News that more than 1000 companies are now committed to paying the living wage or above is a start at least, as is energy company SSE seeing, according to a recent Observer report, the "commercial advantage in rejecting tax avoidance schemes and the use of tax havens". As a result SSE is the first FTSE100 firm to be awarded the Fair Tax Mark. Tax avoiding businesses, with their fiscal chicanery, run the risk of alienating the public, which is why the Fair Tax Mark is so useful as a guide for consumers, and should be used by all governments seriously intent on "knocking down the walls of corporate secrecy".
However, why stop with tax avoidance? Companies which pay low wages and rely on the taxpayers to fill the gaps with housing benefit and such like, are also running the risk of falling foul of "consumer power". A Fair Pay Mark could be the reward for sensible and fair pay, with the living wage paid to all workers employed directly or indirectly by the company, equal rates of pay and opportunities for all workers, regardless of race and gender, and a reasonable pay ratio between the lowest and highest paid, (including bonuses). Is it any wonder the UK is 28th in the equality league table of 34 developed nations, when FTSE 100 CEOs now receive in total renumeration 143 times that of the average employee in their firms?The idea of being able to identify the businesses whose activities bring benefit to the economy as a whole is not new, and the Labour leader might do well to read some biographies of the other Roosevelt instead, for one of FDR`s more successful New Deal policies was the awarding of the "Blue Eagle" accreditation to companies exhibiting practice akin to what Miliband would call "responsible capitalism". There is certainly a case to be made in Britain for a Fair Employer Mark, which could be awarded to all businesses which allowed all workers full trade union rights, something sadly, some large engineering firms are apparently avoiding, and also one for companies with a creditable apprenticeship scheme. A Safe Employer Mark might be useful for firms where machinery is used or where accidents more likely to happen,
If Miliband was serious about ending "predatory capitalism", and wanted to show that Labour is not in thrall to the City unlike the other parties, he and his colleagues should be voicing their full support for the Fair Tax Mark, and thinking seriously about extending it, when in government, as an indication of their "commitment to fairness". A pledge to do so now might well be the "silver bullet" Labour desperately needs!