DISCUSSION A Blueprint for Better Business?

by Yolanda Villafuerte _______19th September 2012


On the 18th of September, the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols hosted a conference to launch ‘A Blueprint for Better Business?’ and discuss ways to put moral principles at the heart of business behaviour. The conference was attended by over 200 executives from some of the biggest FTSE 100 companies including BAE Systems, Centrica and Tesco.

Keynote speakers included business leaders Vittorio Colao, CEO of Vodafone, Unilever’s Paul Polman and Dominic Barton, Global MD of McKinsey and Co.

In an article in the Telegraph, Vincent Nichols, who is also the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales says, ‘We have subtitled (the conference) “Uniting corporate purpose and personal values to serve society”, because we have detected a tendency for business people to feel they need to adopt a different set of values in business than those which they apple in the rest of their lives’.

The initiative arose after a group of business leaders approached Archbishop Vincent Nichols to provide a forum to debate the issue. It is also supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chief Rabbi.

The conference was successful in unwinding this ‘divided life’ and discussing practical principles that people can apply to business situations and which others can hold them accountable for. The question debated by the audience and panel was: Is there an inevitable conflict between profit maximisation and developing common good?

Five years on from the start of the financial crisis, executives remain concerned that little progress has been made to restore public trust in the finance industry. The Church believes that because it stands outside the markets, business and government and has international influence, it has a critical role in promoting moral capitalism. To read the Archbishop’s speech and cases discussed, please click here.

After a series of scandals from the attempted manipulation of the Libor benchmark rates to the mis-selling of interest rate swaps to small businesses, followed by accusations that oil traders are rigging the oil price, the need to restore business’s battered reputation is bigger than ever.

Loughlin Hickey, former global head of tax at KPMG, said: “A lot of business people are attracted to this because they are feeling slightly trapped now.” He said the church’s involvement could help because, if business people devised solutions on their own, they would be “tainted with the mistrust that they keep on coming up with solutions that suit them”.

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