Poverty deniers and ethical capitalists

Julian Richer is the founder of the high-street hi-fi chain Richer Sounds. He has also published a book, The Ethical Capitalist, and he was the opening keynote speaker at the Fair Tax Mark’s annual conference in July.

He has been a long-time supporter of the Fair Tax Mark, with his business first being accredited in 2017. He has had a busy 2019, making front-page news when he converted the stores to an employee ownership model.

He began by introducing the conference to the idea of a ‘poverty denier’. He had just seen a senior politician on Newsnight interviewed by Emily Maitlis who had said “Look around you ... poverty is not what you see”. Ironically the politician was filmed sitting in Downing Street. At this point, Julian began to quote some statistics, and you could get some sense of his anger.

“Every single reputable charity and think tank agrees that there are around 14 million people below the poverty line the UK, of whom 4 million are children, and 4 million are in work. 

And 1.5 million of these are literally in destitution ... going without the basic essentials (not luxuries) that we all need ... trapped in long-term poverty and deep hardship.

“This senior politician may think everything is hunky-dory, but I am very worried and concerned about:

  • The chronic lack of social housing. Three million homes are desperately needed due to our rising population and the 1.5 million properties sold under right-to-buy which weren’t replaced.
  • The 1.7 million workers on zero-hours contracts who don’t have access to homes in the private sector. And with almost no social housing available, where are they supposed to live?
  • The excessively punitive and hostile benefits system when the great majority of claimants deserve help and support. 
  • The fact that over 20% of all workers earn less than the real living wage.

“And all these terrible things take me onto the subject of aggressive tax avoidance, which is depriving our country of an estimated £100 billion. Which is an awful lot of money when one considers the entire prison service costs £3 billion.”

Julian went on to list some of the reforms to the tax system which he felt were needed and explained that he had written a book detailing what he felt was needed for a ‘responsible capitalism’ generally.

The book is short, written in accessible language, and is a reminder that the US-based culture of predatory corporate capitalism is not warmly embraced by everyone in business.

Julian has also set up the investigative think tank taxwatch.org.uk and a ‘Good Business Charter’ for companies to sign up to.

To buy ‘The ethical capitalist – how to make business work better for society' by Julian Richer, without using Amazon, see the booksellers guide on the Ethical Consumer website.

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