Instead, she argued, governments should act as co-sponsors of, and investors in, innovation, “but that government support and investment must be conditional on ethical and sustainable behavior from businesses. Act well and get a slice of the pie. Simple.”
The importance of good corporate behavior was also highlighted by Hywel Ball, Head of Audit at EY in the UK, in his opening remarks. “People are beginning to get the message that it can’t just be business as usual,” he told delegates, pointing out that radical ideas are gaining ground in unexpected places. For example, in August, the CEOs of the top 200 US companies signed a pledge that made a commitment to all stakeholders – including employees and investors, communities and regulators – having previously explicitly put shareholders first.
“ At EY we are playing our part,” he added, “working with the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism to develop a new reporting framework we call the Embankment Project, which puts the creation of long-term value at the forefront.”
The long run
For Iain Mackay, CFO of GlaxoSmithKline, the question of long-term value is intrinsic to his role at one of the world’s largest and most influential pharma companies – to the underlying business, and also to the way in which it reports its activities.
“We need to be providing reports that are fair, balanced and understandable to the lay person; that’s the challenge facing all of us in the profession,” he said. “Our stakeholders need to understand how we create value – not just from a shareholder perspective, but on the social side as well. That means addressing every group of stakeholders; employees, the communities we serve and so on.”