Corporate Scotland has been given a tentative thumbs-up in a new study examining responsible business practices, but company bosses have been urged to do more to address a number of issues including female representation in the boardroom.
The Better Business research, published today, was conducted by Social Value Lab in partnership with social enterprise development agency Firstport, CEIS, and the Scottish Business Awards.
It included a nationwide survey of more than 1,000 businesses, as well as in-depth interviews with 34 business leaders and chief executives. Researchers also analysed the corporate social responsibility and reporting practices among Scotland’s 500 biggest companies.
Fifty-two per cent of the bosses that responded agreed there was a clear business case for investing in community, social and environmental issues, but almost a third felt the sole responsibility of a company was to maximise profit.
While nine in ten Scottish businesses felt they were delivering on their social and environmental responsibilities, the study concluded there is still some way to go in areas such as representation of women in senior positions and involving staff in decision-making.
Of Scotland’s top 500 companies, only 13 per cent of all board posts are held by women and just over half of the firms have none at all. Just 4 per cent of chief executives are women.
Jonathan Coburn, director of Glasgow-based Social Value Lab, said: “The face of business in Scotland is changing. The traditional notion that business is simply about making money no longer holds true.
“There is growing influence from the emerging generation of business leaders whose personal values are reflected in how they do business, while the public is more ethically motivated and less tolerant of corporate negligence and corrupt practices.
“With social media, there is nowhere for businesses to hide – reputation is everything, as the Volkswagen emissions scandal showed.”
The study was supported by Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, CGI Group and Caledonian MacBrayne.
Martin Dorchester, head of the ferry operator, said: “Caledonian MacBrayne doesn’t just sail to remote communities – it has been part of them for more than a century and a half. The responsibility we feel to staff and the communities we serve is genuine and significant.”