As well as the annual TIGE conferences, in the Swiss Alpine village of Caux, the book also draws on the Asian work of Caux Initiatives for Business (CIB) and its international conferences held biennially at Asia Plateau, the Indian centre of Initiatives of Change.
Great Company is as much about the geography and psychology of capitalism as it is about conscience, courage and integrity. It is his third book on this theme and the first since the financial crash. Since then, Smith says, ‘the evidence of the extraordinary power of human and, indeed, spiritual motivation to change things for the better has been surprising.’ He gives the narratives of those who have shown integrity and leadership in an era when profit at all cost too easily dominate business models.
Social entrepreneurs are naturally motivated by a sense of social conscience. But what about personal conscience, he asked. The lack of it had led to currency manipulations, Ponzi schemes and corruption. We needed to rediscover the moral philosophy of Adam Smith, the founding father of economic thought.
Smith, who is Head of Business Programmes at Initiatives of Change UK, dedicates a chapter to ‘beheading the snake of corruption’. Much of the book is concerned with showing that character and personal conviction to do the right thing are needed. This is not just a talking-shop for Smith. Rather, he tells stories of personal transformation as a sign that alternative models abound beyond the bottom line of shareholder value. He outlines five pillars of trust as a starting point: purpose, sustainability, stewardship, cooperation and integrity. From the personal stories of international hotelier Lawrence Bloom, who helped to transform the environmental impact of the global hotel industry, to whistleblower Wendy Addison, involved in the largest corporate collapse in South African history, character and choice stand out.
Family background played a part in why Smith wrote the book. His great-great grandfather had founded a woolen textile mill in Bradford, Yorkshire. But international competition combined with unwise decision-making had seen the liquidation of the company in the 1950s. Smith reflected on ‘human motivations in running an organization, which create destinies. There is a huge price to pay for the wrong tone at the top,’ he said.
Journalists, he concluded, are encouraged to be skeptical if not cynical. ‘But there is room for a journalism of appreciation and encouragement. This is what the stories of TIGE are about.’ They needed to be globalized.
by Doris Okenwa