Next month Christian Aid will be running a session on business ethics at the Thrive Conference in Aberdeen . At Thrive, Christians from across the UK gather to explore how to make an impact in the workplace. Delegates will be considering how businesses and market economies can contribute to both the material and spiritual wellbeing of society.
All too often conversations about business ethics revolve around relationships. Essential values such as honesty, integrity and reliability are vital for building and maintaining good relationships with those we do business with: our work colleagues, suppliers and customers. But a solely relationships-based approach to ethics cannot adequately respond to macro business issues such as inequality, economic dislocation, information overload, ecological damage and financial instability. As we move forward into the fourth industrial revolution, we need to ensure that business is not only harnessing the benefits of globalisation, communication and technology but, more importantly, that it is serving the common good.
Through the Salt network we encourage members to open their eyes to a wider view of business ethics. What does it mean to run a business that champions dignity, equality and justice? How can a business ensure it does ‘no harm’ to individuals, communities or creation while striving to be truly transformational?
Businesses that champion dignity, equality and justice sound like an idealistic notion, but they are part of our heritage. At the turn of the century, Christian business leaders embraced a business ethos which worked for the common good. Cadbury had a transformative effect on conditions and social benefits for British workers. Lancashire Cotton Mills played an instrumental role in abolishing slavery.
Those of us invested in business and in the world around us can create a new business model for the 21st century. We can do this by investing our values in our businesses and by ensuring that we deliver good goods, good work and good wealth.
• Good goods: Do our products or services meet human needs and serve the common good? Are they doing this whilst taking responsibility for the social and environmental costs of production?
• Good work: Do we provide meaningful work, recognising the dignity of our employees and their right and duty to flourish in their work?
• Good wealth: Do we use resources wisely to create profit and well-being, to produce sustainable wealth and to re-distribute it justly?
This fast-moving, shrinking world offers huge opportunities and threats to businesses. For business leaders of faith, it offers the ways and means to be salt and light in our workplaces, working together for the good of all.