Future Economy Alliance poll finds public want a change to purpose-led business

The Alliance includes Community Energy England, Co-operatives UK, Cwmpas, the EOA, Locality, Plunkett, Power to Change, Social Enterprise Scotland and Social Enterprise UK

Research from the Future Economy Alliance shows that the UK public wants a change in the national approach to doing business, with only a third of adults believing the current model has a positive impact on the economy.

Only a quarter believe business benefits wider society, the report adds, while many said it has no impact at all or is actively negative. And just 15% think the national approach to business should stay the same, with campaigners urging bold reform.

The Future Economy Alliance unites social enterprises, co-operatives, mutuals, employee-owned businesses, social investors, community-led organisations, fundraisers and third sector experts who propose a new business plan for Britain. Its members include Community Energy England, Co-operatives UK, Cwmpas, the Employee Ownership Association, Fair Tax Foundation, Locality, Power to Change, Social Enterprise Scotland and Social Enterprise UK, and this week it added rural community business charity Plunkett Foundation to its ranks.

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Research findings highlight public support for purpose-driven business models, with most (59%) saying businesses should give social or environmental concerns equal or higher priority to profits and just 2% saying businesses should always put profit first.

Just 20% of those polled feel big businesses are trustworthy, and even fewer (15%) trust energy suppliers and private utilities companies specifically – a finding the survey links to recent issues like energy bill rises and the Thames Water financial crisis.

Only one in 20 believes private businesses should provide essential public services like water and energy, with most people saying they should be state-run, while around a fifth would have them provided by purpose-led businesses.

The research also shows massive public support for policy changes that encourage transparency, with more than 75% demanding a legal requirement for all businesses to publicly report details of their ownership as well as profits and losses.

Peter Holbrook, CEO of Social Enterprise UK (which commissioned the research on behalf of the alliance), said: “These findings make it very clear that people are no longer happy with ‘business as usual’; there is real appetite to challenge the status quo and build an economy where our entire society profits.

“Business can and must work in a way that actively benefits people and planet, sharing profit and power to drive real change. The UK’s pioneering minority of purpose-driven businesses that we represent in the Future Economy Alliance need to become the norm.”

Cross-bench peer and social entrepreneur Lord Victor Adebowale added: “With the UK economy facing significant challenges, our country needs a bold and ambitious vision: a new business plan for Britain. Sadly, this is not forthcoming at present, so the Future Economy Alliance has been established to drive the business of change.

“Our partnership of cross-sector business experts will assemble the best examples from across the UK of what’s working well but also how and where business can do better. We can transform the UK economy, enhance our nation’s prospects, and restore a sense of hope and pride – within public services, within communities and within us all.”

After joining the Alliance this week, Plunkett Foundation said it will campaign with the alliance in the run-up to the next general election “to make sure the next government has a new business plan for Britain – one where profits also benefit people and planet.”

Plunkett added: “Our economy shapes our world, creating prosperity and opportunity – but also some of our greatest environmental and social challenges, which the state alone cannot resolve. This unique partnership of activists, entrepreneurs, investors and business leaders can guide policy-makers in the bold reform needed to create a stronger, fairer, greener economy.”