Why Growth Matters
It’s not always popular to say you believe in growth. Environmental and social activists have rightly called into question the desirability of pursuing economic growth at all costs, while others have pointed out that raising GDP is a poor policy objective, because it fails to account for social inequality or quality of life. Individual businesses face a concurrent critique over claims that rapid scaling frequently hollows out labour markets, reduces competition and over concentrates wealth.
Yet only seeing the negatives misses the big picture. The good news is that good growth – growth that is profitable (and ultimately profit is required), ethical, sustainable and socially conscious – is possible, and we see it all around us. It is a model rooted in enlightened self-interest. It enriches society as well as the business and its owners and investors – providing good jobs, funding vital public services and creating the dynamism to solve major problems like climate change and poverty.
Since 1770, global life expectancy has risen from 29 to 70 years. Since 1990, the proportion of
people in developing regions living in extreme poverty – less than $1.25 a day – has fallen from around 50% to 14%. Economic growth has powered a radical improvement in the quality of life for billions of people, and remains the engine of progress and common prosperity. We abandon its pursuit at our peril.
This does not mean we have to accept that all growth is good. Some companies expand through the exploitation of people and finite resources, and whilst they might see ephemeral gains, their days could be numbered: surely society will not extend the licence to operate to such businesses whilst the median standard of living stagnates and the climate heats to dangerous levels?
It is a model of growth based on doing better, not just using more. It recognises that lasting success is to be found in shared value, strengthening labour markets, communities and local economies rather than exploiting them. A capitalist model of enlightened self-interest is one that we can proudly say we believe in.
Companies and the leaders of companies are at the very heart of this, because good growth is an
active choice. The Growth Index is not selected based on any ethical criteria, but we note that many on the list exemplify and/or aspire to a socially conscious, sustainable approach to business.
We have therefore tried to tell some of their stories on these pages, in the hope that they will serve as an inspiration for other ambitious firms that actively and consciously pursue a deeper purpose as well as growing fast and making a profit.