This page gives the answers to a number of questions we are frequently asked about Blueprint – where it came from, what we do and how we work with businesses.
Our purpose is to challenge business to be a force for good; we do this by encouraging and supporting companies to define and operate to a purpose that respects people and contributes to a better society.
We believe that people in society will have better outcomes and good businesses will be more sustainable if they operate to such a purpose.
Our strategy is to persuade and help a critical mass of major businesses in the UK to commit to using the Blueprint Principles and Framework, and to accelerate change through embedding the required behaviours. We ask these businesses to both help each other and encourage other businesses to use the principles and framework.
So Blueprint is catalyzing a movement of purpose driven businesses.
We aim to help change the conversation about the role and expectations of business in society. This will make it easier for the leading companies to be more vocal and courageous about the positive contribution they seek to make and it will enable best practices to be spread more quickly. It will also make it harder for the laggards to ignore the calls from society for a clearer and more positive role for business in society.
Our focus is on the Purpose of business, in essence why it exists. To have the greatest impact with our limited resources we have decided to focus initially on working with large corporates. We have been doing this primarily through accessing these large corporates at senior levels – through their CEOs / Chairs, and encouraging them to make more introductions through forums hosted by them. We then offer interventions at different levels in the organization including immersion workshops, purpose roundtables and interventions for their Board or management teams – these differ by company depending on their needs and where they are on the journey.
We are not, however, a change management consultancy, and our role as a catalyst for change is necessarily limited in scope. We help internal change agents understand how to implement in a manner appropriate to their organisation and we invite coaches and consultants who work at board level, and who are seriously exploring the purpose agenda, to attend our immersion courses. We expect that over time some of these will be engaged by companies to help take forward their purpose journey using Blueprint.
We recognise that businesses and business leaders in the public eye need support and encouragement to change. This is why our work programmes also embrace the influencers of change. We have identified key influencers as the investor community, academics, and institutions that represent views from society (NGO’s, labour movements, faith institutions) and business more generally (SMEs and organisations representing businesses of all sizes). Whilst the media and political parties are also influencers we believe that they in turn should reflect the changing mood of the key influencers.
We also do as much as we can to raise our profile using our website and social media and holding and participating at events and conferences. We also collaborate with other organisations that are working to make business a force for good.
In 2016 we plan to have three major events: an investor conference (with Blackrock and the Investor forum), our own conference Blueprint in action (on 17th March 2016 by invitation only) and an academic conference in September 2016 in partnership with London Business School.
Our articles state that the Objects of the Charity are “ the advancement for the benefit of the public of civic responsibility and good citizenship by promoting responsible standards in business through the application of the Principles and Framework”.
To act as an effective catalyst for change, Blueprint has to be independent – of business, the regulator, any faith, and any government. To assure that independence Blueprint is funded from charitable foundations and individuals and we do not take any donations, membership fees or consultancy income from businesses. We make charges for some of our events to cover costs, but we do not charge for our services. We do accept pro-bono work from business (either on specific projects or through secondments) to augment our work programmes. And many of our Senior Advisers have business backgrounds.
Between 2017 and 2019 a clear priority will be to identify how best to secure the long term sustainability of the Trust. We have started to explore a number of potential funding models to help us achieve this, whilst ensuring that our independence is maintained.
A number of large corporates started engaging with Blueprint from the start. In terms of what ‘engagement’ means – different companies engage in different ways. At the moment 15 companies have what we call ‘serious, senior and sustained’ engagement with Blueprint. Of these we have selected 6 that we feel we should work with in more depth to help create ‘reference sites’ that will help us develop interventions, models, case studies and experiences that we can use to help other companies on the journey.
In addition to the 15, we are in dialogue with 12 or so others – and these include companies that are already doing ‘blueprinty’ things but as yet don’t feel they need to join the ‘movement’. They have participated in some of our meetings and workshops and hopefully over time will see that by taking part and being part of a movement this will encourage others to join.
Blueprint is not a quasi-regulator or a judge. Early on we decided that Blueprint should not endorse companies, and neither would we publicly ‘call out’ individual companies’ bad behaviour.
We decided that our role is to work with companies from the inside to help them to change and that the best way to do this was not to ‘name and shame’. Our commentary etc. on social media is therefore a reflective one, which should, without naming companies, comment on underlying issues, both those contributing to bad behaviour, and those which help companies to change in a positive direction.
Overall our approach is to make the case that business can be a force for good, and to help create space for companies to find a way to change at a speed and in the best way that suits them – recognizing that they are embarking on a journey.
There are other initiatives in a similar space, including UN Global Compact, Tomorrow’s Company, BITC, the BTeam, Inclusive Capitalism, The Economy that Works and many others. B Corps are the newest entrant with their recent public launch in the UK. We have interacted with all of these and we are confident that we complement rather than compete with them as we offer something distinct.
Broadly speaking we are allies with these groups who have a shared overarching purpose to help business to be a force for good in society. For example like the Blueprint movement, B Corps are serious about societal purpose, and have developed a methodology and approach to help companies ensure it is not just about “window dressing “. A strength of the B Corps idea is to put in place mechanisms which demonstrate and help assure that change is real. B Corps themselves recognize that their approach is not the only model and it will not necessarily be suited to all companies – it is likely to appeal more to SMEs and less to larger companies who might find the compliance burden much too onerous.
What B Corps do not do is to explore in the same depth as Blueprint the constituents of a good corporate purpose. Nor does B Corps have the same fundamental emphasis on the “realistic view of the human person” drawn from wisdom in society which is the governing idea shaping the Blueprint framework and principles
The other organisations that are also promoting responsible business tend to have a “worldview ” on better answers in terms of structures and processes and action lists that they believe will lead to the right outcome and influence more responsible behaviours.
We therefore see Blueprint as having something unique and distinctive to offer, and that our stance is collaborative not competitive. The intention is to build on and learn from the strengths and different areas of focus for each and collaborate. Whist upholding what makes Blueprint unique, we need to avoid competing to be the “definitive and only” answer and thereby distracting those who do want to change but need different paths and views on how to change.
In 2011 a group of senior business leaders approached the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, as they felt that the principles of Christian moral and social teaching, and in particular the tradition of Catholic Social Thought, could help bring about change in business. They were concerned that business by itself could not create the basis for deep and authentic change and were keen to draw on the rich wisdom of faith and philosophy, but without the initiative being seen as, or being, a church led activity.
This led to discussions on the role of business in society. One concern was that the current focus in business was based on a narrow view of the human person as fundamentally atomistic and self interested. It was felt that the concept of a “divided life“ – leaving the best of the personal values and morals formed outside the workplace at the door when at work – was a symptom of this, and that a more “whole life” was an asset that should be brought to bear. A more realistic view of the human person was available, well expressed in these traditions of faith and philosophy, which offered a more rounded view of the person where relationships with others, and the desire to make a positive contribution. This more well rounded view was also well supported by scientific study that touched on the human person, human instincts and human behaviours.
A second concern was the conception of the purpose of business as being to maximize shareholder value. This needed challenging as it put people at the service of that narrow goal. A broader view that stemmed from the view of the human person is that the purpose of business should be seen as to produce goods that are good and services that serve, with profit as the outcome but not the purpose.
Keeping a business true to a good purpose would depend on enabling people to bring their fullest and best selves to work. So the earliest articulation of the aim of the initiative became: ‘Uniting Corporate Purpose and Personal Values to serve Society’.
A conference was held in 2012 and tested these ideas, based on a “Framework to guide decision making”. The conference explored what a new blueprint might be that would allow a culture to flourish that better serves us all.
Following the conference a wider group of people became interested in and agreed to be involved in developing the thinking and approach of the Blueprint initiative. Various working groups were formed with representatives from a wide range of businesses, from NGOs, investors, academics, different faiths and other groups who work with business. “A Framework to Guide Decision Making” (The Framework) had been drafted for the conference and this was refined to take into account input from the wider group. This wider group then fed into the development of the “Five Principles of a Purpose Driven Business” (The Principles) which were developed in 2013.
It was always clear that, whilst drawing on the wisdom of faith and philosophy, the movement needed to be independent both of business and any other institution including any Church. In 2014 The Blueprint Trust was therefore established as a limited company and registered charity (no:1159150). The purpose of the Trust is to promote the growth of the Blueprint movement, direct its energy, and ensure its continued independence founded on the Principles and Framework.
Blueprint has been described as ‘faith enabled but not faith led’. The Principles and Framework draw on faith teachings, in particular Catholic Social thought, but also other traditions such as philosophy and human sciences. The Archbishop (now Cardinal) is still a supporter of our work. Charles Wookey, who works part time as CEO of Blueprint, also works for the Catholic Bishops.
At the moment we lease office space in Eccleston Square from the Catholic Bishops Conference. There is a formal lease agreement in place which includes IT and other facilities. This arrangement suits us in the short term especially whilst Charles still works for part of his time for the Bishops Conference. As our team grows, and we secure long term funding, we will make other arrangements.
We have shared the Principles and Framework with representatives from other faiths through our interfaith work to ensure it is relevant to those of other faiths – as well as those of none – and we continue to engage in dialogue with these other faiths to ensure that our work is relevant to business people of faith and that our work draws on the wisdom of all faith traditions in helping business be a force for good.
We are completely independent of the church and any faith groups.
The Framework was drawn from philosophy and wisdom traditions including Catholic Social Thought and Aristotelean virtue ethics. It has been tested with other faiths and it is supported by modern social anthropology and neuroscience. At the core of Blueprint is what we call a more ‘realistic’ view of the human person as a relational being rather than a self interested maximizer and a strong belief that business can be a force for good in society. The Framework begins with companies having a clear purpose that serves society and respects the dignity of people and goes on to set out the behaviours that enable people to deliver such a purpose. It sets out minimum standards of behaviours (e.g. never use people merely as a means to achieving business objectives) and goes on to describe aspirational behaviours (e.g. setting a purpose and seeking outcomes that enable each person to reach his or her full potential).
The Principles were developed after the Framework to help make the Framework more accessible to business. They also centre around having and operating to a Purpose that serves society and respects people and include desired outcomes around 4 relationship quadrants reflecting the different relationships a business has in society:
- being a responsible and responsive employer,
- honest and fair with customers and suppliers,
- a good citizen and
- a guardian for future generations.
They also respect the role of the investor community and seek a fair return for responsible investors.
They include illustrative behaviours to tackle what are regarded as ‘toxic issues’ such as fair pay, the environment, taxation etc. These are not designed to be used as a checklist but as questions that businesses can ask themselves to help them make decisions using the Principles and Framework as a kind of compass.
How does a company 'do' Blueprint? Where do they start, how do they implement and how do you help them?
The key starting point for anyone looking at the framework and principles for the first time is that they offer both a personal and an organizational challenge. They invite anyone first of all to reflect on their own personal purpose and to think then about the company purpose. So Blueprint is not a management consultancy programme which you can pass down the corridor and implement in the “old” way. Having said that, we have developed some tools and will be doing some more.
Typically for a company the starting point needs to be the CEO or the Chairman, looking at the needs of the company through the lens which Blueprint offers. In the light of that, typical early steps for a company might be:
- to uncover or refine purpose (for which we have developed some tools):
- to review actions and policies against the five principles ( by conducting a gap analysis or a stop, start continue exercise )
- to use the principles and framework as an aid to decision taking and testing in areas where gaps have been identified
- to review personal development and training against the framework ( to build character )
- then incorporate the framework and principles as an aid to testing decisions / enhancing answers
- to send key staff on our immersion course, and join a workshop.
We are young and developing quickly, and will be sharing experience and further tools including on measurement of the purpose journey with companies who wish to use Blueprint, and we invite all companies wanting to join the movement to share their own experience with others and help grow a community of best practice among competitors
Blueprint staff and senior advisers can help on a limited basis for free – but we are a charity not a consultancy.
We currently have 4 trustees: Loughlin Hickey, Sue Garrard, Andrea Ponti, and Barbara Stocking.
Our articles also provide for an Advisory Council which will have membership drawn from business and wider society having regard to the need for broad representation of business and wider society to include employees, investors, consumers, academics, non-governmental organisations, faith groups and the media but so that no single constituency should be in the overall majority.
The role of the Advisory Council is to advise the Trustees on matters related to the Objects of the charity, the Principles and Framework, the Provenance and the activities of the Charity and the Articles provide for certain decisions to be co-determined with the Advisory Council.
A chair to the Advisory council is in the process of being appointed and once they are in place the council can be formed.
Our CEO has invited a number of very experienced people from both business and wider society to become ‘senior advisers’. They have no formal governance role in the charity. Rather they are there to advise informally and give pro-bono practical help to the CEO and the team in working with companies and delivering the operational plan of the charity.
Our Principles and Framework provide a route map to behavioural change. The Principles set out the call to action and the Framework explains how.
We support businesses to embed Blueprint through workshops, conferences and discussion forums and through creating a rich network of people and organisations with Blueprint at the centre.