often reminded that there’s never been a better time to be alive than today. In
Britain there are more people in work than ever before. Across Europe we’ve
enjoyed an unprecedented period of peace since the end of the Second World War.
We live in a completely interconnected world.
fabric that underpins that success is fairness and trust. Fairness is
hard-wired into the human psyche. It underpins almost everything we do – the
central founding principle of any society and the glue that allows human beings
to work together. It has enabled us to trade. And with trade comes trust.
today that fabric of fairness and trust is under threat. Only a minority of
Britons questioned in Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer – 14% – feel that
Britain is working for them. These aren’t just the feelings of those struggling
to get by. They are held by all groups – young and old, rich and poor,
metropolitan and country.
it seems, a Disunited Kingdom. Our only remaining commonality? That
Britain today is increasingly unfair, unjust and on the wrong course. We
worry our country will be poorer
and less tolerant. Our divisions are multi-layered, and increasingly fractious. But it’s not simply
about Remainers vs Leavers; Tory vs Labour; millennials vs
It would be a mistake to assume Brexit is entirely to blame, and
that the fractures it’s exposed are binary. Brexit is of course a symptom of a
bigger underlying problem – a problem that people believe the Government is
unable and incapable of solving. A majority, across
all strata of our society, say that the institution of government is broken.
That it does not listen to “people like me”.
The future is no longer the
place of opportunity for many. People increasingly fret about the future –
not only for their economic prospects but also, to an extent, for their
safety. Since the referendum four in ten say they
see violent protests as more likely and seven in ten say we are angrier
about politics and society. One in six even say it’s led to fallouts with
family and friends.
unprecedented times, people are looking to other actors and institutions to
fill the leadership gap. Here the opportunity is with business and business
leaders. Business is today more
trusted than government, than the media and viewed on a par with the third
sector. In pursuit of the fairness on which all trade rests, it is not an
exaggeration to say because of its scale and resources business has a
responsibility to respond.
Whether it’s about the
perception that some people are allowed to play by a different set of rules, or
the belief that the way an employer treats its staff is critical to trust,
business must step up. It must respond to societal
us now look to our own employer to be a trustworthy source of
information about social issues. To lead where there is little
At a time when many businesses feel they are operating in a world that looks increasingly out of their control, action on the things within their gift is a pretty good place to begin the re-set. The challenge is immense, but it cannot be ducked.
A version of this article first appeared on The Times