Zero Hours and CSR
Another week, another corporate responsibility issue hits the headlines. This time its the number of workers (up to a million) that are on ‘zero-hours’ contracts where in any week they aren’t guaranteed any work or pay until the very last moment. Many don’t get holiday or sick pay. While this might be OK for somebody studying who is flexible timewise and just needs a bit of extra cash, it is no way to live for, say, somebody with parental responsibilities.
I have long been concerned about the deeper structure of the economy. Youth unemployment and a squeeze on the standard of living have been increasing since 2003/4 – so can’t be blamed entirely on the 2007/8 crash or different Governments’ responses to it. There is something more fundamentally wrong and I suspect the sort of thinking where 20,000 out of 23,000 Sports Direct employees are on zero hours contracts is a part of the problem.
The HBR blogger Umair Haque talks of thick value and thin value – the former is created by business which enhances society, the latter from those who leach value from society. It is clear to me that zero hours contracts lead to very thin value, causing much more damage to society than benefits. It is impossible to deliver thick value unless CSR is truly embedded into the core of an organisation’s values – and that, folks, is what our mission must be.