Monday evening, 20 May, saw the inaugural meeting of the North East Ethical Business Network very kindly hosted by Greggs.

We had excellent speakers with Paul Rhodes of Greggs describing their values and how the business operates with a strong community focus and a responsible and caring approach to both their people and suppliers. Jess Miller and Duncan Fairbrothor of Ugly Duckling and BIND described how their first business – Ugly Duckling – was set up to prevent food waste, the biggest contributor to climate change, but wasn’t educating people about the problem. The BIND project focuses on engagement and their ground-breaking ‘Eat Smart’ schools’ programme is not only providing education about food, but also reducing schools’ costs in providing children’s meals. The ‘Magic Hat Café’ with another café opening to follow soon is starting to make a difference to the importance of understanding the benefits of good food well cooked. Finally, Laura Seebohm of Changing Lives described the formation and growth of the charity, the challenges to which they were responding and the objectives of putting themselves out of business by meeting those challenges and the needs of others.

Through a combination of presentation and discussion it emerged that whatever your business size or nature: macro, micro or charitable, the importance of values-based business practice shouldn’t be understated in our changing world. What we now need is to get that message beyond the businesses who know that good business practice makes good business sense. The North East Ethical Business Network was established to connect large and smaller businesses and the charitable sector to share best practice and learn from each other. It was encouraging that a mixed business audience of around 50 people took time to hear from exemplars of good practice and help us spread the word.

A huge thanks go to Gillian Burliston and Jonathan Barnes, business engagement officers at Business in the Community, who went to tremendous effort to help us form The North-East Ethical Business Network and arrange yesterday’s inaugural meeting. We look forward to working with them on more successful, thought-provoking and information-led events in the near future.

Kevan Carrick, Chair of North East Initiative on Business Ethics