Building a country that works for everyone

Independent panel publishes report on putting values at the heart of our businesses.

An old man

Businesses are today being asked to consider how they can make a positive social impact in the work they do.

The calls come from an independent panel report into how mission-led businesses can be grown in the economy commissioned by Rob Wilson, Minister for Civil Society.

The review chaired by Nigel Wilson, Chief Executive of Legal & General, has made a series of recommendations for boosting mission-led businesses in the UK.

Mission-led businesses are profit-driven businesses that commit to have a positive social impact on society and the environment.

They use the power of business to make a difference and help solve important problems like helping to improve children’s education, cut down on household bills by reducing food waste and support people struggling with mental health problems. Examples include Cook Trading Limited, Timpsons, and Patients Know Best.

Already, mission-led businesses are estimated to represent over 4% of the economy, with a combined turnover of £165 billion.

Minister for Civil Society, Rob Wilson MP said: “We need to encourage businesses to consider how through their work, they may be able to make a positive impact on the social challenges we face, helping to build a country that works for everyone.

“I want to thank the panel for its work and I look forward to carefully considering its proposals.”

Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility, Margot James MP said: “Responsible business practice is vital to the wellbeing of our society. The Government is committed to building an economy that works for all and we will consider carefully the panel’s recommendations as part of our wider work on corporate responsibility.”

Nigel Wilson

Nigel Wilson (photo, above), Chief Executive of Legal & General and chair of the advisory panel said: “The UK's collective economic success will be increasingly led by organisations of all types with a clearer mission and purpose. I’ve particularly been inspired by several leading corporates such as Johnson & Johnson, Centrica and Danone who have deployed their own balance sheets into mission aligned businesses. We are calling for an additional £1bn from corporate balance sheets and social pension funds to drive more mission led finance into the UK economy.

“I would like to thank the panel members for their excellent work, and the people we met at regional events across the country in Cambridge, London, Cardiff, Oxford, Bristol, Manchester and Birmingham prepared to devote time, energy and resources to offer us their views.

“The panel and I will work to progress the recommendations on behalf of mission led-business, and we look forward to the Government’s policy response to our recommendations over the next few months as part of its inclusive economy work.”

Recommendations to business include:

  • UK corporates investing £1bn in corporate social impact investment funds, targeting businesses that achieve financial growth and a measurable social impact.
  • Mainstream businesses establishing talent partnerships to help mission-led start-ups become mission-led scale-ups.
  • Business schools building evidence and curriculum around the case for business with purpose, to embed this approach within tomorrow’s business leaders. 

Recommendations to government include:

  • Bringing the business and social sectors together on a national scale to address longstanding social challenges for UK families.
  • Encouraging businesses to set out their social purposes alongside their obligations to shareholders.
  • Considering a “benefit company” status to make it easier for entrepreneurs to commit to social purposes over the long-term.

The Department for Culture, Media & Sport is leading cross-government work to strengthen the UK’s social investment market.

Recent initiatives include asking Elizabeth Corley, Vice-Chair of Allianz Global Investors, to lead a project on creating more opportunities for savers to invest in line with their values.

Further information:

Notes to editors

Comments on the report from members of the advisory panel:

Nat Campbell, Founder, A Very Good Company said: “An inclusive economy that works for all can only be achieved if mission-led businesses continue to grow and thrive. Pound for pound their impact goes further as a result of being embedded in their communities or working to solve big societal issues. I welcome the recommendations put forward by the panel as a first step in realising the opportunity to build this movement. I hope that government, corporates, SMES and the wider VCSE sector get behind the recommendations that work for them, working in partnership to achieve tangible and lasting change.”

Luke Johnson, Founder and Chairman, Centre for Entrepreneurs said: “Business is a vital part of society, and the best enterprises have a positive impact on their community in many ways. Our advisory boards recommendations will bring together mission-led entrepreneurs and corporates to be even stronger members of their neighbourhoods.”

Loughlin Hickey, Trustee, Blueprint for Better Business said: “I welcome the conclusions of this report and the shift in thinking it represents, backed up by evidence that makes the recommendations practical as well as aspirational. Rather than polarise business, society and government it seeks to bring them together in partnership in service of society - not as an exercise in image management but in service of mutual and shared benefits. It also signals clearly that for such a shift to be sustainable we need to challenge assumptions about the role of business (both mainstream and start-up) within society, we must encourage the mind-set and behavioural change needed in business to live up to this role (with support and encouragement from government and society), and we need action now to support a collective effort towards a better future.”

Marcello Palazzi, Progressio Foundation & B Lab Europe said: “With this Review, the UK government is the first in the world to take purpose-driven business seriously.  Thousands of enterprises in the UK are run by leaders with an integrated vision of success based on their human, social, natural and economic capital.  These are the growth businesses to watch for, and to work with foreign businesses of the same high standards. The UK is setting a global example by identifying and promoting best-for-the-world businesses.”

Annika Small, CEO, Centre for Acceleration of Social Technology (CAST) said: “If we are to have any chance of solving our society's most pressing problems, we urgently need to come together across the social sector, government and business. It is encouraging to see more businesses delivering both social impact and financial returns; doing good and doing well. This report is timely in recommending practical ways that these profit-with-purpose businesses can join forces with government and the social sector to drive change and build a more equal and inclusive society.”

Monique Villa CEO, Thomson Reuters Foundation said: “Companies - large and small - are waking up to the fact that they can achieve huge social impact through their business. While we’ve seen massive growth in social entrepreneurship over the last few years – we are also seeing big businesses focus more on social outcomes. Mission-led businesses do this through ethical products and services, strong diversity and inclusion practices or innovating to create social change.”

Frank Welvaert, Managing Director, Johnson and Johnson Trust said: “The report and recommendations on mission-led business should inspire dialogue and action by all the actors concerned, in order to unleash the potential of a new generation of purpose driven entrepreneurs. We are creating building blocks for a human centred economy driven by community impact.”