A Tough Message for Business
Cardinal Vincent Nichols talks about the Blueprint for Better Business initiative in The Huffington Post.
The origin of the “Blueprint for Better Business” initiative was the concern of business leaders that the problem of restoring trust between business and society could not be solved by business alone. They looked to an accessible wisdom in the way these challenges are addressed in faith traditions and philosophy, coming to see that a point of reference beyond the market was vital in helping to reconnect business with society.
Trusted relationships grow when people come together with a shared purpose and common commitment. Listening to these business leaders and working with them I have become convinced that a key to lasting change is for any business to define and express its clear guiding purpose which is shared by all in the enterprise and against which they are willing to be measured. This fundamental requirement is not antipathetic to profit, as a purpose driven business can deliver a fair return for responsible investors through activities which themselves respect human dignity and serve the common good. The core purpose of a business needs to be specific enough to enable the company leadership to direct its activities to producing goods that are truly good, services that truly serve, and acting deliberately over time not only to minimise harm but to enhance the broader wellbeing of all those it touches.
It was the willingness of business to engage with this initiative that has allowed the development, in the ‘Blueprint’ initiative, of five principles of a purpose-driven business. From my own discussions with business leaders it is clear that the ‘Blueprint’ principles are ready to be tested in practice as businesses seek greater employee engagement and customer loyalty. I hear evidence of courageous decisions based on purpose, such as withdrawing from selling profitable products that are not consistent with that fundamental purpose, and innovating to replace those with profitable products that are. Clearly investors need to see such decisions as contributing to sustainable performance, and they need to avoid the risk of over reliance on short term metrics to make long term investment decisions.