Dianne Sharp column: profit is not a dirty word

Companies should be open and transparent about their dealings to counter the feeling that profits are bad

Dianne Sharp
Dianne Sharp

It’s very difficult for companies to thrive and grow without the trust of consumers and employees.

That’s why the CBI launched the Great Business Debate, a trust-in business campaign, to combat myths and encourage a constructive conversation about what business does and how it does it. We also recognise that people’s direct experience of companies is a big factor in determining their confidence in business more generally.

Creating a better understanding of how profit is made, the role it plays in delivering for consumers and ending its use as a dirty word are important parts of this.

Despite public support for profits as a ‘good thing’, they continue to be demonised widely. In a YouGov poll of more than 2,000 UK adults for the Great Business Debate, 70% of people agree profit is a good thing. But just as many believe consumers lose when profits are made, with 71% agreeing that companies put profits before the needs of consumers. We need to change that thinking.

Profits are the result of, and the motivation for, getting it right for consumers.

When markets work well, profits are made by pleasing consumers, not at their expense. The best businesses deliver for their customers and reap the rewards in sales and profits. They make employing people and investing in new products and services possible, bringing huge long-run benefits to consumers.

So how do we stop profits being demonised by default?

Greater transparency for one thing. Consumers want to know that the companies they use are making money in a responsible way.

And we need to make it easier for consumers to vote with their wallets through the choices they make. People must have the freedom and ability to choose who they buy from so the threat of losing customers is real for businesses if they don’t perform.

To see that working, just look at the link between falling food prices and the ease with which shoppers swap from one supermarket to another in search of the best value.

Or in banking, the effect of the ‘seven-day switching service’ which is making it easier to change provider.

The businesses that do the best job of serving customers will reap the rewards. It’s right that they should.

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