The isolation of markets from culture has distorted businesses aims. Too many firms prioritize short-term perspectives over longer term economic and social purpose. This lack of social embeddedness fuels society’s distrust of business.
Restoring business as a force for societal good will require companies to engage meaningfully with their supply chains, shareholders, communities and employees. This would restore positive employee and consumer engagement, benefiting all.
Fostering virtue in business and the economy alone is insufficient. The ethos of our institutions must also be restored. Recent years have witnessed a public service crisis in care, in prisons and in our schools, driving the fragmentation of our shared values. The need for a shared public good is most vital in our democratic institutions, which are facing an unprecedented breakdown in public confidence. Enabling our institutions to teach ‘objective goods,’ which support discernment of purpose and excellence in their members, is key to the generation of virtue.
Virtuous business and institutions require a core understanding of human virtue. We have allowed an economic view of humanity to pervade our morality. Achievement in education is defined by narrow standardized targets, and at work we excessively valorize financial status. Instead, we must inject meaning and dignity into the everyday life for all. Both government and our intermediary institutions have the potential to make a fundamental impact. From family and community, through to schools, business, mutual associations, local government and faith communities, these institutions can enable individuals to achieve their potential and contribute to the common good.
Globalisation and atomisation of markets and culture have detached businesses from those whom they seek to serve: their employees, consumers, communities and supply chains. Businesses have become governed by short-term economic value rather than by a longer term economic and social purpose. Shareholders no longer participate in discerning and implementing the core purpose of the enterprise that they have invested in. The separation between capital and labour has detached employees from a corporate ethos and a transformative financial and personal reward.
Today many British institutions have lost not only public trust, but also their ethos, sense of purpose and their traditional sustaining culture. The NHS has been implicated in massive scandals of appalling care and resultant cover-ups. The journalistic profession has undergone moral collapse, threatening the lives and dignity of those subject to their malpractice. The Police have been hit by the revelations of systemic incompetence and corruption. Trade unions have become lobby groups of static self-interest.
We have come to conceive of humans as purely economic actors, narrowly focussed on financial and commercial success. We have forgotten the importance of a life defined by meaning, a desire for beauty and proper pride in and recognition for, a life well lived. This is because we have stopped asking the question: what do we need for a ‘good life’?
Launched on 26th May on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, ResPublica’s latest report, The Mission of Media in an Age of Monopoly, argues that the trend for media outlets to...Download as PDF
ResPublica, in partnership with the Jubilee Centre, sets out to reaffirm the value and purpose of our great professions in our latest report In Professions We Trust: Fostering virtuous practitioners...Download as PDF
Published: 28 July 2014On Tuesday 29th July at the Financial Times, ResPublica launched its report, Virtuous Banking: Placing ethos and purpose at the heart of finance, with a keynote speech by Sir Richard...Download as PDF
Published: 21 January 2014A radical change in attitude from our “new economy” businesses is needed if the private sector is to regain the trust of British consumers and promote a new economy of...Download as PDF
Published: 10 January 2012On Wednesday 11th January 2012, ResPublica published Military Academies: Tackling disadvantage, improving ethos and changing outcome. A product of ResPublica’s Models and Partnerships for Social Prosperity workstream, one of the...Download as PDF