Politics, populism and trust in business: discussions for the boardroom

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The world is changing more quickly than ever. In the UK, political change has increased uncertainty, and trust in business is under the spotlight.

For many years, the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report has tracked long-term trends, including deepening social and political polarisation.1 Their latest report details how these trends came into sharp focus in 2016, with rising political discontent and disaffection evident in countries across the world, particularly in the US and the UK.

As a source of economic power and an agent of economic change, big business is often a target of political movements characterised by a feeling that the existing political system represents the interests of an elite class but not wider society.

To explore the implications of this for corporate governance in the UK and understand how boards can respond to this shifting mood, EY and Global Counsel interviewed politicians, business leaders and board directors across a range of sectors.

This report draws on the reflections gained from these interviews about the impact of recent political trends on business in the UK, and provides practical considerations for boardroom discussion on:

  • Understanding and acting on political risk
  • Using stakeholder engagement to identify risk and opportunity
  • Navigating uncertainty with broad business purpose
  • Enabling a wider awareness of the business environment through board diversity.

With a thought-provoking foreword from Stephen Adams of Global Counsel, we hope this report helps boards reflect on the broad socio-political trends impacting business today, and the potential response from business and those that govern it.

Download the report

1 World Economic Forum, The Global Risks Report 2017: 12th edition, 2017.