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Other people matter (solidarity)

Other people matter, and therefore we involve them and take their views and needs, and indeed an appreciation of the value their point of view and insights brings, into account in our decision-making.

In one of the wisdom traditions that inspired the Framework, Catholic Social Thought (CST), solidarity has been described as a “firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good”. While the great thinker in the Jewish tradition, Hillel, would say: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” (Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14)

This behaviour is about decision-making and includes:

  • Self-reflection and an evaluation of our decisions – in light of the highest standard that we can find among those with whom we are in contact. Self-reflection isn’t just introspection, though it involves that; it is also about listening to others and seeking to learn how they see and assess us in terms of their values and expectations. It is about opening up to others at the level of our decision making and engaging with and seeking to understand the point of view of others in very different situations.
  • Make a fair contribution to society and avoid actions that cause inequality – deciding what a fair contribution may be isn’t easy, but, we need to ask ourselves this question and keep deepening our understanding of possible answers. So, for example, in the context of the core business can we reconfigure a successful product so as to lower the price and make it available to those with fewer financial means? Can we ensure that when we hire people we are considering how to be inclusive of under-represented groups or excluded groups such as the long-term unemployed? Would a small supplier who finds themselves unexpectedly in difficulty be able to turn to us for short-term support?
  • Seek opportunities and innovation – if we start making decisions that are based on the best values that we can find among our relationships, aiming to make a fair contribution and to work to limit inequality, and if we aim to serve the broadest constituency possible, with a particular focus on those who are excluded in any way, we will create new opportunities for ourselves and for others. Ideas will emerge for new products and services and whole new markets could open up for parts of the population whom we have never served.

Solidarity is especially focused on removing the structural forms of exclusion that block the active participation of whole swathes of people on local and global levels. Developing this behaviour in our stakeholders and as part of the character of the business as a whole can lead to a whole series of knock-on effects for society, including deeper levels of trust between business and the rest of society.

Sometimes the word ‘solidarity’ can seem slightly alien. But it has an important role in signalling this persevering commitment to the wider common good, and an enduring motivation to act beyond self interest.  In his Reith Lectures in 2020, Mark Carney explicitly uses the word in reflecting on how the business world has been affected by the Covid pandemic, and how many revealed through their behaviour a broader set of values including as he puts it “solidarity, fairness, responsibility and compassion”. He and others have noted how the value of solidarity will be a crucial one to nurture and encourage in coming years to create the necessary collective commitment to tackling climate change.

Questions to consider:

The following questions are a way of considering the evolution of habitual practice which this section seeks to describe, from a starting point of self-interest alone to an aspiration:

  • Am I serving my own self interest?
  • Am I serving those in my existing or immediate community?
  • Am I actively seeking to serve the broadest community?