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A star rating for companies and what it would mean

In a world that puts profit first, the idea of a social licence to operate seems to be disappearing.

Shareholders are removed from the reputational damage that once kept business owners more accountable for acting responsibly. It’s all about the cheque.

Worker exploitation, environmental vandalism, tax avoidance and market manipulation are goals rather than anathema.

Businesses no longer feel an obligation or responsibility to contribute to the health, education and skills training of their employees. Importing labour from overseas is cheaper and their well-being is their own lookout. Cutting wages is seen as a legitimate way to increase profits.

Environmental regulation is not seen as a safeguard but an impediment to development, described as “green tape” by our temporary PM and “environmental lawfare” by the onion muncher.

Businesses want the government to provide the infrastructure and uphold the rule of law to provide a secure and stable environment but do not want to contribute to the cost of doing so.

And all the economic and legal brains in the country don’t seem able to come up with rules that can make businesses pay the tax they should. Rather, politicians have been convinced that we should reduce their tax obligation in the hope that a few more of them might pay it.

There has been vague talk of naming and shaming.

So what?

We have to make it worth their while to actually do the right thing.

We have star ratings showing the energy efficiency of our appliances. We have nutritional ratings for our food. We have ratings on our drivers licence indicating our driving record. We all have a credit rating.

So let’s do the same for businesses.

They should be evaluated on how much they contribute to society, not on how much profit they make from us.

They could be ranked on their environmental impact – ethically sourced materials, waste management, recycling, emissions, impact on water and native species habitat, sustainability.

They could be ranked on care for their employees – living wages, ongoing professional development and skills training, flexible workplaces, complaints handling, occupational health and safety.

They should be forced to publish their company structure and where they are domiciled for tax purposes and how much tax they pay in Australia.

Our governments at all levels should only deal with companies who achieve a certain rating that shows them to be fulfilling their part of the social contract.

A similar requirement should be made for investment by our Future Fund and our industry superannuation funds.

Businesses who do not comply should be ineligible for government contracts or investment and face stringent conditions and regulation for any approvals along with ongoing scrutiny.

At the moment, business lobby groups dictate government policy. Let’s use the power of the trillions of dollars at our disposal to take back control.

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  1. Geoff Andrews

    But …but …. but, what about the jobs and how much will it cost!!?
    An’ orl the mums & dads small businesses goin’ to the wall, ya bloody commo.

  2. Kaye Lee

    Please, use my full title – “Pot-smoking Communist Lesbian” as Tony Abbott called me back in the 70s.

  3. New Bruce

    Lets start with LNP.

    Contribution to society 0
    Environmental impact 0
    Care for their employees, Complaints, OHS 0
    Tax they pay in Australia. 0
    Social Contract. 0

    That should sort moronscumandco out

  4. Zathras

    Here in Oz we publish an annual Rich List that reveals our wealthiest individuals and those involved vie for the top spot status.

    In Finland on November 1st they publish individual Tax records and wealthy individuals compete for the annual highest taxpayer status so someone can claim to have made the greatest individual contribution to their society that year.

    Companies, now legally treated as “people”, should do the same – but never will, mainly because as the article suggests – shareholders don’t care how their dividends are created as long as they get them. It’s the same for where their food comes from.

    However they don’t realise that when companies and businesses pay less then they inevitably end up paying more than they should, so why no noisy protest?

    Any change to the current system is as likely as the new Royal baby being named Mohammed.

  5. Keitha Granville

    Fabulous, love it. I would rather like the status of pot smoking lesbian communist 🙂

    Finland eh ? Yet again a Scandinavian nation showing the rest of the world how to do something well.

    When Labor realises it doens’t need to be afraid of bug business, we might have a chance.

  6. New England Cocky

    An interesting idea that will have to overcome these impediments discovered by Greenpeace investigative journalists:

    Take the necessary 15 minutes to discover how the Liarbral Notional$ Parties have been corrupted by foreign owned multinational mining corporations.

  7. Frank Smith

    Care and development of employees. The trend among many employers to “farm out” their responsibities to employees by using labour hire companies is repulsive. Why should any employee feel loyalty to an organisation that engages in such a practice?

  8. Nato

    Go ahead and do it.
    The are probably donors and advertisers willing to financially support such a mechanism.
    Beware there are rule-of-law issues, such as defamation, that set quite a high standard for the integrity of such a service.
    Politically, I see a close similarity to grocery watch/fuel watch that provided objective, verifiable data but still contributed to a prime ministerial demise.
    No one is stopping you. Please do not force other people, who will never use the service and never care about what information may become available, to financially support your interests.

  9. David Bruce

    Good one Kaye!

    As our governments are registered corporations in the USA, I would like to see your idea extended to the Australian Government, the Queensland Government, the Victorian Government etc.

    Perhaps we will need to go to -1, -2 and -3 stars?

  10. Jimmy

    Great article Kaye, but can you help with best way to vote below the line in Sludges seat Aston.
    Hor is easy enough but the senate is the hard one. All help welcome by us.
    Sorry to be off topic.

  11. Peter F

    Kaye, that praise from TA has put you on a pedestal.

  12. Kaye Lee


    First, to cast a valid vote you must either number at least 6 boxes above the line or 12 below the line – above the line you are voting for the party, below you can vote for individuals.

    You are in Victoria so I don’t know much about the individual candidates other than the Libs James Paterson and Jane Hume, neither of whom I would bother with. James is a product of the IPA. I quite like Janet Rice, the number 1 Greens candidate, from what I’ve seen of her. I don’t know the Labor candidates but it will be helpful for them to get their policies through if they have a substantial presence in the Senate.

    You can see the candidates here.

    Victoria will elect 6 Senators. Your vote will only go to one person so don’t agonise too much.

  13. Rossleigh

    I think the six above the line was to wreck One Nation’s chances because Turnbull believed that they couldn’t count to six… Obviously, a number of them can do that one hand!

  14. Adrianne Haddow

    Hi Jimmy,
    For below the line voting there is a website which offers a means of sorting the numerous groups below the line.


    You choose your groups and list your main voting preferences on various policies on a scale from those you care a lot about to issues you care least about .
    It then sorts the groups for you. There is a video that demonstrates how to use the tool.

  15. Kaye Lee

    Thanks Adrianne. Here is the link.

    It is different to the list on wikipedia. Is Janet Rice running?

  16. pierre wilkinson

    As usual, sheer brilliance, even if conceived in a pot smoking lesbian love fest with a side dish of communism, but Tony’s fantasies aside, what a clever idea.
    Get Up and some other organisations often call out bosses who abuse their workers, but to have the entire business model subject to open and honest scrutiny is almost like allowing the proletariat to investigate your company advertising portfolio without prejudice.
    thank you Kaye Lee

  17. Kaye Lee


    I am sure businesses would scream blue murder about red tape and compliance costs. Fine, don’t join in, but you won’t get government contracts or subsidies or public investment. Your choice.

  18. Yvonne Robertson

    The star rating board would be stacked with LNP ex pollies and business associates and would, what’s more be chaired by someone eminent like Angus (good one Angus!) Taylor, or Barnaby (stuff it – give yuselves another star already!) Joyce.

  19. James Cook

    Great article Kaye. Just touching on one aspect of it: My daughter and her Swedish partner both reside and work in Sweden. The employers there encourage and support their workers to continue to “go to school” to upskill. There, they see the benefit of a workforce that is continually incorporating the latest skills and ideas into their workplace. As a result, my daughter is halfway through her “specialist” degree and it has cost her NOTHING!!! Meanwhile in Oz…..

  20. Harry

    Great article though I think a star rating system will not be enough to turn around the rapacious and ruthless strain of capitalism that has evolved over the last thirty years. Blame neoliberal ideology which asserts the primacy of the individual, rejects the notion of social responsibility or the notion that the environment is important.

    There definitely needs to be more regulation with monitoring and enforcement of any standards which are set. I doubt “name and shame” will be effective by itself.

    Maybe the tax system could be used to reward companies which comply with standards, eg lower company tax?

  21. John Lord

    Morrison in reply to Labor’s costing is saying that after his tax concessions the rich will be contributing 36% of tax. That may be true but who, as a group pay the most GST. Why is it after listening to Chris Bowen l can understand what he is saying but Morrison confuses me.

  22. Kaye Lee


    Morrison loves that statistic. The one he never mentions (and that journalists never seem to bring up) is that the top 1% own more wealth than the bottom 70% of Australians combined.

    “Over the decade since the global financial crisis, the wealth of Australian billionaires has increased by almost 140% to a total of $115.4bn last year [2017]. Yet over the same time, the average wages of ordinary Australians have increased by just 36% and average household wealth grew by 12%.”

    While the bottom fifth of households take home just 4% of all income, the top fifth get almost half (48%). The top quintile earn almost as much as the other 80% of households combined. As a ratio, households earning in the highest quintile on average earn 11 times the average bottom quintile income.

    Australia’s household income and wealth distribution

  23. Alcibiades

    Why not just criminalise ALL white collar crime, with Gaol terms as a minimum penalty for guilty employees/managers/officeholders, never only corporate fines … proportionate to the offence/s in terms of $, societal/community cost & victim/s impact.

    They’d change their business conduct & practices quick smart … after a few high profile examples were set.

  24. Paul Davis

    Another thoughtful article KL

    The Skandinavians always seem to top the charts in such things as happiness, social harmony, education, health, workplace relations, environmental action, etc …. and they have millionaires and billionaires.

    Maybe we could learn something…. yeah nah ….. let’s see how our new feudalism works out.

  25. Jimmy

    Thank you Kaye and other posters for the link and info.
    Much appreciated.

  26. Alcibiades

    Well, IMV McDonald’s gets 0 stars, howzabout -1 ? Not to mention these standouts …

    Huge wage boost, backpay and penalty rate win for 100,000 McDonald’s workers SMH

    … employers such as Bunnings, Hungry Jacks and McDonald’s were pushing to lock in current, lower penalty rates in four year agreements ahead of the possible election of a Labor government. If Labor wins government next week, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has promised to reverse a 2017 Fair Work decision to cut penalty rates.

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