The Scottish Government’s New Deal for Business group recently published its recommendations alongside a list of its members, including its working group on Wellbeing Economy.
A Wellbeing Economy is one designed to deliver good lives for all people while protecting the health of our planet. It requires a fundamental shift from the economic logic we have inherited which leaves us with missed climate targets, one in four children growing up in poverty, life expectancy decreasing for poorest households and a highly unfair distribution of wealth.
There are many businesses in Scotland that are already leading the way in putting people and planet first and developing viable solutions for a Wellbeing Economy, including social enterprises, cooperatives and employee-owned businesses. We were hoping that the working group on Wellbeing Economy present a renewed focus on making such organisations thrive. We are very disappointed that the members of the New Deal for Business Group do not include any representative organisations of such businesses, such as Social Enterprise Scotland, even though representative organisations of other sectors are included.
The group is missing out on the invaluable experience and insights that such businesses can provide. Instead the subgroup on Wellbeing Economy has given a platform to companies like BP, whose core business model is arguably not aligned with a Wellbeing Economy.
While it is important for Scottish Government to engage with and consider the impact on businesses in their actions to design the economy to provide good lives on a healthy planet, we are very worried that the group recommends much closer input of businesses into policymaking, without giving any considerations of the potential conflicts of interests that such an involvement may create. There are plenty of historical precedents where some businesses have abused such positions of power to block or dilute important policies aimed to protect the health of people and planet. Surely membership of such a group should require companies to set out what they themselves will do to become purposeful businesses that contribute to our collective wellbeing?
In a Wellbeing Economy we would redesign the rules and regulation of our economy so that the right thing for people and planet becomes the right thing for business. Time is running out and we cannot afford to risk any delay in these action due to interference from the minority of businesses who continue to put the reward of their shareholders before society and nature.
We therefore call on the Scottish Government to ensure that its engagement with businesses starts from the non-negotiable priorities of addressing our environmental and social emergencies that we are facing. It should centre the expertise of those businesses that are already providing the best solutions, not those whose shareholders have the most to lose after years of inaction.
Lukas Bunse, Policy and Engagement Lead, Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland