A North East-based initiative set up to champion ethical business practice has enlisted Northumbria University students to help recruit new members and raise its profile.

The North East Initiative on Business Ethics (NIBE) was established in 2013 by working professionals interested and involved in business ethics. It has begun to develop traction through face-to-face meetings, advising companies how to develop ethical practices and the benefits these can offer their businesses. To help increase its supporter-base and raise awareness of its work, NIBE approached The Business Clinic at Northumbria, where students provide a free consultancy service to real clients as part of their studies.

Working as team Ignition Consulting, final year business and law students Henry Dodds, Lizzy Park, Kara McMahon and Fraser Robinson took on the brief from NIBE. They carried out extensive market research, interviewed regional and national businesses and the London-based Institute of Business Ethics (IBE), to develop a strategy for NIBE.

Ignition Consulting’s report included recommendations for stronger partnerships with national organisation’s such as IBE, developing the website, and creating more structured networking and referral polices to attract new members. The report also recommended a more focused digital
marketing and social media strategy to expand NIBE’s online presence. This included a strong emphasis on targeting students and recent graduates just starting out on their business careers.

Commenting on the results Kevan Carrick, Chairman of JK Property Consultants and NIBE founder member, said: “We see ourselves very much as challengers for good business ethics, and one of the best ways to promote this is by engaging with people early in their careers. It has been extremely
useful to have someone from the outside looking in and taking a critical view on what we do. This is exactly what Ignition Consulting have done, and we have already incorporated many of their recommendations into our strategy – it’s happening now.

“The North East is a good place to do business but, we can do better; and along with improving productivity and profits, being a responsible and ethical business is equally important. The research carried out by the Business Clinic students shows this is especially so for today’s more socially and environmentally aware students and school leavers who look for strong ethical policies from employers. As the only organisation of our type outside of London we have been promoting this message regionally. Our aim now is to gain a stronger presence nationally, and the work put in by
the students will help us achieve this.”

Speaking collectively, Ignition Consulting said providing a consultancy service for a real-life client is very different from more traditional theory-based learning, and this has made it an incredibly challenging and rewarding experience.

The Business Clinic is an award-winning education scheme that involves groups of business students forming a ‘consultancy firm’ to provide free advice to clients. The service is available to all types of businesses from SMEs and multinationals to charities and third sector organisations. Under close supervision by experienced Business School tutors, the model enhances student employability and skills by working directly with organisations in need of consultancy advice. The students analyse the problem and provide up to date research and recommendations to help the organisation grow and develop.

Nigel Coates, director of the Business Clinic, said: “There is so much potential for NIBE to grow and to continue making a real impact, and it’s great that we can follow its success. The Business Clinic has the expertise to support consultancy work across a wide range of sectors. Our aim is to achieve a win-win situation and it is satisfying to see the real impact we are having on both our clients and students.”

Notes to editors:
 Northumbria University, Newcastle is a research-rich, business-focused, professional university with a global reputation for academic excellence. Northumbria is one of the largest universities in the UK with almost 34,000 students from 132 countries.
 Northumbria is ranked top 50 in the UK for research power and had the 4th largest increase in quality research funding (REF 2014). According to Times Higher Education, Northumbria had the biggest rise in research power of any university in the UK