If your social media feed is anything like mine you will have been struck by the number of North East businesses expressing solidarity with the Three Lions. They have shared the outrage of the nation the despicable racist attacks that followed the penalty shoot out and have wanted to make this
I have also noticed that their statements have often begun by writing that they don’t normally take political stands. There is one excellent business reason why this should be the case – nobody wants to lose customers due to political allegiance; even firms which have long histories of political donations rarely go public in support of their chosen party for this reason.
But the logic that led businesses to avoid party allegiances now encourages them to show that their values are in the same place as their stakeholders. When Nike publicly supported many of their sponsored athletes who took the knee when this first emerged the United States, racists burned their products, filmed themselves (sometimes with unintended consequences) and stated that they were switching to Nike’s US competitor New Balance. Not only did Nike then issue a video to show them how to burn their products safely but New Balance stated that they did not want their custom.
I have no doubt that both their Boards were genuinely committed to anti-racism but it also made excellent business sense, particularly for Nike whose ethical reputation has been transformed for the better over recent years.
Two final thoughts. North-East firms speaking out against racism have nothing to apologise for, for this is not about politics, it is about basic decency. And second, if firms want to attract talent and custom, they will increasingly need to be clear about where they stand on a range Equality,
Sustainability and Governance issues. As we always say at NIBE – responsible business is good business.
Ron Beadle – Professor of Organization and Business Ethics, Director of NIBE