The Responsible Business Forum at the Said Business School at Oxford University in England has been a great success and I had the pleasure of hearing multiple executives as well as academics and students speak on and discuss a new paradigm for business in contrast to the doctrine of Milton Friedman, which stated that the purpose of business is to make as much money as possible while conforming to the basic rules of society.
Panelists and speakers addressed such major issues as: What is the purpose of business and how can we adopt new supply chains within brands to develop novel ecosystems of businesses, NGOs, governments, and universities to go beyond just financial measures of business performance and to include social and human capital. Time and time again, it was said that "it's not just about profits." I was very impressed by Itzik Zivan, CEO of Al-Sanabel in Israel, whose firm employs many women who are Bedouins to prepare nutritious food for school children. The women are empowered and the children benefit from wholesome, delicious foods in the schools, and Al-Sanabel earns a profit. Al -Sanabek is a social enterprise and Zivan stated that their business model has the following features which others can emulate:
1. A genuine need in the market (3000,000 meals for children) on a regular basis;
2. Market failure - the previous supply chain was broken - many children, especially Bedouin children would not eat the food provided in schools before;
3. Relative advantage- the Bedouin women who are employed to prepare the food make a decent salary and there has been no turnover!
A key issue in terms of responsible business was how to establish trust with suppliers since it takes a long time to build trust and trust is fragile. I also enjoyed hearing "Doing Well by Doing Good," which reminded me of one of my favourite INFORMS slogans: "Doing Good with Good O.R. (Operations Research). Business is also about emancipating people, it was said.
Executives noted their passion and how much they love their jobs and their clients. Institutional investors also need to buy into responsible business. Responsible business is supported by Mutuality - the Interests of Others - and the chocolate company Mars has begun a partnership with the Said Business School at Oxford to research the economics of mutuality. We were all invited to take on the challenges of responsible business whether as practitioners or researchers or policy makers.
We heard of companies working even with their competitors for the common good - impressive! The importance of resources was also a theme and especially knowledge resources and ideas generated by employees. Knowledge is a resource that is not lost when it is shared. The CEO of Danone said that "prosperity does not exist if we don't share it." Keep searching for hidden resources in your value chain and be bold. Also, new distribution channels need to be invested in.
The importance of opening your mind so that you move beyond the boundary of you company and building a new box if you can't work within the existing frameworks made a lot of sense to me.
Also, Ellen, whom I have mentioned in a previous blogpost, who is a PhD student at Said and a fellow network enthusiast, gave me a tour of the Oxford Launchpad at Said, which she is involved in, for entrepreneurship.
Finally, I'd like to thank the Said staff - I do like their special events shirts and think that perhaps we should do something similar at the Isenberg School of Management!
Congrats to the Said School of Business and to Professor Colin Mayer of Said and Bruno Marche of Marson on the success of The Resonsible Business Forum, which was even videostreamed.