It’s OK to try to change the world

By Robert Ashton - 09 October 2017
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Business ethics and values have been high on my agenda this last week.

On Tuesday an event I'd organised took place at Open. It was collaboration between Norwich Cathedral, the RSA and Norwich Quakers. Jane Hedges, Dean of the Cathedral, introduced both the subject and the speakers, whilst UEA academic Rupert Read chaired a lively debate. Interest in business ethics is high with purpose driven businesses more resilient than those that focus on profit alone. Now more now than ever, businesses that wear their corporate heart on their sleeve do better.

By chance the next day I interviewed a senior manager who works for an American multi-national. The company has 2,500 employees working in 90 different countries across the globe. In common with many US corporations it is family owned and I assumed that wealth generation was therefore the prime objective.

But I was wrong. With the founder still at the helm 50 years after launch, it has a strong values based culture and strives to ‘improve the quality of life by touching half the people of the world daily with their products and services’. Talking with my interviewee it became clear that genuine efforts are made to maintain a strong ethos of integrity and respect across staff, customers and suppliers. They are market leaders in their field, so this policy clearly pays dividends.

If it makes commercial sense for a global corporate to invest in its communities of interest, then frankly any organisation or any size can do the same. It is no longer necessary to be kind and gentle at home and cold and hard at work. Increasingly we will all do better if we simply remain ourselves and strive to make a better world.

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