The desire for fairness is a fundamental human attribute. But while we all agree that fairness is a good thing, are we clear on exactly what it means in practice?  If a company wanted to think more seriously about fairness, what questions should they be asking themselves and others?

Whether the issue is pay, tax, or environmental harm, it’s clear that many people feel companies are not playing fair, highlighting an ongoing public dis-ease with business. This underlines the importance of fairness to individuals and in society – but also raises a question about whether fairness is a core business goal.

Can business be judged as innately fair or unfair? Fairness so often involves balance and compromise between multiple stakeholders, and there are rarely simple solutions. Should we understand fairness as a choice businesses and leaders make – a choice that depends on how they see their role in society?

Held at the RSA on 5th March 2019 this panel explored what it means for a company to behave fairly, encouraging businesses to think harder about the issue and work towards fairer processes and outcomes. Chaired by Matthew Taylor, speakers included Onora O’Neill, Justin King, Jane Corbett and Charles Wookey.

– How should a company act when the long term success of the company demands cuts and closures?
– What factors decide the distribution of burdens to recover the cost of internalising higher environmental standards?
– If fair pay usually means the going rate for the job, is it unfair to pay the CEO the going rate for their job? Responding to these business dilemmas comes down one question – does fairness matter?

To coincide with the ‘How not to run and unfair business” panel, Blueprint published this paper exploring how business leaders can challenge themselves and one another on what it means for their business to act fairly.