At a time like this it feels problematic to presume that members of the business community are going to want to read my preachy musings on ethics. However, as it falls to me this week to add my contribution to the NIBE blog archive I have thought rather to use this opportunity simply to celebrate a business I came into contact with some years ago and which I have never forgotten.

I had the good fortune to listen to James Timpson of Timpson – the shoe and lock people known to us all – speaking about his brand of leadership, recruitment, the importance of his people and the ethos of his company. It was a revelation to hear a leader speak with such an ethic of innovation about the moral underpinnings of his entire business and operating model. Admittedly, different products and services lend themselves more or less to the kinds of priorities Timpson has been able to place front and centre of the brand, but there are elements of their approach which stand as an example to any employer.

Fundamentally, James Timpson believes that kindness has profound importance in running the business – this approach inspires loyalty in his workforce through a range of generous and compassionate commitments to them and ultimately this proves to be good for business. He is Chair of the Prison Reform Trust and not only runs training programmes in prisons but proactively recruits ex-offenders to run his outlets. 

Gaining such a reputation for social justice and values-based leadership could be seen in itself to be a brand-building exercise – a kind of enlightened self-interest in action. As I remember it, Timpson’s don’t engage in branding or advertising in the commonly understood sense.

I was reminded of why I was so struck by the Timpson story recently, when I saw that they have gained the Fair Tax Mark (@FairTaxMark); it made me revisit the story of this company which is known as much for its ethical operation as for its significant turnover, profit and market resilience. 

Let’s imagine that the Timpson story helps convince mass buy-in to the Fair Tax Mark charter mark and tax revenue rises …… next up, who’s for setting to work on improving how ‘They’ spend it? Maybe that really is a subject worthy of a preachy blog.

Alison Shaw, Professor of Practice for Success and Progression, Newcastle University and Director NIBE.