Business Ethics and Social Investment As a Way to Success

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Many people in the world today are suffering from the pressure of trying to live up to current world values that have driven businesses for many years and left society with an unhealthy and demotivated workforce!

However to those wise enough to observe the world and humanity it becomes obvious that things are changing and people are becoming more and more conscious of the effects of human suffering, stress and illness and the effects of our attitude towards the planet.

Quakers for example have always been forward looking with social awareness and peace as values at the heart of what they do but recently a BBC article asked if there was still a place for this sort of thinking in business today! There was no conclusion but it is interesting that the question was even asked.

In my mind there has never been a time when high moral and ethical values were not needed in business and that includes right now! There might not be the visible need for a campaign against slavery but slavery still happens and people are becoming aware of the cruelty of child labour and exploited workers. The plight of the poor may be hidden behind our media headlines that focus upon the rich but the poor and homeless are still amongst us.

There is a growing need for Moral values and ethics to inform the world of business to a different, more socially conscious, way of working and that is part of my work here in Darlington.

The old money focussed way of working is dying because there is another option, there is a new world out there for those with the wisdom and eyes to see it, a new way of doing business and relating to those around us that is sweeping old unhealthy attitudes out of the door and not before time!

In the new world people buy from people and they choose those people carefully with thought and consideration after informing themselves about the character and values of those people. Those we do business with are becoming more and more aware of ethical and moral values being important to them and that affects who they buy from!

These things have been driven to the forefront of business awareness not just through social action and social campaigning but also through personal dissatisfaction with life and the general discomfort of living in such a high stress, finance oriented culture and our own experiences of even mild exploitation and unethical practices.

In a world where stress and depression have become the most significant reason for time lost from work in the western world – something had to give!

The group ‘Quakers and business’ have as a core value “speaking the truth to those in power.”

That isn’t always easy when those in power are focussed upon their cash profits and return on financial investments and you want them to focus upon their employees, communities and those who need to be helped.

The difference between surviving and thriving has been summed up nicely by someone who explained that a survivor is someone who ensures that when the ship goes down they get a place in the lifeboat. Someone who thrives on the other hand is the person who gets into the lifeboat then grabs the oars and gets to where they need or want to be!

So many people are either sinking or just surviving at the moment and they need to get back into control of their lives but to take the lifeboat analogy a bit further a wise person who wants to thrive would ensure that they picked up others and that they worked together on getting where they needed to be! It is much easier to work together with like-minded people to ensure you are going to get there.

I felt that this was something that was highlighted recently at the meeting for wardens of Quaker meeting houses at Woodbrooke College, those meeting houses that thrived were engaged with their communities and well used by various groups for supporting needy people. Where sustainability was concerned it was clear that supporting and involving as many people as possible was the real way forward!

In other words where the community groups and room users were seen as valued members of the community worth supporting, where they were treated as valued people and involved in discussions and decisions; where they were met with enthusiasm, warmth, personal interest and hospitality, they in return supported and upheld the worth of the meeting houses they were hiring.

The thing that Quaker businessmen of the past are remembered for isn’t that they made a fortune, it was that they had a care for their workers and the community in which they enjoyed the privilege of having their businesses. It was their social investment in those communities that has made their names remembered and honoured and of course where there is investment in communities and workers you get investment of their good will in return.

So what is the challenge for Quakers and others whether in business or simply as landlords or meetings open to others today?

In my mind it is simply this – How to open our own eyes and the eyes of the world to the very real social needs around us? How do we support those who are really struggling to make ends meet?

How can we move from being property rich and investment rich to become socially rich and supportive of those in our communities who need help and work and to be valued as human beings?

Do we invest in Banks that give us the highest financial returns or are we investing in low interest loans and credit unions that are supporting struggling small businesses to survive?

Do we run our organisations in the old world power hungry, money focussed way or are we prepared to put people and social action to the forefront of what we do?

There are many who are already working in this way but we all have something to learn.

So I do believe there is a need for Quaker values in business today and I am here to encourage not just Quakers but all who believe in the transformation of this world to a more caring, supportive and fundamentally human place, where all people are valued, where those in need are supported by those with the means to do so and those in power use their power wisely, ethically, morally and kindly for the good of their communities.


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