BUSINESS

Badenoch: Quit political activism and focus on business

Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch

Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch has told firms to focus on delivering for customers rather than “activism or political causes”.

She said there was a “creeping – and counter-productive – politicisation” of business.

Ms Badenoch said some firms’ well-meaning “equality, diversity and inclusion” initiatives “divide, rather than unify”.

The Business Secretary was speaking in support of a research programme by the Policy Exchange think tank on the issue.

A Deltapoll survey for the think tank found 50% of people thought businesses had become “too concerned with taking political positions on contested issues”, with 14% disagreeing – the remainder either did not agree or disagree, or did not know.

The polling indicated that 75% of people believe that companies should hire on merit, regardless of race or gender, instead of seeking to create a diverse team.

The centre-right think tank’s project will “methodically document and address the role and influence of social and ideological considerations on contemporary business”, particularly “at the expense of shareholder and wider society interests”.

Policy Exchange highlighted examples such as the debanking row, ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s criticism of the Government over asylum policies and coffee chain Costa’s mural showing a transgender person with mastectomy scars sipping a drink on one of its express vans.

Ms Badenoch said: “Policy Exchange’s findings confirm what I know to be true from talking to people who run businesses, work in them, and buy from them.

“The public want the focus of business to be on delivering great products and services, not activism or political causes – which repel as many people as they attract.

“Overwhelmingly, people want companies to recruit on merit, selecting the best person for the job without regard to race or gender, rather than social engineering to create ‘diverse teams’.”

Earlier this year, an independent panel appointed by Ms Badenoch found businesses are implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives without an evidence base.

Ms Badenoch said: “As the recent Inclusion at Work Panel showed, many well-meaning ‘equality, diversity and inclusion’ initiatives divide rather than unify, and undermine organisational goals.

“They are based on speculative and contested theories with limited evidence of impact.

“Policy Exchange’s programme is a timely and welcome contribution to document the creeping – and counter-productive – politicisation of our business environment.

“I am committed to working with businesses on effective ways to foster economic growth, and also on this Government’s Inclusive Britain goals – smarter ways to achieve true equality of opportunity.”

Policy Exchange senior research fellow Lara Brown said: “Customers do not believe that businesses need to demonstrate commitment to progressive principles and do not make spending decisions based on the political statements of retailers.

“Employees are also negatively affected by the politicisation of business, with many sceptical about workplace schemes tailored towards equality, diversity and inclusion.”

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