Magazine article European Business Forum

The Power Players

Magazine article European Business Forum

The Power Players

Article excerpt

Over the last ten to 15 years it has been fashionable to portray business leaders as the most powerful members of a new global economic and political elite. Globalisation has certainly opened up new opportunities for expansionism and growth--but boardrooms can hardly be said to be having it all their own way. While middle-of-the-road politicians may be losing their legitimacy, extremists of the left and right are making their presence increasingly felt; financial markets, consumers and the media can all ruthlessly withdraw their support for companies and their executives who are seen to betray a trust; and the terrible events in the US of just under a year ago put the question of who holds the reins of power in a different light.

Whatever the current limitations and uncertainties, however, the debate which begins on page 7 of this edition of EBF highlights the sheer scale of executive power and the incentives for business to use it wisely and responsibly. Among issues discussed by contributors are:

* the myths and realities behind the competing claims of pessimistic globalisation critics and optimistic neo-liberal free marketeers;

* the need to address growing perceptions that multinationals are unelected and unaccountable--a duty which falls as much on the shoulders of advisers like accountants and management consultants as it does on their clients--and the risks of ignoring stakeholder activism;

* the business and managerial implications of resurgent nationalism in parts of Europe, notably the possible impacts on consumer tastes and behaviour;

* the so far unfulfilled potential of the European Union to use its economic size as a lever in global trade, investment and market access negotiations;

* the extent to which governments and companies make a bigger difference to people's lives when they work together;

* the growing calls for transparency in international reporting. …

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