By
Talia Smith
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10 September, 2015

Encouraging social and ethical values in the multi-sector context

IofC-UK’s business programme team delivered two workshops on ‘The five pillars of trust’ at York St John's social entrepreneurship conference, York, on 1 and 2 September 2015. They were invited to take part by conference organisers Catalina Quiroz and Margaret Meredith.

The focus of the conference was on cross sector collaboration, seen as essential if the challenges faced by society are to be tackled successfully. The three-day conference addressed the question: ‘How can higher education foster interactions between the current economic systems (public, private and social) to promote social entrepreneurship cultures for sustainable development in our communities?’ Value-building capabilities, resources, effort and knowledge needed to be linked and shared by organisations. Cross-sector collaboration is at the heart of social entrepreneurship which is also nurtured by the quality of human relationships.

The TIGE (Trust and Integrity in the Global Economy) workshop was hosted by Mike Smith, Head of Business Programmes at Initiatives of Change UK. With him were Tony Bradley, Associate Director of the SEED Centre (Social and Ethical Enterprise Development Centre) at Liverpool Hope University’s Department of Business; Roddy Edwards, co-founder of Walkerswood Caribbean Foods in Jamaica, and Talia Smith, IofC-UK’s Project Manager for Business Programmes. The nine international participants in the lively workshop came from Canada, Finland, Panama, Wales, South Africa and Zambia. All were social enterprise students, interns, employees or founders, each displaying a strong sense of social conscience.

Mike Smith led the group through a presentation of five pillars of trust:

1) Sustainability: Japan has five companies that are over 1000 years old!

2) Cooperation: in some circumstances more effective than competition.

3) Integrity: 'It is the integrity of a person or business that brings trust,' Smith stated.  

4) Purpose: how do you define the purpose of your organisation, and for yourself? Smith quoted from a Cass Business School forum on ‘Corporate governance for a changing world’ (September 2014): ‘What makes a good company? It is one that provides goods and services that are socially and economically responsible, while generating sustainable profits. It is clear that business must return a profit to survive, but there must be a balance between making a return and a company’s responsibility to environmental and social concerns.’

5) Stewardship: ‘Wise stewardship, good governance and concern for the common good need to be core values of any market economy’ states the Caux Round Table group of senior business executives.

There was a strong focus on story-telling. For each pillar presented, Smith told a story from his new book, Great Company, taken from speakers and contributors at international TIGE conferences held in Caux, Switzerland, in recent years.

A discussion on honesty, integrity and doing the right thing at the workplace and in life followed. Workshop participants exchanged their stories. For example, one participant's brother had been sacked for standing up for what he believes was right. The concept of Ubuntu (the African notion of 'I am because you are') emerged and how this links to the emerging solidarity economic model, the commonality being the basis of society and the common good.

Tony Bradley presented his research findings on the fast-growing ethical enterprises movement in the UK, which includes a strong sense of environmental awareness. He believed that there is a lack of trust in politics (‘the democratic deficit’) and business. This lack of trust is reshaping the market where citizens are taking new forms of action by looking at other ways of doing business. The number of ethical businesses in the UK had grown by 599 per cent between 1999 and 2013. They were part of a movement for increasing ethical markets, moving towards local ethical social economies. Hot spots include Brighton, Bristol, South Manchester and Richmond, Surrey.

The group discussed different economic cultures, based on the work experience of the participants from around the world.

Professor Hiroshi Ishida from Japan, representing the Caux Round Table group of senior business leaders, highlighted the values of honesty, fairness and integrity, in his speech to a plenary session of the conference. John Carlisle, founder of Cooperation Works, emphasised the need to focus on quality in production rather than cost-cutting in order to grow economic output and markets. This had been the approach of the US business guru W Edwards Deming, who had had a major impact on business thinking in post-war Japan.

Smith’s new book will be officially launched at a TIGE Talk in the London centre of Initiatives of Change on the evening of 27 October.

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