Occasionally things happen in the business community that take your breath away – and for the right reasons. The Open North Foundation, which was launched last week, is a case in point.  Any of us owning or running businesses knows just how tough the last four months has been.  Without the Government’s help many of us wouldn’t have had the oxygen to pivot and prepare for whatever the new commercial world will look like after the crisis subsides. And yet during this time of change and turmoil a group of business leaders have come together to take action to improve the recovery chances of their peers.

The Open North Foundation feeds the roots of the movement we’ve started to build at NIBE (another group of volunteers) namely, to make the north east known as an ethical place to do business; a place for good business in every sense.  There’s increasing talk globally of the need for a more ‘conscious capitalism’ as described by Mackey & Sisodia in 2014. This work describes leaders who through example and expectation are building the structures of ethical business. This is characterised by the mnemonic TACTILE: trust, accountability, caring, transparency, integrity, loyalty and egalitarianism. 

This way of business pays as much attention to the wellbeing of all its stakeholders as it does to commercial concerns, but importantly doesn’t require sacrifices in the bottom line.  Research tells us that responsible, ethical business practice makes the wheels of the economy turn faster; businesses aren’t driven to failure by late payment and supply chains don’t get gummed up either.  When staff are respected and their needs are taken into account and when businesses serve the communities in which they are based they truly thrive.

Momentum for this more ‘conscious’ or considerate capitalism is growing. Recent research from Salesforce tells us that 80% of business professionals expect companies to deliver social impact -ie to go beyond profit and make a positive impact on society, just as the Open North Foundation is doing.  The majority of customers (60%) are ready to switch brands if a company isn’t socially responsible.  Against this backdrop NIBE is developing a set of self-help tools for North East businesses to be able to test and evaluate the practice of ethical values of a company – and therefore to be able to ‘prove’ its ethical position internally and externally.   I urge you to get involved and help the region get to a place where ethical business practice differentiates us from national and international competitive regions.  If you have five minutes to spare please complete the NIBE survey so that we can prepare the toolkit in time for launch on 21st October, World Ethics’ Day:  https://forms.gle/hYETBPsH8zXz1GEs8

You can make your contribution to the aims of NIBE by completing our survey or joining our £100 Club and to the  Open North Foundation by completing the pledge on their website.  Indeed your  help in whichever way works for you in supporting both organisations and their initiative can only accelerate the pace of change.  Without people taking positive action the status quo will remain.

Carolyn Fairbairn, Director General of the CBI, sums up the critical importance of working together at this time: ‘The crisis has shown beyond doubt that when business, government and unions work together, communities benefit’.

Caroline Theobald – Director NIBE