If CEOs learn anything from the campaign to boycott GB News and the fallout generated by companies’ responses, it is that they ignore politics at their peril. Over the last half-century, one of the most important shifts in the business world has been corporate leaders recognising they have wider responsibilities to society as well as their bottom line.
As we move towards a post-pandemic economy, a similar shift is taking place. Success will now also depend on navigating an increasingly complex set of political issues and require skills more commonly learnt on the campaign trail than at business school.
Greater understanding of the role businesses play in keeping the country running, alongside the unprecedented levels of taxpayer support provided throughout the pandemic has empowered politicians, investors and the public to start holding corporate leaders to account as though they were in public office. This is a trend that is here to stay, especially as the Conservative Party seeks to solidify the new coalition of voters it assembled in 2019.
The backlash against companies who have kept cash from government support schemes, despite seeing strong financial performance and attempting to pay out bonuses to management illustrates this. Given the strength of feeling, it is perhaps unsurprising that almost £1 billion has already been handed back by large firms, despite there being no legal requirement to do so. But beyond…