Earlier this month we were honoured to be invited to join the All Parliamentary Party Group (APPG) on Inclusive Growth at the OECD Global Parliamentary Network meeting in Parliament which was held to discuss inclusive growth. The organisers invited a number of business leaders associated with Blueprint, including Sir Mike Rake, Chair of Advisory Council; Sue Garrard, Blueprint Trustee and Executive Vice President, Sustainable Business & Communications, Unilever; and Sacha Romanovitch, Chief Executive, Grant Thornton to join the conversation. Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing the perspectives shared by attendees from Parliamentarians, to NGOs and business leaders.

Liam Byrne, UK MP and Co-chair of the APPG Inclusive Growth, set the tone for the discussion in his welcoming address. He explored the very different challenges and opportunities 21st-century economies face including technological transformation, rapidly growing inequality and systemic challenges such as climate change. He underlined that current policy was not created to address this, built as it is on an economic consensus which took slowly hold in the 20 years between Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom and the election of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in ’79/80. In conclusion, he suggested that while we may have mastered how to globalise, we failed to develop good ways of ensuring that globalisation worked for the many, not just the few.

Byrne challenged the attending parliamentarians, NGO’s and business representatives that while growth has returned since the global financial crisis, there is still much to be done to ensure it is inclusive. As demonstrated in the Sustainable Development Goals, there is agreement across governments and in many businesses that inclusive growth is good for society and business, opening up new markets and opportunities and ensuring economic stability. To deliver this means working together across parties, business, finance, unions, churches and civil society. Central to this is the role of business in promoting inclusive growth, which can be achieved by businesses operating to a purpose that benefits both business and society.

So what can policy makers do to raise productivity levels, while also re-connecting productivity growth to wages? How can businesses ensure their practices achieve inclusive social outcomes? What does the purpose-led business of the 21st century look like?

Byrne made the case that a new policy strategy is needed if the markets are to play their part in maximising social good. Central to this are three key steps, firstly a ‘good jobs’ revolution, that recognises, on the supply side of the economy, it is no longer merely the supply of capital that is important, but the supply of innovation. Second, on the demand side, we must keep new rates of growth rates on track, and crucially keep trade on track, and investment in the sort of infrastructure that makes trade possible. Thirdly, we have to renew the power of states to redistribute in order to help both young and old and address the scandal of gender inequality.

Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing summaries of the different perspectives demonstrated by speakers including Greg Medcraft, Dr Hari Mann, Sir Mike Rake, Sue Garrard and Sacha Ramonovitch. In doing so, we will aim to begin addressing some of these big questions, and we hope to create an ongoing discussion around the topic of inclusive growth.

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