Glyn Evans column: being an ethical business is about more than charity

Newcastle's city centre chaplain on what businesses need to do to ensure they are good corporate citizens

Rev Glyn Evans
Rev Glyn Evans

What’s the toughest part of the Chinese marathon? It’s that moment when you hit the wall!

At the end of May I ran the Edinburgh marathon to raise money for the High Sheriffs’ Awards. I ran to support both Ruth Thompson, last year’s High Sheriff, and Lucy Winskill, who is this year’s.

Often as business people we get involved in the community we serve and we can do this in many ways seen and unseen. Corporate Social Responsibility is sometimes the title we give businesses helping others.

You cannot have a business that succeeds in a society that fails. CSR goes through phases of being popular and then maligned. I know some organisations just say we should be a “good business” and by doing this we will help our communities.

I think some people cop out and others get the balance wrong. Of course businesses should seek to help the communities they operate in and I’m not bothered if they do it to earn brownie points but it’s no good painting the village hall and then “beating the slaves” at work. It is also not about helping a homeless charity one day while the next devising tax avoidance schemes!

At NIBE (the North East Institute of Business Ethics) we seek to encourage people to discuss good practice in CSR as well as attempt to make the North East an ethical business to do business. We should serve each other as a community.

I think we talk a lot about community but what does that mean? And how do we link with the community? One of the frustrations for charities who seek to help answer these questions is that they are not “sexy” enough to get funding. I call them bridge builder people.

We have lots of bridges in our region but how many people are bridge builders between community and business? We need them.

I know people at work should naturally be bridge builders between the place they work and the community it serves. But what I often find is they have no ownership of CSR where they work or have no knowledge of what a company does in this area. Something is wrong.

So my appeal is this: firstly to think about that word “community” and what it means for you and me. Secondly I would make a plea for more support for people who act as bridge builders because these people provide the missing link. Thirdly for businesses employees to own their CSR and not see it as an add on or something we give money for other people to do.

My marathon run will help young people affected by domestic violence but I need to make sure I don’t see this as job done!

Mark Twain always has a good quote and I like this one: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

Glyn Evans is Newcastle’s city centre chaplain and co-chair of the North East Institute of Business Ethics


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