Project: Better Business, Better Scotland
Service Area: Social Research
Client: Government and the business community
Duration: 6 months

The Brief

As a think tank as well as advisory firm, Social Value Lab seeks to demonstrate thought leadership on a range of important issues. Our Better Business initiative is one aspect of this. Can business be an effective force for good? Has the business case for environmental and social responsibility been widely accepted? Are company values and commitments translating into changed behaviours? What more, if anything, can companies do to promote a fairer and greener country? Better Business set out to answer these questions, identify the barriers to changing corporate behaviour, and suggest ways to encourage more responsible business practices.

Our Inputs

The study offers the most comprehensive account yet of corporate responsibility in Scotland. The evidence presented in this report draws on information and views from:

  • A nationwide survey of business leaders, carried out online and by telephone interview. This gathered views from a cross-section of 1,052 businesses registered in Scotland, employing people and operating for at least three years.
  • An analysis of the corporate social responsibility and reporting practices among Scotland’s 500 leading companies.
  • A series of 34 semi-structured interviews with established business leaders and several of the organisations that represent and support Scotland’s business community.

The Results

The Better Business study suggests that the face of business in Scotland is changing, however, at a gradual pace. For most companies, the traditional notion that business is simply about making money no longer holds true. While 29% of business leaders hold onto the view that the sole responsibility of their company is to maximise profits, 89% agree that responsible behaviour drives business success, and a similar percentage characterise their company as socially and environmentally responsible. Just half go as far as to say that there is a clear business case for investing company resources in community, social and environmental issues.

The research offers the clearest understanding yet of the characteristics of responsible businesses. These businesses have been shown to aspire to the highest standards, demonstrating ethical leadership in their marketplace. They are inclusive, treat people fairly and celebrate diversity at all levels. They seek to maximise their social value, extending their positive contribution to the communities in which they operate. They reduce their environmental footprint as far as possible, and work collaboratively to achieve their wider goals.

Some Feedback

“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.”

Deputy First Minister, John Swinney


The full report is available to download here.