DISCUSSION Great Company—trust, integrity and leadership in the global economy

by Yolanda Villafuerte _______7th October 2015
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A new book by Michael Smith

Launch: 27th October at 6.30pm at the Initiatives of Change Centre, 24 Greencoat Place, London SW1P 1RD

The emissions scandal at VW and other car makers has once again highlighted the urgent need for integrity in decision-making in the corporate world. At the same time a global shift in consciousness is taking place in the world of business and the economy, away from traditional bottom-line thinking and towards a much more holistic approach; away from acquisition and shareholder value as the sole consideration and towards the contribution that business and entrepreneurship make to society.

This is manifest in the increasing awareness of the social and environmental impact of businesses beyond profitability—the so-called triple bottom line. It is also shown in the rise of alternative economic models including social enterprises, benefit corporations, employee-owned companies, cooperatives, the conscious capitalism movement, integral economics and fair trade products. A new generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders want to do good for society and not just profit from society. The motivation of board room members—the tone at the top—has an enormous influence on society. Many believe that their organizations provide not just commercial value but also social value, meeting the human needs for goods, services, jobs, fulfilment, economic wellbeing and the common good.

In his new book, Great Company, Michael Smith argues the case for a conscience-based capitalism and socially-driven market economy. This builds on current global trends. The precedent can be found in the moral philosophy of the founding father of capitalism, Adam Smith, particularly in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, first published over 250 years ago.

Michael Smith argues that the way business is conducted is as important as outcomes. Far from the ends justifying the means, the means determine the ends. This was particularly the case in the events leading up to the financial crash of 2008, when dubious, dishonest and acquisitive means led to a disastrous outcome. Those that still think solely in terms of the maximization of profit and personal gain, in banking and business, are the dinosaurs of an economic world heading for extinction. Those who are motivated solely by acquisition are the disrupters and destroyers. Those who are motivated by contribution to society are the builders.

Smith tells a wide range of stories which illustrate his argument that business leaders who welcome a personal transformation in motivations have a profound effect on the organizations they serve and on wider society, towards the common good of the planet. Many of his stories are drawn from the business programmes and conferences of the Initiatives of Change (IofC) centres in Caux, Switzerland, and Panchgani, India.

Chapters include ‘Creative connections’, ‘Conscience capitalism’, ‘Five pillars of trust’, ‘Beheading the snake of corruption’, ‘Banking on the brink’, ‘Banking on change’, ‘Land, lives and peace: the environmental challenge’, ‘The impact generation: the furry animals of social entrepreneurship’, ‘Thinking heads: the wise owls of academia’, and ‘The Prism: the human face of business’.

Michael Smith is Head of Business Programmes at IofC UK, a position he has held since 2010. An international journalist and author, from a business family background, this is his third business book. He was production manager for Himmat newsweekly in Mumbai, India, for three years and has visited that country many times since the 1970s. His articles have appeared in The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times, The Independent, The Scotsman, The Herald (Glasgow) and papers in India. He and his wife Jan worked with IofC in the USA for a year and they have lived in Wimbledon since they were married in 1981.

“In Great Company, Mike Smith shares profound insights into the DNA of good business, in every sense. His easy, narrative style makes these insights both accessible and persuasive. A thoroughly recommended read for all those who care about a better business ethos.”

–      Professor Roger Steare FRSA, Corporate Philosopher, Cass Business School, London

“Michael Smith and Initiatives of Change have been pursuing an urgent conversation on the new leadership for longer than most companies have realized that they needed it. He’s clear-eyed about the scale and complexity of the challenge and impervious to the truisms, jargon and clichés with which most solutions are proposed. If you want to understand where leadership in the business world is going, you could ask for no better global guide.”

–      Margaret Heffernan, Texan entrepreneur, Huffington Post blogger and best-selling business author of ‘Wilful Blindness’ and ‘A Bigger Prize’

“The role of the corporation, and the harmony of its existence with community and society, has come into sharp focus in management thought and practice. Michael Smith has tackled a key subject of the future—very credibly and creditably.”

–      R Gopalakrishnan, Director, Tata Sons Limited, India

“Every time I work with Mike Smith and Initiatives of Change I come away strengthened in my belief that business can and must be a force for good. People forget that inside every CEO there is a human being trying to climb out. As this book testifies, Mike has a rare skill in providing CEOs with ladders and platforms!”

–      Mark Goyder, CEO & Founder Director, Tomorrow’s Company and author of ‘Living Tomorrow’s Company—Rediscovering the Human Purposes of Business’

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