Labor backs big business taking a stand on social causes
18 September 2019 at 5:37 pm
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese says corporate Australia must look beyond profit and recognise its role in the community by speaking up on important social issues.
In an address to the Business Council of Australia on Wednesday, Albanese indicated that Labor strongly supported activism in the corporate sector.
He said the most successful businesses operated in ways that reflected the values of their employees and customers.
“You are not just takers of profit. You see yourselves as part of the community,” Albanese said.
“Business’s recognition of its social role is important.”
The Labor leader rebuked comments from Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton in 2017 that business CEOs should “stick to their knitting” rather than using their company’s brand to advocate for social causes.
Albanese said this approach ignored “the reality of business today”.
The government has stepped up its attacks on corporate activism recently, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison telling The Australian last week that corporate Australia should focus on workers rather than social causes.
Earlier that week during a speech to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister Ben Morton criticised companies acting as “self-appointed moral guardians”.
But the Morrison government’s view seems to contradict Australian community sentiment.
New research from the Committee for Economic Development of Australia found more than three-quarters of people supported business leaders speaking out on social and environmental issues.
“While there has been much debate on the appropriateness of corporate leaders speaking on issues outside their core business, it is clear from these results the community consider this to be acceptable,” CEDA CEO Melinda Cilento said.
“This acceptance of a business voice on social and environmental issues was consistent across gender, age groups and locations from rural and regional Australia to our cities.”
Shared Value Project CEO Helen Steel told Pro Bono News that taking a stand on issues of national importance had become integral to ensuring a company’s social licence to operate.
She added that times have changed, with the breadth and severity of issues facing the nation blurring conventional roles and responsibilities of government, not for profits and business.
“An increasing proportion of corporate Australia has recognised the inherent link between social and economic prosperity… Through shared value, they are meeting their social obligations, while fuelling their bottom line,” Steel said.