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This distraction of attention, plus the fact that these projects can cost a lot of money, causes the financial performance to worsen. In response the companies would return their efforts to financial performance. Commentators within the supermarket industry anticipated that as Sainsbury and Marks and Spencer were performing less well financially their social and environmental efforts would decrease. These same commentators also speculated whether social and environmental performance might be related to the social class of its customers (Moore and Robson, 2002: 27).

This adds support to the second part of the cycle suggested above, that social performance endangers financial performance, but does not of itself support the first part of the cycle, that companies flush with profits are inclined to spend some of the profits on social performance, even though as we saw above this is precisely what Sir Richard Branson says they should do. These results of course only apply to one industry – retailing and supermarkets. There is an association between good social performance or ethical business practices and good financial returns.

That is to say, companies that do well financially find themselves with some money that they can spend on good works and improving their social and environmental performance. QXD 5/10/05 3:08 pm Page 15 1: Perspectives on business ethics and values 15 three-year time lag. The Institute of Business Ethics research could not be expected to identify this time lag because their key indicator, the presence or absence of a code of ethics, is not one that would fluctuate year on year, but the index that Moore used would.

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