Did Philip Green destroy his own empire?

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The past week’s events regarding Philip Green should serve as a reminder to all businesses of the importance of stamping out harassment, bullying and toxic cultures

Last week Arcadia Group escaped administration after landlords voted in support of turnaround plans that would see rent prices reduced, around 50 store closures and the loss of 1,000 jobs.

In the past year alone owner Philip Green has been accused of making racist remarks to a black employee, groping female staff and being physically aggressive and abusive towards both male and female workers. This resulted in brand amplifier Beyoncé pulling her clothing line, Ivy Park, from Topshop in November 2018 because of the conflict with her brand messaging around the empowerment of women and marginalised communities.

It is of essential value – culturally and commercially – to assess the role inappropriate conduct, abuse and sexual harassment had to play in the downfall of one of the UK's most popular retail empires. Consumers have, over the years, demonstrated the gargantuan effect of purchasing power when dealing with controversy. Green’s impact on Arcadia’s previously meaty bottom line is not exempt from the wrath of consumer fury.

The recent events surrounding the Arcadia Group should serve as a reminder to all businesses that those charged with decision-making and strategic management are responsible for the consequences of their actions.

We live in a hugely interconnected society where everyone can go online and assess the culture of a company. Because of this businesses can no longer sweep a toxic culture, harassment or bad management practices under the rug. Culture, curated by an individual or management team, affects the bottom line of a business so companies can no longer afford to ignore it.

Within UK workplaces men significantly outweigh women in management/decision-making positions; there are still only seven female CEOs within the FTSE 100. It is therefore of critical importance to ensure there is zero tolerance for gender-based misinformation. This is both with regard to what constitutes workplace harassment, and moreover the spectrum of solutions available in dealing with each and every manifestation of it.

Bringing in diverse talent at senior levels introduces new ideas to boards and leadership teams, which can undoubtedly change working cultures for the better. As a society we should be striving to stamp out harassment, bullying and inappropriate behaviour in the workplace by creating and implementing positive policies and learning from the lessons of the Arcadia Group.

Workplace inclusivity is fundamentally about culture – it’s about how comfortable employees feel within their workplace, and how able each individual feels to be their authentic selves within a professional setting. Employee retention should always be at the forefront of companies' minds, as even the best business cannot flourish without loyal employees. Companies with an inclusive culture have lower staff turnover and are subsequently more attractive to candidates.

The past week’s events regarding Philip Green should serve as a reminder to all businesses that hierarchical structures that promote the actions of one over the ethics of many can and will have a seismic impact on the reputation, commercial viability and ultimate longevity of that business.

Hephzi Pemberton is founder of Equality Group

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