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Social targets should not be company law, says Hurd

6 April 2011
O2 Bill Eyres and civil society minister Nick Hurd

O2 head of corporate responsibility and sustainability Bill Eyres, left, and civil society minister Nick Hurd said social targets should not be enforced by legislation at Voice11

Civil society minister Nick Hurd has thrown cold water on a suggestion that the government should legislate to ensure UK companies have social and environmental targets.

The suggestion was put to him at last week’s Voice11 conference organised by the Social Enterprise Coalition.

Social entrepreneur and Hill Holt Wood founder Nigel Lowthrop suggested that social and environmental targets and the reporting on them should be introduced to company law.

Hurd answered: ‘I don’t think the path forward is regulation or the law. I think the whole direction of travel is against regulation.’

He added: ‘The Holy Grail is when shareholders generally are persuaded that with the companies they invest in, it is in their commercial interest to be serious about social responsibility because customers and employees are demanding different things of the business.

‘I think we are just beginning to feel a change in the air.’

Hurd was supported by Charity Finance Directors’ Group CEO Caron Bradshaw, who said ‘regulation doesn’t change hearts and minds’.

O2 head of corporate responsibility and sustainability Bill Eyres argued that creating a fourth sector between social enterprise and private enterprise was the way to drive change.

Eyres said: ‘The environmental credit crunch means business as usual isn’t an option. The challenge is to remake the economy for the future and this is why CSR doesn’t work – it doesn’t get to the heart of how a business creates change.

‘The co-operative space between social enterprise and private enterprise, which some people call the fourth sector, is actually how you drive change.’