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Three business women around a table

Building a values-based business

Published on 17 February 2021

We don’t have to scroll through social media for long or to watch much TV to realise that across the world there are significant social and environmental injustices.

Salt seeks to create and support a network of business leaders who are committed to using the tremendous power of business to tackle some of these injustices and work towards making a better world.

We want to serve those who are dedicated to ensuring business adheres to ethical values and who are aligned with the faith-based ethos of Christian Aid.  

Christian Aid and other NGOs do fantastic work supporting the development of many of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. However, mobilising the power of business means such work can be multiplied many times.

We want to harness the huge potential business and the private sector have to positively impact the world around us through:

  • influencing financial markets
  • transforming employment practices
  • innovating revolutionary new products and services
  • providing employment
  • enabling public sector spending through the taxes we pay.

Business is at the heart of our society and can be at the heart of creating a better world. 

Making money vs doing good

One of the false narratives that undermines values-based business leadership and organisation structure is the notion that profit and purpose, in other words making money and doing good, are in conflict with one another.

This is not true! What is true is that it is not always easy to align profitable activities with purposeful mission but it can and ought to be so, to maximise the influence and impact you can have. 

  • Deutsche Bank found that aligning business operations to Environmental, Social and good Governance (ESG) principles improves long term financial performance.  
  • Edelman found that 81% of people have more confidence in companies that demonstrate they make a positive impact for social good.  
  • Some estimate that a low carbon and circular economy will be worth £300 billion by 2025. 
  • 89% of executives said a strong sense of collective purpose drives employee satisfaction, found the E&Y Beacon Institute. 

How do we build a values-based business?

The first job is to share experiences and practices that brought you to becoming a business leader. Maybe it is a sense of calling, a foundational motivation, an idea or inspiration that is at the back of your mind that you want to achieve?

Telling your story amongst peers, and finding key turning points in this story, allows you to articulate your motivations. At Salt events we see sharing such stories to be a valuable exercise and often provide an opportunity to do so.

We would also love to hear from you about your story at salt@christian-aid.org too so we can share your experiences with other Salt members to inspire and encourage them. Other exciting stories can be found on the Skoll Foundation website. 

A values-led business would develop an understanding of its role as a positive agent of change and would choose to be proactive in going beyond what is legally required by laws, rules and regulation both: 

  • internally to improve relationships and ways of working
  • externally with wider stakeholders and the environment.  

To embed values within a company many companies find it useful to have a values statement, where key principles and definitions are outlined. Having such a document informs and strengthens principle-based decision making which can complement cost minimising and profit maximising. It can also lead to further benefits to the organization as a whole.  

Similarly, values-led business people would understand themselves as working for more than profit and be motivated by the difference they can make to their businesses and all stakeholders. 

Does focusing on values always bring success?

Anthony Jenkins was the CEO of Barclays and led with a focus on citizenship from 2012 until 2015. He started at a time when the memory of the financial crisis was still in the minds of many customers after the financial crisis that began in 2008, and revealed Barclays involvement in scandals such as Libor Rigging, electricity and gold market manipulation.  

Based on a statement of ‘purpose and values’, they developed a ‘balanced scorecard’ which included their five Cs (Customer & Client, Colleague, Citizenship, Conduct, Company) as a basis for decision making.    

Anthony Jenkins was fired from Barclays for what he describes as wanting to do banking differently. However the business case for being a values-led business can be explained in a number of ways:  

  • Creating positive relationships that improve ways of working, retain staff and strive for excellence in all areas.   
  • A company can seek to address wider ethical values and motivations as a principle that can at times override short term profitability. This can significantly strengthen the corporate identity especially in consumer-driven markets. 
  • There are positive win-win situations for investing in a social and environmental impact for the company (e.g. real economic impact of greater women’s participation in the workforce at all levels, reducing harmful pollutants that cause illness in staff, saving energy and raw materials also reduces costs of inputs). 

Salt will seek to support and serve you while you strive to live a life and run a business that is bringing values to the fore and which helps create a fairer and more just world. 

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