20 October 2016

What does it take to earn a knighthood? And what does it take to lose one?

philip green

Image from @Twitter

Today we’ll learn more, as the House of Commons debate whether businessman Philip Green should be stripped of his honours.

The Committee in charge has previously described Green’s behaviour in the BHS case as ‘Napoleonic’ and described him as ‘the unacceptable face of capitalism’. The question they’ll have to answer today is: Is there any evidence to suggest that Philip Green keeping his honour would bring the honours system into disrepute?

When you think about it, it’s unlikely Green would be awarded with a knighthood this year – so why should he get to keep it? Do we really want young people to continue to look up to Green as an example of how to be successful in business, knowing what we know now?

It’s a great honour to be awarded with a knighthood and here is a responsibility attached to this honour that doesn’t end at the dubbing ceremony. Although Green has made a big difference to the retail industry in the UK, some of his business choices have been critiqued, particularly when it comes to BHS.

Some of the financial choices Philip Green has made have damaged his reputation, such as taking out large dividends from a company which in the future went on to develop a massive pension deficit. Although he has, in the past few days, said he is sorry about the hardship caused, he has so far not come up with a settlement for former employees. It will be disgraceful in the end if those who helped him make his billions are the ones left paying the price.

It is these kinds of stories that tarnish the reputation of all entrepreneurs. It’s a shame that someone who was previously celebrated for his business skills, acting as a mentor to young entrepreneurs, should end his career this way.

I believe that, what lies behind this story, is the increasing pressure on British business owners, particularly tech companies, who are competing at the top level with giant American firms – many of which get away with paying less than 1% tax. We need to find a way to redress the imbalance of British entrepreneurs having one or both hands tied behind their back. In my opinion, until that happens, there will always be people who try to find ways to level the playing field.

What do you think, does Green deserve to keep his knighthood?

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