It is clear that Britain currently holds a special place in the international consumer market. By many countries we are seen as the gold standard in quality and business leadership. However, it has been a challenging time for British business in recent months and it makes me wonder if the actions of a greedy few might be tarnishing the once sparking gilt of Brand Britannia?
Two of the nation’s most prominent retail bosses, in a relatively short space of time, have been the subject of a very public flogging by Select Committees for their mis-conducts, putting the spotlight firmly on business standards in Britain.
Firstly, Sports Direct’s boss Mike Ashley (a seeming unlikable character) was hauled before the Business Innovation and Skills Committee under accusations of abusive practices in their Derby Warehouse. With their treatment of staff being described as ‘Dickensian’ by some, the standards Sports Direct seemly employ clearly fall short of what British business is known for. Much is made of the abhorrent working standards commonly seen in the Far East and this is often cited as a reason to ‘Buy British’. However, when we uncover these similar practices on our own shores by well-known businesses, then one cannot help but feel damaged by it.
Then we have Sir Philip Green, who has been roasted by both the Work and Pensions and BIS Select Committees for his shameful mismanagement of, long-standing High Street stalwart, BHS. Once hailed as the ‘King of Retail’, Green’s fall from grace could not have been further. You cannot help but to consider how much thought the billionaire is genuinely giving to the 11,000 workers whose livelihoods are at risk and the 22,000 more pensioners whose future is up in the air. It perhaps seems now inevitable that Phillip Green will be judged by history alongside the likes of Robert Maxwell.
Both of Ashley and Green represent the unacceptable face of capitalism but worse – they also represent Britain in an international business market. Brand Britain must be seen as one of our most valuable commodities and everyone that does business from the UK has a responsibly to uphold the standards we have become renowned for. Failure to do so further chips away at the brand of every British business.