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If you don’t have anything nice to say

5 July, 2024

If you’re in the UK, you’re probably waking up to a new government this morning. In 2024, half the world will vote. Issues that influence voting have never felt more important, or more divisive. The way we discuss those issues needs to improve.


Different opinions are healthy. Debate, even with people you disagree with (and perhaps most importantly with them) is essential. How you debate matters almost as much. Inflammatory language and insults aren’t helpful or constructive, whatever politicians would have you believe. And populism comes in on the back of such debate.


That’s why Woke Capitalism in Britain from the Legatum Institute made us weary and frustrated. We read it so you don’t have to: DEI and ESG threaten “British liberty, prosperity and national interest” and that’s before you get to regulatory overreach and the perils of net zero.


There is an important debate here. We don’t agree that regulation is an unnecessary imposition on business when the market hasn’t effectively addressed the big challenges we are facing. We do agree that complying takes time and resource, and poses a burden on businesses, but we believe the trade-off is, on balance, worth it. Labelling that view “woke capitalism” (which appears 101 times in the report) isn’t debate or discussion, it’s loaded language that seeks to undermine rational debate, manipulate and polarize, and shut off meaningful discussion of the issues.


Engage with the people you disagree with. Have better conversations (some good recommendations on that here). Don’t resort to ad hominem arguments, don’t reduce complex issues to slogans. Accept that most things aren’t black and white and that your opponents may have something to contribute, even you don’t like them. Populism has done nothing for politics. We need to resist it in discussions about business and sustainability.

By Claire Jost

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