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IoD: 6 in 10 firms believe they should not exist solely to make money

02 Jun 2021

Businesses are increasingly taking a broader view of their purpose so that they serve the interests of all their stakeholders, rather than a sole focus on maximising shareholder value. This has led to a number of major UK employers committing to defining a social purpose, a trend that has been confirmed in the latest Institute of Directors research.

In a recent survey of more than 700 directors, 62% stated that they believed that businesses should not exist solely to make money and generate shareholder profits, and almost half felt that companies should have a stated social purpose to help solve problems in society. More than 9 out of 10 businesses have a purpose, mission, or vision that guides themselves and their companies.

The IoD is supporting the Better Business Act campaign, which seeks to place stakeholders at the heart of companies, with 51% of directors believing that the Companies Act focuses too much on shareholders and not enough on stakeholders.  The campaign would amend Section 172 of the Companies Act 2006 so that companies are legally obligated to operate in a manner that benefits their stakeholders, including workers, customers, communities and the environment, while seeking to deliver profits for shareholders.

Amin Aboushagor, Policy Advisor at the Institute of Directors, commented: 

“Corporate purpose has taken on a greater emphasis during the pandemic, particularly seeing how many businesses grappled with the challenges posed by COVID-19.

“The way that customers, employees, suppliers, and other important stakeholders are treated matters, and their views and interests must be considered alongside that of shareholders. In this new business world, we encourage directors to reconsider the purpose of their companies and the societal problems that they seek to solve.”

Full Survey Results – 738 respondents, conducted between 23/04/2021 – 10/05/2021

Does your organisation have a stated purpose? 

Yes, we have a purpose

62%

No, but we have a mission or vision instead

30%

No, we don’t have a purpose

6%

Don’t know

1%

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement?  'Companies should have a stated social purpose to help solve problems for society.' 

Strongly agree

17%

Agree

31%

Neither agree nor disagree

29%

Disagree

15%

Strongly disagree

7%

Don't know

1%

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement?  'The sole purpose of a company is to make money and generate shareholder profits.' 

Strongly agree

6%

Agree

16%

Neither agree, nor disagree

16%

Disagree

39%

Strongly disagree

23%

Don’t know

0%

The IoD recently expressed its support for the Better Business Act campaign, an effort to amend section 172 of the Companies Act 2006 to make it more stakeholder focused.   To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement?  'The Companies Act focuses too much on shareholders to the exclusion of other stakeholders.' 

Strongly agree

10%

Agree

41%

Neither agree, nor disagree

25%

Disagree

13%

Strongly disagree

5%

Don’t know

6%

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