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Chance for business to clean house.


THE debate, accusations and recriminations surrounding the civil unrest of last week will no doubt go on for some considerable time with many solutions being offered.

One fall-out may well be the changes in our high streets as retailers look at how to protect their businesses and premises against intrusion; streets of shuttered shop fronts or less stock on site with a greater move to home delivery perhaps.

No doubt such changes are in the plans of many and any repeat of street violence will only accelerate the process.

However, before business as a whole adopts the high moral ground, it also needs to look at some of its own practices. Not that there can be any excuses for what has occurred but the old adage about stones and glass houses has an appropriate ring.

The selling practices of some of our banks and insurance companies has resulted in the levy of massive fines, energy companies have been shamed into stopping door-to-door selling and the reputation of business as a whole is at a low ebb.

The way in which many companies deal with complaints leaves much to be desired; ignore the complaint and bin the letter appears to be the growing trend. Not a strong base to be critical of others even if the business community is hardly guilty of setting alight its own premises.

One thought on how business can set an example is through some form of a code of conduct. There are many representative organisations for companies, chambers of commerce, the CBI, Federation of Small Businesses being perhaps the best known but not the only such bodies.

All pursue membership recruitment as a prime aim and all perform a valuable function in representing the views and interests of their members. What is not clear is how they impose any code of conduct on such members ... how, or if, they withdraw membership from companies that misbehave.

A difficult position if that member is, say, a major business which also sponsors the representative body, but if examples are to be set and standards of conduct to be seen as exemplary then hard decisions have to be taken.

I am not optimistic business will rise to this challenge but in criticising others it just may look to its own practices and put its house in order.

Bill Midgley is a North East business executive
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Aug 19, 2011
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