Welcome to my blog. I’m Mike Tuffrey – a leader, adviser, speaker and writer on business, government and sustainability. Based in London, I’ve worked across all three sectors for 30 years – and that makes me a ‘tri-sector athlete’, or so I’m assured.

The big question that concerns me today is how business, government and civil society can work more effectively together to bring better outcomes for all… prosperity, health, well-being, today and for my children’s generation, especially now half the world lives in cities.

Literally and metaphorically, we are all ‘in it together’. Click on This blog for more about my thinking and on About Mike for details of my various activities. Then please do get in contact if you’d like to collaborate.

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’Tis the season of… too much consumption, and year end predictions

 As the year 2017 draws to a close, I’ll hazard a prediction about a rising trend for 2018 – a backlash by consumers about how companies use their data.

As I write, here in London the shops are full. Households are preparing for the Christmas season, when Christians astutely adopt the pagan winter solstice festival to mark new beginnings and everyone settles in against the cold for an excess of consumption.

If the advertisements are to be believed, high on Santa’s list of presents this year will be smart speakers – with Amazon Echo battling it out with Google Home, since Apple has announced that its HomePod will not be shipped until early 2018. New on the scene is the Echo Dot, small enough to slip into anyone’s Christmas stocking.

If you’ve not yet joined the fun (and I’m firmly resisting so far) these devices harness voice controlled AI assistants – Amazon Alexa joining iPhone’s Siri, Microsoft Cortana and Google Now out in the cloud – to give you a hands-free way to play music, control your ‘smart home’ devices, tell you the weather forecast, and much more.

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The impact potential – next steps on corporate community investment

Two decades ago, a few pioneering companies came together in London to form a benchmarking group and that has now gone worldwide.  So what’s next for community investment?

 Last week I spent an energising day in the company of 70 corporates from our LBG network and came away with three thoughts on how business/community partnerships should change if they are to remain relevant to the challenges of our times.

LBG started out with just six companies 20 years ago and has today grown into the global standard for measuring corporate community investment.  That’s why companies committed to increasing their social impact use it, over a thousand now, large and small, across all sectors.  Last week’s participants included not just the usual UK blue-chips, but firms as diverse as Nokia from Finland, EDP from Portugal, DP World out of Dubai and the Australian retailer Myers. Continue reading

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Dull but important – why corporate governance matters

We’re starting to see a new approach to how our major corporations are governed and held to account. However few are getting excited about it.

Talk about corporate governance and most people’s eyes glaze over. When the Financial Reporting Council earlier this year announced a fundamental review of the UK Corporate Governance Code – 25 years on from the original Cadbury Report – not everyone cancelled their holidays to await developments.

That proved wise, as true to form, this will be a slow-burn. However some elements are starting to come together. Last week the government announced its approach to some hot topics that featured in political debate around the new prime minister and the general election.

The outcome is less than the hype, also true to form. Mandatory worker representatives on Continue reading

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Responsible business and the dogs that didn’t bark

With the UK election over and the government up and running, what are the prospects for responsible business now, and how will the recently released Taylor Review of employment status change expectations.

On the face of it, normal politics in the UK has now resumed: the minority government has reached an agreement with the Northern Ireland’s 10 DUP MPs and the Queen has made her annual journey to Parliament to announce the legislative programme, albeit shorn of the usually flummery of crowns and gowns (tacit recognition of the existential nightmare underway in Brussels with the start of Brexit negotiations).

As if to underline the attempt at normality, the long awaited Taylor Review of Modern Employment Practices was published on July 11 , and – I think significantly – Theresa May used the opportunity for a big speech, trailed in the media as a relaunch of her premiership. That same day my colleagues and I at Corporate Citizenship convened our clients and partners to review the post-election prospects for those engaged in the journey towards responsible and sustainable business. I got to kick off the debate with an extended version of my previous two-part analysis (here).

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Steady as she goes

With the UK general election over, what did it tell us about the continued relevance of corporate responsibility and sustainability? Four things at least, despite the lack of debate.

Prediction is a mug’s game.  In guessing numbers of seats in the House of Commons, mine were as flawed as most.  Now attention switches to the drama of the outcome and the interplay of personalities – a damaged prime minister, speculation about leadership bids, peace apparently breaking out in the civil war that was the Parliamentary Labour party.

As I write, a new government is being formed, looking remarkably like the outgoing one, save for its Orange underpinnings (an association that will surely undermine the 15 year project – author one T. May – to detoxify the nasty party).

Looking ahead to possible policy changes, what is likely to happen now?  Are the manifestos any guide at all?  Actually the pre-election analysis of the major parties’ offerings that I prepared for Corporate Citizenship is still relevant, I think, though that might not be obvious since so little was debated or contested during the campaign.

Ostensibly all about Brexit and strengthening the negotiating hand, in fact the election Continue reading

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The change election – time for business to decide

With the election battle gathering pace in the UK, big business is keeping its head down, despite having much at stake. Mike Tuffrey reads the early runes as the contest unfolds.

The pundits will tell you that political parties adopt one of two positions in elections – either “it’s time for a change” or “things are getting better, don’t let the other lot ruin it”. This time, however, that isn’t the choice on offer; everybody seems to be promoting a change agenda of some sort.

As I write this, the parties are busy publishing their manifestos. I’ll do an analysis once they are all out. Still, enough has been leaked or deliberately trailed to hazard a prediction: this is not a change or status quo battle, or a conventional left/right choice where one side says we need more government and one argues for less.

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The price of democracy: defending civil society

Companies should do more to protect civil society, even if that means defending their critics from oppressive governments.

Think of business involvement in politics, and the murky world of backhanders and behind-the-scenes lobbying may spring to mind. However, define the issue as protecting basic freedoms –the sort of freedoms that companies need if they are to prosper in open and competitive markets – and a different perspective emerges.

So it was refreshing to hear a call, as I did last week, for companies to get more involved, not in party politics or the direct business of government but in defending the space for civil society to operate freely. That came during an event we at Corporate Citizenship organised with Danny Sriskandarajah, secretary general of CIVICUS, the global alliance of over 3,600 civil society organisations and activists working to strengthen citizen action and civil society around the world. Continue reading

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Take responsibility

When Uber’s boss fell out with one of his drivers, the video went viral. In the process he’s taught us all a lesson about true responsibility.

It’s pretty ironic, I suppose. The digital revolution has enabled Uber co-founder, Travis Kalanick, to build a business worth a cool $70 billion in just eight years. Then the same technology and a humble dash-cam captured his angry exchange with one of their drivers, Fawzi Kamel, and it went round the world in seconds, thanks to a judicious leak to Bloomberg Technology.

Their argument started over tough changes to the business model of Uber’s high-end chauffeur service and ended with Kalanick uttering the priceless words “some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit” – thereby both passing the buck for the hapless driver’s bankruptcy and also – it seems to me – serving as a metaphor for the challenges facing global capitalism today.

It’s doubly ironic coming from such a profoundly disruptive business, Continue reading

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Why ESG matters

It’s not exactly as easy as ABC, but ESG – Environmental, Social and Governance – is the key to investors getting traction on the behaviour of companies they own. 

Forgive me if a note of grumpiness creeps into this comment. That’s entirely due to too much Trumpiness at present. But I just couldn’t resist giving a little tongue-in-cheek cheer when I saw this year’s Most Controversial Companies Report from RepRisk.

This identifies the ten companies most at reputational risk from governance problems like corruption and fraud, as well as environmental and social controversies. For once, the rating is based on a rigorous analysis rather than social media chatter or NGO high profile campaigns. The aim of the exercise is to raise awareness of the ESG risks that need to be addressed by global corporations.

To be honest, I’ve become a little fed up with the boosterism of the usual ‘most this’ and ‘most that’ rankings – like the one that named BMW as “the world’s most sustainable company” last year (since when was selling metal  boxes powered by fossil fuels a sustainable business model?); or the one that advised investors the year before to back Volkswagen as “best in class…  in terms of economic, environmental and social criteria” just days before that motor manufacturer’s systematic cheating caused a collapse in its share price. Continue reading

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