Since 2016 Northumbria University’s ‘Responsible Business’ events have looked at how we can improve business in the region, to discuss issues and to learn about current research. Speakers have included business groups such as the CBI, FSB, North East Chamber, from the TUC, from professional bodies including insurance and public relations, from the third sector, from civic life including the leader of Newcastle Council as well as from research and academia.

On the 28th of this month we have Oxford University’s Dr Ruth Yeoman talk about her research on businesses that combine meaningful work and mutuality (link). February 11th sees the return of Unilever’s former Chief Executive Paul Polman, talking about how the UN Sustainable Development Goals should drive a new type of business, focused on purpose and profit.

These events create a space for extended deliberation between when opportunities for such conversation are infrequent. Our lives are busy and social media encourages people to express themselves in echo chambers or else sees argument often descend in to abuse. Whatever else it involves, its exchanges are just too short to enable good dialogue and personal reflection. By contrast our events enable experienced business leaders, entrepreneurs, university and 6th form students and many others talk and to listen to one another.

The philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre said that we should ask of any institution: ‘Of what conversations is it the home?’ In a world where genuine conversation is becoming rarer, it is important for universities to epitomise the opposite, to be places where people can reason together across social boundaries. We have been delighted to collaborate with the North East Initiative for Business Ethics, and with Emmanuel College in enabling this sort of conversation and warmly invite you to come and join us.

Ron Beadle – Professor of Organization and Business Ethics, Northumbria University and Director of NIBE