DISCUSSION Bringing together a new engagement based on trust

by Yolanda Villafuerte _______30th June 2009
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by Michael Smith

‘Bringing together a new engagement based on trust’; ‘Ego will have to be parked at the door’; ‘Purposeful partnership between civil society organizations and business’; ‘need for partnerships based on respect and humility’; ‘a gentle, collaborative approach’. These were some of the phrases expressed by Tony Manwaring which I picked up when he addressed the UK-India Business Leaders Conference on Climate Change in parliament, 26 June.

I was particularly impressed by Tony’s approach because they so resonate with my own thinking in my new book on the theme of ‘Trust and Integrity in the Global Economy’(Caux Books, ISBN 978-2-88037-516-4) which I first launched in India last November and which I shall be launching at a conference on the same theme in Caux, Switzerland, on 13 July. The book is a collection of 15 stories of entrepreneurs, business leaders, farmers and social activists from around the world who have applied ethical principles in their business and in their own living. They are essentially case studies. Some address environmental concerns, others the issue of making a courageous stance against corruption, and all the issue of the social responsibility of business. I wanted to look at their core motivations and to offer their stories as models, as a source of inspiration particularly for those setting on the early stages of their careers.

It is enormously encouraging to come across such synergies, and maybe the business world is coming full circle back to the social philanthropic approach of the great, if paternalistic, Victorian entrepreneurs, the FrysCadburysSir Titus Salts of this world, a tradition that was carried into the 20th century by the great Indian business leaders such as Jamshed Tata, the founder of the Tata Corporation, and many others who provide education, housing, company hospitals and models of ownerships that are socially conscious in a nation without adequate provision of a social safety net.

At the Skoll World Social Enterprise Forum in Oxford last April (which I reported on for Guardian Weekly Online), Bill Drayton, founder of the Ashoka Social Enterprise network in the USA, told me that maybe in 10 years time there will not longer be a need to talk about ‘social enterprise’ as all enterprises will be so motivated. It is a bold aspiration.

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