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Scottish businesses must be motivated by more than the financial bottom line if they are to help build a fairer and greener Scotland.

That’s the conclusion of Better Business, a ground-breaking study carried out by Social Value Lab into responsible business practices in Scotland. The project was supported by Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, CGI and Caledonian MacBrayne.

Over half (52%) of the business leaders that responded agreed there was a clear business case for investing in community, social and environmental issues but, more worryingly, almost a third (29%) felt the sole responsibilities of companies was to maximize profit.

While nine in ten Scottish companies (89%) felt they were delivering on their social and environmental responsibilities, the study concludes there is still a long way to go in areas such as representation of women in senior positions and involving staff in decision-making, for example. Of Scotland’s top 500 companies, only 13% of all board posts are held by women and over half (56%) of the firms have none at all. Just 4% of CEOs are women.

The study identifies a series of potential barriers to changing corporate behaviour and explores ways to encourage more responsible and progressive business practices.

Social Value Lab director Jonathan Coburn explained:

“The face of business in Scotland is changing. The traditional notion that business is simply about making money no longer holds true. There is growing influence from the emerging generation of business leaders whose personal values are reflected in how they do business, while the public is more ethically motivated and less tolerant of corporate negligence and corrupt practices. There is recognition by business leaders that people are more likely to admire, work for, buy from and support companies that they perceive to share their values.”

Commenting on the report, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said:

“There is a wealth of international evidence to suggest that promoting competitiveness and addressing inequality are important interdependent ambitions. Creating a fairer society is not just a desirable goal in itself, but is essential to the sustained, long-term prosperity of the Scottish economy. … It is encouraging to learn that more than half of all business leaders surveyed believe there is a clear business case for investing in community, social and environmental issues. I am sure this proportion will continue to grow and I would encourage all those surveyed to learn more about the Scottish Business Pledge and what it can do for their businesses.”

The full report is available to download here.

To find out more about how Social Value Lab can assist your business to develop and measure its social responsibility, contact Jonathan Coburn (Director, Social Value Lab) on 0141 530 1479 or

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