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Globally there is a wide expectation that business should be more socially responsible and in recent years businesses have started to rhetorically embrace this expectation. Covid-19 seems to have accelerated the trend of business becoming more attentive to creating positive environmental and community impact.

That ‘businesses should do good for society’ is an uncontroversial statement, yet how is this to be achieved? Is it a good idea for businesses to play a prominent social role or to focus on returns for shareholders? The issue is more complex than it seems.

Socially responsible businesses must choose priorities and ultimately may be making decisions that are political. Considering the lobbying capability of business, what is the dividing line between the Cabinet Room and the board room? Should representative governments see social outcomes as their duty alone, or encourage responsible business as the best way to realise social value from global corporate giants that are increasingly hard to tax? Do boards even have the right to choose social causes to allocate company money to?

For the Social Outcomes Conference 2021's closing public talk, we were joined by two outstanding thought leaders – Dr Dambisa Moyo, global economist and best-selling author, and Karthik Ramanna, Professor of Business and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government – for an engaging discussion on how governments can support responsible business. 

Listen to the audio recording of the session.