii) gains in staff morale and productivity;
(iii) gains in community awareness of the company;
(iv) improved business performance;
(v) lower waste/energy costs; and
(vi) lower business costs.
Conference calls on the Scottish Executive to:
A) develop a framework for the promotion of CSR in Scotland;
B) adopt a socially responsible procurement policy for both the Executive and the wider public sector, requiring those companies from which they procure services to meet a high standard in their social and environmental impact;
C) require all Scottish devolved public bodies to report on their socially responsible practices;
D) require Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise to promote CSR to business and to ensure their own operations are socially responsible;
E) empower Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise to:
i) provide grants to enable socially responsible practices to be adopted by SMEs;
ii) provide advice services in business gateways on becoming socially responsible;
iii) encourage companies to work in partnership with and assist community causes and charities;
iv) provide certification to recognise responsible business practices and awards for those who excel; and
v) require businesses which receive such assistance to report on the impact this has had on the company’s operation and performance.
Section 1 here is absolutely correct - Scots have a history of creating & developing businesses worldwide & WE desperately need to let them do the same here.
Unfortunately there is NOTHING in this motion which does that.
In the Allander Report on growing the Scottish economy one complaint was the propensity of politicians to make all the right noises about growth & then go do whatever they wanted in the first place.
That is what this motion does.
In a similar way Jack McConnell has said that growth is his "first priority" but, apart from being the man who raised business rates in the first place, has done nothing. However the fact that he said it proves HE knows growth is the first priority of voters. If we are ever to EARN a position as Scotland's largest party it will be because WE have provably made economic growth our true first priority.
Instead this motion would load wealth creators down with an entire new class of inspectors, committed not to any measurable standards but merely to general political correctness, rigidly enforceable on anybody who has to do business with the 54% of the economy that is the state. If this motion had been made truly voluntary I would have had no problem with it but a compulsory enforcement of government political correctness inspectors is a bad thing.
Scotland has had the lowest growth rate in Europe, itself the slowest growing continent on Earth.
That is why WE have recently cut business taxes & Nicol Stephen said, at Federal Conference, that we need further cuts to kickstart growth as Ireland has so spectacularly done.
I believe that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with Scotland which would make it impossible for us to match, or exceed, Ireland -
Their growth of 7% a year over 15 years has nearly tripled their GNP while ours has gone up barely 20%.
Ireland achieved this, not just by cutting business taxes, but also by cutting regulation.
This motion, obviously, does the opposite.
Worse - section 3 calls for wealth creators to be made "accountable" for satisfying the "expectations" of all & sundry including "special interest groups".
This is a blank cheque which could stifle any growing business.
Finally - will political correctness inspectors increase productivity & cut costs?
It says so right here on the tin in section 4 - & I do not believe it. If it were so the directors of Asda would not have to be forced to ask the builders of Holyrood how to cut costs.
If you are also unable to believe this PROMISE you CANNOT, cannot, in good conscience, vote for it & I ask you not to.
I was unaware, when drafting this, that the proposer was a lady whom I have previously praised in this blog for a couple of economically innovative ideas, & whose comments played a part in persuading me to rejoin the party. Had I known this in advance I would have phrased it in a less confrontational manner. Nonetheless I stand by the points.