Richard Turnbull: “Deeply Responsible Business” by Geoffrey Jones

Geoffrey Jones is Isidor Strauss Professor of Business History at Harvard Business School and a fellow of the Academy of International Business. He is the author of several books in the broad field of business ethics from a historical perspective.

The author offers us a fascinating and informative historical review of what he calls “deeply responsible business”, a term which provides the framework for the book but which is, perhaps, slightly overworked. 

Jones uses the term “deep responsibility” to characterize the set of values of those “who have seen business as a way of improving society, and even solving the world’s problems” (page 4). He distinguishes his approach from both those who seek to rewrite the rules of the game, as he puts it, and also from the now somewhat discredited approaches of corporate social responsibility (although I could offer some defence of philanthropy in this regard). His central thesis “is that deeply responsible business leaders are motivated by a set of values that shape their practice” (page 5). Some might find that defining characteristic rather weak, but I welcome it, because it enables a proper discussion of values-based business approaches in a realistic way, dealing with character, integrity, wisdom and spirituality, without embracing neo-Marxist opposition to the market economy per se. Indeed, Jones specifically contests any idea that a manager in a for-profit business could never be virtuous.

 The book brings several important and significant insights.  Its most noteworthy contribution is placing the quest for responsible business into a longer historical view. Jones comprehensively demonstrates that it is not simply a recent phenomenon, but one with a long history that has exercised business leaders since industrialisation. He also helpfully places “deeply responsible business” into a global context, reminding us of the pitfalls of a simply western focus.

The book consists of ten chapters divided into three parts. The first four chapters are encompassed together under the heading “A Question of Responsibility.” Here Jones looks at some significant historical figures in business leadership and history. He covers George Cadbury, Edward Filene (the Boston businessman and pioneer of credit unions), Robert Bosch and examples from India (J.N. Tata) and Japan (Shibusawa Eiichi). This is the strongest, most insightful and interesting part of the book.

The first two chapters tell gripping stories, one of which I am very familiar with, and the other of which I knew nothing about. The first chapter deals with the story of the entrepreneurial Quaker, George Cadbury, who together with his brother, Richard, pioneered a moral approach to business. As Jones argues, given “this emphasis on trust and honesty, it is not surprising that Quaker enterprises became some of the earliest examples of socially responsible business” (page 25). Jones notes the central role of spirituality (here and elsewhere in the book in various forms), the importance of housing, welfare and flourishing of the workforce, the challenges of raising capital and the ownership structure and Cadbury’s wider commitment to the community. Virtue, wisdom and spirituality lay at the heart.

The second chapter was less familiar territory for me but I was captivated by the story. Edward Filene, born in 1860, ran the family retail business in Boston with his brother, Lincoln, and pioneered many business practices. Among his ethical approaches, he introduced employee training, paid high wages whilst seeking to keep prices low and was actively concerned with not only employee welfare, but also employee involvement. He introduced health and illness insurance and banking services for employees. Although Filene did not share their faith perspective, there are several crosscurrents here with the Quakers.

Geoffrey Jones quotes Filene that the purpose of business was to:

“serve people, not merely to support the business man concerned in it. I was not an idealist. I wanted profits. I even had a strong preference for becoming rich. Nevertheless, this discovery of what business really is did strange things to me. It made me want to serve” (page 53).

Of real interest was the story of Filene’s involvement in the development and promotion of the credit union network, which is a much more significant feature of the American financial landscape than, for example, in the UK. He was involved in the 1914 launch of the Massachusetts Credit Union and helped draft a series of eight principles of good practice (page 64). He launched the Massachusetts Credit Union Association in 1921 to promote the idea of credit unions which spread rapidly, although there was always some tension between state and federal provision. Filene was elected the first president of the Credit Union National Association in 1935, with 3,600 credit unions and 750,000 members. Those numbers had grown to 7,500 retail credit unions with 92 million members by 2010.

Part 2, “Turbulence” begins with a fascinating chapter on the history of Harvard Business School and its second dean, Wallace Donham, who had called in 1927 for business leaders to adopt what he called a higher level of responsibility (a further and helpful reminder of placing these ideas in historical context). Further chapters deal with the desire to reduce wealth disparities as an aim of business leaders, consumerism and some other matters. In these chapters the book slightly loses its way. They are the least convincing part of the book and certainly, on occasion, fall into virtue-signalling around business leaders’ personal political objectives and detracted from the really significant insights of the book. In particular, chapter 9, entitled “Social Three-Folding”, seems quite disconnected.

In Part 3, Geoffrey Jones brings us back to more contemporary debates with three chapters dealing with the rise of value driven business right through to the issues around ESG (“environmental, social and governance”) and B Corps. He provides a balanced overview of the strengths and challenges of these movements. He is particularly helpful with his supportive critique of B Corps – though there was no mention of the UK’s B Corp movement, which has made some advances. 

In his conclusion Jones reminds us of the reason why his book makes a good and useful contribution:

“As we delved into the history of deep responsibility, we saw many examples of business leaders across time and space who combined making profits and pursuing positive social impact” (page 342).

Jones argues that deeply responsible business will select an industry which does no harm (though that might be easier to define in some instances than others), will engage with stakeholders with respect and humility and support communities. He notes that affecting “a single city might be less glamorous than “reimagining capitalism”, but it can greatly enhance the lives of generations of people” (page 345).

Jones should be congratulated for recognising that a values-based approach to business has a long and honourable history but is not a panacea and that there are weaknesses as well as strengths. In this he is a realist and enhances his overall arguments. He recognises the values which shape character, virtue and spirituality and the need to convince the mainstream of business rather than simply movements on the margin. This is a good book, which I recommend, albeit slightly disappointed with the middle chapters.

 

“Deeply Responsible Business,” by Geoffrey Jones was published in 2023 by Harvard University Press (ISBN: 978-0-674-91653-1). 431pp.


Richard%20Turnbullweb#1# (2)Dr Richard Turnbull is the Director of the Centre for Enterprise, Markets & Ethics (CEME). For more information about Richard please click here.

 

 

 

 

Edward Carter: “The Biblical Entrepreneur’s Experience” by S Leigh Davis

Much of The Biblical Entrepreneur’s Experience comprises a rather simplistic and selective use of scripture to support a particular world-view, namely a North American free market system. As such, it could almost be categorised as espousing a prosperity gospel, in which correctly following biblical methods will necessarily bring success in business (see Chapter 2 for Davis’s “system”). The examples given in the book, of entrepreneurs such as Sarah Breedlove (Madam C.J. Walker), Strive Masiyiwa and Scott Harrison, tell this story in an often engaging way, but at times verge on a parody, which attempts to represent the complex riches of the Christian faith in an unreflective manner. One example is the song “The Hairdresser’s Ode to Madam C.J. Walker”, to the tune of “Onward, Christian Soldiers”, which the author cites approvingly (pages 72-73). The ‘mission’ of beautifying hair is conflated completely with the great Christian Commission in a manner that I found both disturbing and shallow.

Davis’s central metaphor, akin to a sermon illustration, is that of ‘bees and fleas’, and the author uses the bee/flea imagery to invite the reader into his world-view. BEEs (Biblical Experiential Entrepreneur) are good, and FLEAs (in-Flexible Learnt Entrepreneurial Antagonist) are bad. At the heart of Davis’s analysis is the proposition that “A BEE creates; a FLEA takes” (page 22). The book is peppered with “fun facts”, such as, “The honeybee has a heart!” (page 143), and side-bar notes, for example, “Strive – to devote serious effort or energy; to struggle in opposition” (page 115). Taken together, the above makes the overarching style of the book quite propositional and un-nuanced.

However, at times the book is also informative and every now and again I was pleased to find an interesting comment or statement that, I felt, contributed in a thoughtful way to a theological consideration of the subjects of enterprise and of entrepreneurial behaviour. For example, on the theme of entrepreneurial endeavour, Davis suggests: “It is to prepare the entrepreneur for the next life: a venture more fulfilling than its worldly counterparts” (page 5). This statement sketches out an idea which could be developed into some deep vocational thinking on the kingdom of heaven, and the place for enterprise within God’s enduring purposes. In another intriguing statement Davis comments: ‘…through grace we are given a great opportunity to provide others with a needed product or service to glorify Him – not ourselves” (page 11). Here, the themes of God’s grace, human need (not desire), and divine glory are all connected together under the umbrella of enterprise.

In Chapter 6 biblical examples are used to support the practice of “active listening”, as a way of harnessing God’s messages imparted through others, and Davis interestingly adds some thoughts about the challenges of fear and pride (pages 46-47). This “active listening” to others is to be set alongside the need for regular meditation on scripture (Chapter 15), not mere uncritical proof-texting, which appears elsewhere in the book. Separately, Chapter 10 plays with the “beehive” imagery and the way hexagons fit together perfectly, an illustration of how a project should work, a line of discussion that concludes with this communitarian statement: “…an individual cannot save the world; however a swarm of BEEs in each city can rebuild areas, then blocks of areas, followed quickly throughout a city. Multiple cities make up a country. Multiple countries make up a region. Multiple regions make up the world” (page 104).

A different book might have taken some of these statements and developed them by placing them alongside (and sometimes in tension with) the thinking set out by other authors who have considered the place for enterprise within the Christian world-view. The reader is left to do this work for themself. For example, the rich and in my mind helpful concept of the vocation of the entrepreneur, as proposed by Davis, could have been explored within a more general discussion on vocational calling, and specifically the nature of work within God’s providence.

In a way, the most inspiring section of this book for me was Section 6 (Chapters 16, 17 and 18), which describes empirical research about the distinctiveness of Christian-led and Christian-inspired businesses. Such enterprises typically have greater productivity, staff loyalty, and general outperformance. In this regard, I found the story of Walker Mowers engaging, not least the way in which the owners and directors of this business deliberately attempt to tell the story of the company within the bigger context of the story of salvation history (page 155). An enterprise is thus no longer a means to an end (profit), but is part of an over-arching narrative that embraces God’s purposes. This theme alone could have been developed into a major piece of thinking that I believe would be incredibly timely and helpful for business in today’s world.

In sum, this is a “popular” rather than “scholarly” book. It is, in the main, an easy read with occasional thought-provoking nuggets. With rather less “prosperity gospel” and rather more theological reflection on the important themes that are hinted at, it would have been much improved upon.

 

 

“The Biblical Entrepreneur’s Experience” by S Leigh Davis was published in 2021 by River Birch Press (ISBN-13: 9781951561802).  260pp.


Edward Carter is Vicar of St Peter Mancroft Church in Norwich, having previously been the Canon Theologian at Chelmsford Cathedral, a parish priest in Oxfordshire, a Minor Canon at St George’s Windsor and a curate in Norwich. Prior to ordination he worked for small companies and ran his own business.

He chairs the Church Investors Group, an ecumenical body that represents over £10bn of church money, and which engages with a wide range of publicly listed companies on ethical issues. His research interests include the theology of enterprise and of competition, and his hobbies include board-games, volleyball and film-making. He is married to Sarah and they have two adult sons.

 

 

 Andrei Rogobete: “Democratic Capitalism at a Crossroads: Technological Change and the Future of Politics” by Charles Boix

Charles Boix is Professor of Politics and Public Affairs at Princeton University. His primary research interests are in political economy and comparative politics, with a particular emphasis on empirical democratic theory. Previous notable publications include Political Parties, Growth and Equality (Cambridge University Press, 1998), Democracy and Redistribution (Cambridge University Press, 2003), and Political Order and Inequality (Cambridge University Press, 2015).

In Democratic Capitalism at a Crossroads Charles Boix seeks to explore both the historical chapters of democratic free-market tensions and current issues facing capitalism within western democracies. The author divides the narrative into three main eras: 19th century Manchester capitalism, 20th century Detroit capitalism, and the current 21st century Silicon Valley-based model of capitalism. The final chapters consider the implications of these forms of capitalism on the future workforce, in particular with respect to automation, the rate of technological change, income distribution and politics (or the role of government more broadly).

Charles Boix’s thesis is that, “the consequences of today’s technological changes […] are not set in stone. They will work their way into the economy through their direct (although, at this point, still uncertain) impact on the demand for different types of labour and on the cost and ownership of capital.  Yet they will also depend on the institutional and political strategies we follow in response to those technological transformations” (page 3).

The book is well-written and comprehensively researched. The author does a commendable job of avoiding the clichés that often surround the topic of technology and maintains both nuance and a satisfactory degree of objectivity. We will touch upon some of the more intriguing points made throughout the book.

Chapters 1-3 explore the impact of technology on society and politics from a historical perspective. Chapter 2 dedicates a fair amount of attention (and rightly so), to the first industrial revolution. Boix points out that automatization brought by a new class of comparatively poorly skilled labour that replaced “…an old class of artisans and highly skilled operators” (page 57). In 20th Century capitalism however, the advent of technology (and automisation more specifically), led to a further replacement of low skilled workers with semi-skilled workers – albeit in much lower numbers. This new workforce of semi-skilled labour was needed to oversee, maintain, and repair the machinery in operation. Yet perhaps the most important consequence of the process of automisation was the arrival of “… new layers of white-collar, relatively well-paid jobs – from accounting departments to car dealerships” (page 59).

This in effect resulted in a new form of Corporatism whereby the relationship between employees, trade unions and the employers are far more interwoven than before. An interesting point is made in chapter 3 whereby the continual development of a company’s human capital became a vested interest for the company itself. Henry Ford for instance invested heavily in the education of his workforce. He established the Ford English School to teach English to recently arrived immigrants and he even established a “…Sociological Department, with about two hundred employees, to ensure that the family lives and overall behaviour of his factory workers did not deviate from a clear set of norms such as thriftiness, continence, and basic hygiene” (page 78).

Chapters 4-6 move the conversation to the contemporary debate around technology, artificial intelligence (AI), and its impact on the labour markets and consequently, on democracy itself. Charles Boix rightly points out the difference between simple AI and machine learning. The key form of impact here is that while computers/AI displaced routinable jobs at a large scale, they have “…hardly replaced nonroutine jobs” (page 103). Though this may be changing with machine learning.

Boix acknowledges in Chapter 6 that, ultimately, we cannot predict the impact of technological change or indeed “…depict the society it will give birth to…” (page 180). Therefore, any future policy responses must be made in a piecemeal fashion (ibid.). The chapter concludes the book with a few tentative proposals for reform. Rather unexpectedly, Universal Basic Income (UBI) is presented as one such proposal – yet the arguments made against UBI seem more convincing than those in favour. For instance, the author claims that UBI has two main advantages: “First, it may free individuals from routine, repetitive tasks, allowing them to engage in more creative and inventive professional paths. Second, it should reduce poverty and arguably, equalise conditions” (page 206). Perhaps the keywords here are ‘may’ and ‘should’ – one cannot help but feel that this is mere wishful thinking.

On the challenges of UBI, Boix acknowledges a rather lengthy list: UBI cannot be tailored to individual needs, it distorts the incentives that people have to work, it may keep the pre-existing structure of inequality in place, it reduces the need for schooling, it enables firms to offer lower wages, it affects the inner motivations and ambitions of youngsters, it can create antagonism between those that are earning against those that are not (pages 207-208). We don’t have space to go into further detail here, and surely each reader will make up their own mind – but it is a strange and slightly disappointing end to an otherwise interesting book.

In summary, Democratic Capitalism at a Crossroads is an engaging read about the impact of technological change on the transformation of labour markets, society and indeed, democratic systems themselves. It is accessible to the educated reader and while some might take issue with certain sections of the book, the author does a laudable job of curtailing his more subjective opinions by also presenting the counterarguments. One result is that some readers may find the counterarguments more compelling than the main arguments themselves (UBI is a case in point). This might not necessarily be a bad thing. The book is a recommended read to those looking to expand their knowledge of the intersection between technology, the economy, and democracy.

 

“Democratic Capitalism at the Crossroads” by Carles Boix was first published in 2021 by Princeton University Press, ISBN: 9780691216898, 272pp.


Andrei E. Rogobete is the Associate Director of  the Centre for Enterprise, Markets & Ethics. For more information about Andrei please click here.

 

 

 

 

Richard Godden: “Management as a Calling” by Andrew J. Hoffman

Management as a Calling is aimed primarily at business students but it has far wider relevance.  Andrew Hoffman says that he wants “to personally challenge every business student, every business executive, and every business school professor to think about the system in which students are beginning their careers and to push back when it is steering them away from their calling” (page 18).

Hoffman is the Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. His basic thesis is simple: there is a crisis in capitalism of which the symptoms are income inequality and climate change; governments have a role to play in providing solutions to the relevant issues but the leading role has to be played by business since “if there are no solutions coming from business, there will be no solutions” (page 4); treating the sustainability challenges as mainstream business issues and fitting them into the market as it exists will not provide solutions; what is needed is not incremental change but a radical change of values and culture involving future business leaders being taught “to consider management as a calling – one that moves away from the simple pursuit of a career for private personal gain and toward a vocation that is based on a higher and more internally derived set of values about leading commerce and serving society” (page 5); and this requires that we should be turning “to religion and philosophy as a way to augment the market in making this shift” (page 116).

At times, the book loses its business focus and cannot seem to decide whether it is about business management or about the best way to build a political and societal consensus that permits the tackling of climate change. Nonetheless, Hoffman pursues his theme with evangelistic fervour, concluding with an alter call: “You, the next generation of business leaders, have been born into this reality, and you have no choice but to respond. You did not choose this reality but you must embrace it. The nobility of your lives will be determined by how you respond to the challenges you face” (page 138). This is an inspiring message but as a rule evangelists have weaknesses as well as strengths and Hoffman is no exception to the rule.

On the negative side, some of his attacks target Aunt Sallies. For example, he points to the growth in the Stock Market in recent years as evidence that share values are divorced from underlying economic reality and he dismisses Gross Domestic Product growth as a measure of wellbeing or even a reliable measure of economic success, but few would dispute these things and they do not assist in proving his case. On occasions he is also guilty of overstatement or misrepresentation. For example, his linking of the Wells Fargo, Volkswagen and Sackler scandals with Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” does grave injustice to the sophistication of Smith’s economics, let alone his moral philosophy. Conversely, when advocating change, Hoffman is on occasions guilty of dubious logic (the most egregious example of which is his twice stated assertion that “Our problems are manmade – therefore, they can be solved by man”, page 118). Furthermore, his discussion of issues relating to inequality is very brief and superficial. Indeed, no issue is covered in great detail, the book being only 138 pages long.

Hoffman’s vision of the future is both vague and, by his own admission, Utopian. He asserts that “perpetual growth is not possible and its continued pursuit is self destructive”, quoting with approval Naomi Klein’s statement that we have to “come face to face with the hard truth that the conveniences of modern consumer capitalism [are] steadily eroding the habitability of the planet” (page 33): he calls on us to be radical and attacks those who believe that the solution lies in technology, such as electric cars. However, his positive suggestions sound surprising incremental rather than revolutionary. They even include the use of electric cars and, despite quoting Naomi Klein’s challenge, he never discusses in detail what we have to give to up to deal with the problem that he perceives and how our living standards will change in consequence of this.

Having said that, there is much that is commendable and thought provoking in the book. Hoffman does not pretend that he has all the answers, recognises the fact that we do not currently have the infrastructure to be ecologically neutral and criticizes over simplistic debate; he notes that “social media outrage” increasingly drives social discourse and laments that the resulting behaviours and emotional perspectives “are not conducive to the kind of tempered, thorough, and compromise seeking discourse that democratic government needs in order to function well” (page 61); he recognises that part of the reason why the public ignores scientists is because there are some within the scientific community who hold the public in low regard and others “who subscribe to a view of scientism that elevates the natural scientists in relation to all other ways of knowing the world around us” (page 75); he is also cautious about the role of so-called “activist CEOs” and recognises the danger that theoretical accountability to everyone in practice means accountability no-one (i.e. the danger that the effect of weakening accountability to shareholders will be precisely the reverse of the effect that its proponents desire); and, most importantly, he calls for business thinking to encompass more than growing the bottom line without regard to the means or consequences of doing so.

Hoffman’s aim is not to set out a road map to Utopia or to some less desirable but at least sustainable future. Instead, he wants to add new dimensions to the business debate, change mindsets and provoke productive discussion, starting in the business schools. He aims, in this way, to generate new business models that “begin to coalesce around a composite model that brings the full scope of market transformation into greater clarity” (page 39).

Readers of Management as a Calling may well disagree with a number of Hoffman’s assertions, particularly one or two of the more left-leaning of these but few will doubt the need for business discourse to encompass fundamental values as well as ethics in a narrower sense. Unlike Socialism, Capitalism does not, or at least should not, claim to be an all embracing philosophical, social and economic system.  It needs to be supplemented by well thought through values. Despite its failings, Managing as a Calling is a valuable reassertion of this point and an important call to both existing and future business leaders to think more broadly about what they are seeking to achieve. It is well worth reading.

 

“Managing as a Calling – Leading Business Serving Society” by Andrew J. Hoffman, was published in 2021 by Stanford University Press (ISBN – 13:9781503614802). 138pp.


Richard Godden is a Lawyer and has been a Partner with Linklaters for over 25 years during which time he has advised on a wide range of transactions and issues in various parts of the world. 

Richard’s experience includes his time as Secretary at the UK Takeover Panel and a secondment to Linklaters’ Hong Kong office. He also served as Global Head of Client Sectors, responsible for Linklaters’ industry sector groups, and was a member of the Global Executive Committee.

 

 

 

 

Edward Carter: “Servant Leadership, Social Entrepreneurship and the Will to Serve” Eds. Luk Bouckaert & Steven C. van den Heuvel

This book is a collection of eighteen separate but thematically connected papers which were given at an international academic conference in Belgium in May 2018. The organising principle is an enquiry as to whether the ‘will to serve’ must always be ‘crowded out in the real economic arena of hard competition’ (page vi). The authors are very diverse, with global perspectives offered, although there is an inevitable impression at certain moments that one is eavesdropping on a room full of academics talking to one another and there is some repetition, notably when it comes to the description of what ‘servant leadership’ might be.

I found some of the papers stronger than others but I enjoyed reading all of them, and was left with ideas and questions about re-discovering a wider view of how businesses and companies operate within society. Originally the granting of ‘limited liability’ was seen as a privilege that brought responsibilities towards the community. Those responsibilities have at times been largely overlooked in the single-minded search for profit, which in turn has shaped the kind of leadership the corporate sector has embraced and this volume is a helpful contribution to a growing literature that urges a wider view of what makes for good leadership (whether described using ‘servant’ language or not), as well as a broader view of the very purpose of business and enterprise itself.

It is difficult to summarise such a diverse set of essays, and even the over-arching theme of servant leadership seemed not to be dominant. There are three sections: (1) Philosophical and Spiritual Foundations; (2) Social Entrepreneurship: Serving the Common Good; (3) Servant Leadership in the Context of Business. The general movement through the collection is from concepts to practice, although there is plenty of overlap.

 

Section 1 (Philosophical and Spiritual Foundations)

I found the most thought provoking of the seven essays in Section 1 to be Ipseistic Ethics Beyond Moralism: Rooting the “Will to Serve” in “The Reverence for Life” by Chris Doude van Troostwijk and The Dark Side of Servant Leadership: Power Abuse via Serving by Volker Kessler. 

Despite its title, the former is very readable. It uses Albert Schweitzer’s life-story as a vehicle for the author’s argument, which is an attempt to answer this question: ‘Is there a way that respects both the self-centered impetus of human life and the altruistic needs of life in general?’ (page 82) I was especially intrigued by the author’s appropriation of Darwin’s ‘survival of the fittest’ theme so as to re-evaluate ‘fit’ as a social idea – the cooperation needed for someone to be a ‘good fit’ within an organisation.

Volker Kessler’s paper contrasts strongly with the others, in that the author (a practitioner with his wife Martina) draws upon a data-base of stories to describe eight mechanisms of power abuse in Christian organisations. The main issues are those of inappropriate obligations and commitments, and a culture of dependency masked as being reciprocity. This sentence stood out for me: ‘Many of the misuses listed… could be avoided if leaders would not call themselves servants.’ (page 119) Every Christian leader would benefit from reading and reflecting on this article.

Several of the other essays are also interesting. Two take a Christian perspective: Patrick Nullens’ paper (The Will to Serve: An Anthropological and Spiritual Foundation for Leadership) looks at the moral aspects of servant leadership, and makes theological links to Christian love and Christ the servant/slave. Nullens raises human fallenness, and therefore the need also for justice – a wider concept linked to the common good; and Heiko Wenzel’s essay (Reading Exodus 18 and Robert Greenleaf) refers to Exodus 18 (Moses’ leadership) as a way of exploring the differences between hierarchical leadership and a ‘first among equals’ model. Issues of organisational culture and participation, and how they are shaped, are considered. In contrast, in Simone Weil and a Critical Will to Serve Michael J. Thate draws on Simone Weil’s thought, in which the theme of ‘creative attention’ is prominent – this being attention towards the world, and a kind of ethical awareness that avoids rigidity.

The other two essays in Section 1 are disappointing. First, Servant Leadership Beyond Servant and Leader: A Buddhist Perspective on the Theory and Practice of Servant Leadership by Ernest C. H. Ng sketches out a model called ‘Interdependent Leadership’. This suggests that changes can be delivered only when confronting thoughts are transcended and any place for opposites or ‘contest’ is removed, but I struggled with understanding how this analysis might become a practical tool.  Secondly, Christianity and Servant Leadership by Peirong Lin among other things considers the concept of the ‘leadership moment’ (page 124), and the need to hold leader, follower, purpose and context together. I liked the phrase, ‘Normal things have parable character’ (page 135), borrowed from Dutch priest and professor Tjeu van Knippenberg, but overall this article felt fairly general to me.

 

Section 2 (Social Entrepreneurship: Serving the Common Good)

All six essays in Section 2 provoke thought, especially for Christians. The section opens with Emilio Di Somma pushing back against the Milton Friedman version of economics, and seeking to find a place for power-relations, politics, and human dignity within the discussion (Protecting the Weak and Creating Community). Serving is therefore mainly characterised as relinquishing power, and the example of Adriano Olivetti as an exemplary and socially responsible entrepreneur is used. I found myself arriving at the interesting conclusion that ‘making things well’ might be more important than making a profit, although the two are of course not mutually exclusive.

Foundations for Social Entrepreneurship: An Integrative Indian Perspective by Sharda S. Nandram, Puneet K. Bindlish, Harsh Purohit, Ankur Joshi, & Priti Hingorani explores the idea that entrepreneurs might be drawn towards social entrepreneurial activities because of themes lying within Indian philosophy. There is some methodology and interpretation, although I was left wanting more of this. The most interesting concept is that of the ‘public domain’, and why some entrepreneurs seem willing to gift their ideas and creativity to the world, for example Tim Berners-Lee and the world wide web.

Workplace Spirituality in Social Entrepreneurship: Motivation for Serving in the Common Good by Natasha Gjorevska describes ‘spiritual entrepreneurs’ as a category, and explores a complementary relationship between the concepts of social enterprise and workplace spiritual leadership. ‘Spiritual’ here is not necessarily ‘religious’, but embraces themes such as ‘meaningful work’, ‘purpose’, and a ‘sense of community’. However, there are plenty of resonances with Christian thinking about vocation, and the common good.

Mindful Servant Leadership for B-Corps by Kevin Jackson provides some helpful (for me) background information about B-Corps, which are essentially public benefit companies that also exhibit non-instrumental motivations: ‘…ethics for their own sake…’ (p.213). The other main strand within this paper concerns ‘mindfulness’, which keeps a leader’s view wide, and therefore overlaps with the bigger societal purposes of a B-Corp. I translated this for myself into a Christian understanding of prayerfulness, and the big-picture view of creation, and new creation in Christ. With a bit of interpretation this article would be of interest to Christian business leaders and entrepreneurs as they look to the wider purposes of their organisation.

In The Religious Leader as Social Entrepreneur, Jack Barentsen begins by raising the concern that an apparently ‘servant’ religious leader might only or mainly be motivated by the need to proselytise. However, the argument is put that this is usually not the case, and that a broader view of the common good is in mind. One specific example is peacebuilding. Barentsen notes the well-known fact that people of faith are much more likely to volunteer (‘serve’), and therefore contribute to social capital, and he has a useful section, albeit descriptive rather than analytical, on religious leaders as entrepreneurs. I liked his final question asking, are religious leaders helped and trained to be social entrepreneurs, or common-good-builders. My sense is that in the church I belong to the answer is, ‘No’.

Serving the Poor: The Case of the EoC Enterprise ‘Mercurio Net’ by Mara Del Baldo & Maria-Gabriella Baldarelli is very different from the other essays. EoC stands for ‘Economy of Communion’, which is a network of companies initiated in Brazil in 1991 by Chiara Lubich, and which connects to the Roman Catholic Focolare Movement. Lubich’s vision was based on reducing poverty and the need for a broad understanding of happiness and ‘human flowering’. (page 256) She wanted to see a new generation of companies producing wealth on behalf of those in poverty by providing good work. The authors tell us that there are now almost 1,000 EoC firms around the world. I knew none of this, and was grateful to learn, as well as being reminded that the place for servant leadership is critical when it comes to an attentiveness to the poor.

 

Section 3 (Servant Leadership in the Context of Business)

The third section of the book begins with Jakob Willem (Pim) Boven’s observation (with which I agree) that a theory of leadership (entrepreneurship) is very under-represented in the standard neo-classical economic theories (Servant Leadership in Market-Oriented Organizations, Does that Make Sense? An Evaluation from an Economic-Organization Theory Perspective). The author therefore suggests that we need to take seriously the institutional reality of the company, and he points us to the growing body of research into Organizational Economics. His main point is that there are resonances between Organizational Economics and the theme of ‘Servant Leadership’.

The next two essays in this final section seek to learn from specific situations. The first, The Importance of Calling in Realization of Life Projects: The Case of Maverick and Serial-entrepreneur Hans Nielsen Hauge with Implications for Business Education by Knut Ims, Truls Liland, & Magne Supphellen is the more analytical.  It is essentially a very interesting case study of Hans Nielsen Hauge (1771-1824), who was an influential entrepreneur in Norway – a preacher and businessman whose impact is still felt today. I did not know his story before reading this article, and found it inspiring. Of note for me was the feudal context out of which Hauge sprang, and which he implicitly challenged, as was the link between the spiritual experience of his ‘call’ (described on page 313) and his practical entrepreneurship. The authors point to these key ingredients in Hauge’s life: self-determination (an intrinsic motivation); meaning; persistence. These combine to give prominence to a holistic view of life, rather than life as a series of attempts to optimise choices. This rallying cry towards the end of the paper seemed powerful and important to me: ‘We need a type of business education and business training, which assists students in defining life goals and life projects.’ (page 325).

Rethinking Fashion Retail: The Case of MrSale by Gabor Kovacs takes the form of a qualitative mini research project focused on a small private company called MrSale, which was founded in Budapest in 2000. Kovacs is seeking evidence about the source of genuine ethical commitment in business. The answer is to do with the motivations of serving society and contributing to social well-being, with a link to meditation and Buddhism. The often-observed benefits of an ethically run business are, in this case, seen to be those of satisfied employees, increased innovation, higher levels of trust with suppliers, growth, and ultimately profits. Case studies are always engaging, but I was hoping for more critical comment and interpretation.

The final two essays consider the thinking of two very different people: Aldous Huxley, who was famously the author of Brave New World in 1932, which took a pessimistic view of the rise of science and a mechanised economy; and John Wesley the prophetic teacher and preacher, who created a large-scale business and who had links to the world of commerce and trade.

In Aldous Huxley’s Anarchist Entrepreneurship Based on Spiritual Capital, Gerrit De Vylder plays Huxley’s fiction off against the theme of servant leadership – a creative endeavour which yields surprisingly rich results. The idea which most caught my eye was the value ascribed to localism and the link to the ‘small is beautiful’ economics of E.F. Schumacher. This paper, and indeed the entire book, pre-dates the covid-19 pandemic, but I wondered if the new post-pandemic desire to build more resilient supply chains and to reduce dependence on global trade routes might have added to the discussion.

In the final chapter of the collection (John Wesley: Prophet and Entrepreneur), Clive Murray Norris gives a concise description of John Wesley’s ministry and observes that Wesley’s prophetic voice had a dual focus: personal spiritual renewal, and the need to address the problems and injustices faced by society. This in turn meant that Wesley avoided the trap of a ‘prosperity gospel’, and instead demonstrated a strong sense of stewardship and the fruitfulness of good works in a broad, societal sense. My knowledge of John Wesley’s activities was improved by reading this paper, and the conclusion, with four points for reflection aimed at today’s social entrepreneurs, made for a fine ending to the entire book. Summarised, these are: (i) the need for a holistic view of humanity’s spiritual and physical needs; (ii) the desirability of borrowing ideas from others, accepting that not every idea will work, and focusing on practical action; (iii) the importance of having friends and partners across the community, both rich and poor; and (iv) the imperative that all share a common purpose, that all are welcome, that anything is possible, and that action must start now.

 

“Servant Leadership, Social Entrepreneurship and the Will to Serve – Spiritual Foundations and Business Applications”, edited by Luk Bouckaert and Steven C. van den Heuvel, was published in 2019 by Palgrave Macmillan (ISBN-13: 9783030299385). 394pp.


Edward Carter is Vicar of St Peter Mancroft Church in Norwich, having previously been the Canon Theologian at Chelmsford Cathedral, a parish priest in Oxfordshire, a Minor Canon at St George’s Windsor and a curate in Norwich. Prior to ordination he worked for small companies and ran his own business.

He chairs the Church Investors Group, an ecumenical body that represents over £10bn of church money, and which engages with a wide range of publicly listed companies on ethical issues. His research interests include the theology of enterprise and of competition, and his hobbies include board-games, volleyball and film-making. He is married to Sarah and they have two adult sons.

 

 

 

Andrei Rogobete: “The Gospel at Work” by Sebastian Traeger & Greg Gilbert

 

“The Gospel at Work” by Sebastian Traeger & Greg Gilbert is a relatively recent addition (published 2018) to the cohort of literature that aims to focus on faith within the workplace. This is a topic that likely stirs interest from secular and religious audiences alike. What role does a person’s faith have at work? How should work be understood by Christians? How can we develop a biblical understanding of work? These are just a few of the main questions addressed in the book.

The authors bring together relevant and varied knowledge on the issue. Sebastian Traeger is a former technology entrepreneur and current Vice President of the International Mission Board for the Southern Baptist Convention. Greg Gilbert is the author of several books and currently serves as the senior pastor of Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.

The central message or ‘thesis’ of the book is that, regardless of your job, you are ultimately working it for God, “Who you work for is more important than what you do” (page 17). This is, as the book points out, contrary to what “the world” considers successful and important.

The premise is based on the words of the apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:7 where he calls to Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people”. Yet the focus is not just on the action itself, but also the attitude of heart. In Colossians 3:22 Paul calls people to work with “…sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord” (page 16).

“The Gospel at Work” is devised into eleven main chapters and here we will touch upon some of the main points that arise.

Chapters I and II start with a dichotomy that sets the tone for the rest of the book: “The Idolatry of Work” versus “Idleness in Work” (pages 13 & 23). Traeger and Gilbert capture well the two extremes that many Christians risk falling into: making work their idol on one end, or rejecting it as anathema to God’s purpose for their lives on the other end.

There is nothing wrong with ambition or determination in our careers. However, the authors rightly point out that “trouble starts when our pursuit of enjoyment or influence or status in our work begins to make our work the source of ultimate satisfaction or meaning for us” (page 25).

Equally damaging on the other end of the spectrum is ‘idleness’ at work. Idleness here does not necessarily mean to be idle per se (while others provide for you), but rather a more subtle expression “that has less to do with productivity of our hands and everything to do with the motives and desires of our hearts” (page 35).

Chapters III to V take the discussion further and develop guidance on issues such as the gospel in work, God’s purpose for us, and choosing a job or career path. An interesting point is made on the correct order of priorities when making career choices expressed in the form of a pyramid. God sits at the foundation, serving others is in the middle, and loving the ‘self’ is the tip of the pyramid coming third (page 75). The book recognises that in reality, these priorities are often reversed: the self comes first, pleasing others is second, and serving God is third (page 79). The authors propose that as a remedy Christians must keep the right perspective: work is temporary, God is eternal (page 81).

Chapters VI to VIII continue with practical applications such as balancing work with faith and family, managing work relationships, and what it means to be a ‘Christian boss’. A useful discussion can be found on the nature of competitiveness in the workplace where the authors (rightly) argue that, “It’s not competition the Bible forbids, but rather the world’s playbook for competition. […] Win by running faster not by tripping all your competitors” (page 106).

The final chapters IX to XI take a more outward look and consider topics such as sharing the gospel in a secular space, the value of full-time ministry, calling, and defining success. On the latter the book makes the point in not defining ‘success’ by what the world considers ‘success’ but rather in the ability to one day stand before Jesus and say “Lord, where you deployed me, I served well. I gave it my all. I worked at it with all my heart because I was working for you, not for human masters” (page 158).

In concluding, “The Gospel at Work” is an excellent resource for anyone interested in the topic of faith within the workplace. It combines practice and theory well, using clear examples and principles that are backed by scripture. One point of contention could be that the authors write with great certainty. On one level this is perhaps not bad thing but on another it does, at times, make the book read like a ‘self-help’ piece of literature – one that was made to hit bestselling charts. Problem A is solved by doing X, Y, Z. I am sure, however, that this was not the author’s intent.

It is perhaps more of an observation than a direct critique. Yet one cannot help but feel that God’s “…ways are above [our] ways…” (Isaiah 55:9). There is an element of God’s mystery in life that often cannot be solved by simply following a clear set of instructions (good and correct though they may be). This perhaps an aspect that could have been developed more in the book. Nonetheless, it is a recommended read for anyone with an interest in the subject.

 

“The Gospel at Work” by Sebastian Traeger & Greg Gilbert was published in 2018 by Zondervan, 160pp.


Andrei E. Rogobete is the Associate Director of  the Centre for Enterprise, Markets & Ethics. For more information about Andrei please click here.

 

 

 

 

 

Richard Turnbull: The Rise of the Robots & The Second Machine Age

 

Optimist or pessimist?

We stand on the edge of a technological revolution which is proceeding at an exponential pace and which will impact and alter our work and indeed our way of life in ways we can hardly imagine. The paradox of technological advance and of artificial intelligence is well recognized. Do these developments enhance human well-being and welfare to the benefit of all or is the threat posed to employment so dramatic that the traditional responses of education, reskilling and training will be insufficient to protect us? Some commentators refer to the present period of technological change as ‘the fourth industrial revolution.’ The first represented the move to mechanisation, the second, the introduction of electrical power, the third, digitisation and automation. The change we are now experience is one of exponential speed in processing, the impact of connectivity and access to knowledge that is transformational.

In The Rise of the Robots, Martin Ford essentially argues we are ill-equipped and poorly prepared to face the onslaught heading our way. His two main arguments proceed as follows. First, a change in the types of job which will be affected. The advance of digitisation has alerted society to the possibilities of automating routine processes – hence the advent of robotic methods in production replacing the traditional methods of assembly-line production in, for example, the car industry. This is a familiar story and the usual response is to educate, train and reskill. Ford argues that the problem now is that “the machines are coming for the high-wage, high-skill jobs as well” (page 27). Higher education and knowledge skills which traditionally attracted a premium will no longer protect the worker, so much so, he argues that “the ongoing race between technology and education may well be approaching the endgame” (page 124). Indeed, many professions will find that increasingly capable machines will take on many of the tasks previously seen as exclusive to certain professions such as the law. This is then linked to his second argument, that the ability to replicate and scale machine intelligence will “create winner-take-all scenarios’ with ‘dramatic implications for both the economy and society” (page 82). One example here would be the dominance of a very small number of book distribution platforms effectively eliminating all competition. To return to the example of the law, it is not that the high-street lawyer has digitised conveyancing documents; rather it is the speed and extent of access of processing power that can identify cases and precedents in an instant previously requiring hours in a legal library.

Martin Ford, then, is a pessimist. He understands and appreciates that technological advance has largely driven a more prosperous society. However, on this occasion, he thinks it will be different.

Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee are optimists. In The Second Machine Age they do not deny the challenges but establish a framework that argues that “the transformations brought about by digital technology will be profoundly beneficial ones” (page 9), adding that “innovation is also the most important force that makes our society wealthier” (page 72) and “technological progress typically helps even the poorest people around the world” (page 168). They recognise the challenge to employment but remain convinced that “acquiring an excellent education is the best way to not be left behind as technology races ahead” (page 199). Brynjolfsson and McAffee agree with Ford that there are few jobs which will be left untouched by the scaling of digital power. However, they have more confidence in the innovative elements of the human person and human adaptability and flexibility which will enable humanity to seize the opportunities. Importantly, they also point out that despite the rhetoric “digital labour is still far from a complete substitute for human labour. Robots and computers, as powerful and capable as they are, are not about to take all of our jobs” (page 206). They argue that the best way to tackle the labour force challenges is to grow the economy and to encourage entrepreneurship – “entrepreneurship is the best way to create jobs and opportunity” (page 214).

How are we to assess these two approaches?

First, we need to recognise, as the authors of both these books do, that the shift we are experiencing is profound and will have enormous implications for business, industry and society as a whole. We cannot bury our head in the sand.

Secondly, the impact on employment and how we have traditionally responded points up many of the inadequacies of our education systems. If the optimism of Brynjolfsson and McAfee is to be the prevailing argument then life-long education and technical education will need to come back to the fore. What about reducing college degrees to 2-years and allowing the ‘third year’ to be credited to a personal training account to be accessed and used over the course of a person’s working career?

Thirdly, the nature of the human person cannot be overlooked. Humanity is endowed, by God, with ingenuity and creativity which will find expression in innovation and entrepreneurship. These activities are part of the very expression of the human character.

The issues are real and serious. Both of these books, and I recommend reading both together as it were, represent serious thought and insight and present the challenges in a well-researched and thought-provoking manner. For a Christian believer, optimism must win the day because of the nature of God and of the human person. However, the road will be bumpy, and for that optimism to prevail requires a degree of self-awareness, policy changes and collaboration across disciplines which have not been the recent characteristics of our society. However, to allow Brynjolfsson and McAfee the last word, the progress of digital technologies remain “the best economic news on the planet” (page xiii).

 

 

The Second Machine Age by Erik Brynjolfsson & Andrew McAfee was published in 2014 by W.W. Norton (ISBN:978-0-393-35064-7), 306pp

The Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford was first published in 2015 by OneWorld (ISBN: 978-1-78074848-1), 334pp


Richard%20Turnbullweb#1# (2)Dr Richard Turnbull is the Director of the Centre for Enterprise, Markets & Ethics (CEME). For more information about Richard please click here.

 

 

 

 

 

Richard Godden: “The Job” by Ellen Shell

 

The Job has received rave reviews and it is easy to understand why. Its subject is an important one, the future of work in the digital age, and it is the kind of book that people like. Shell is a journalist who writes well, using eye-catching turns of phrase and telling innumerable stories to provide human interest. She taps in to the feeling that all is not well but, as the book progresses, shifts from heart-breaking stories to heart-warming stories, suggesting that we can do something about the problems that she has identified and that there is a bright future in front of us. Indeed, the book ends with a rallying cry: “Let’s shake off the dread and recalibrate our priorities. The Enlightenment ideal of human advance lifting us from a life of toil into a life of purpose and meaning is at our doorstep. We only need to muster the political will – and the trust – to answer the bell” (page 322).

In the course of this progression from worry to hope, Shell makes some important points and raises important issues, especially relating to the place of work in society and in individual lives. Her focus on the impact of work on people is to be applauded and represents a valuable corrective to those academic tomes that, intentionally or unintentionally, depersonalise economic activity.

Unfortunately, however, The Job is a deeply flawed book. It contains little by way of true economic analysis and, whilst most of the stories are interesting, Shell makes few attempts to analyse the extent to which each of them is typical or what lessons we may legitimately draw from them.

More fundamentally, it is hard to know precisely what Shell is advocating. In the introduction, she states that “In what follows, I make the case to squarely place the innovation of sustainable and worthy work on our public agenda” (page 14) and she constantly refers to “good work”. However, she never defines what she means by this. In some places, she appears to have a somewhat romantic view of work in factories in the twentieth century (e.g. “For many workers, factories can be a kind of second home, and fellow workers a second family”, page 100) but she recognises that there can be no return to the past; in other places, she appears to equate a “good” job with a reasonably paid job (e.g. when she quotes statistics about pay in the United States, page 58) and the subject of the book is largely paid work, although she also recognises the value of unpaid work. More fundamentally, she appears to agree with Michael Pratt that “the quest for meaning through work is among life’s most powerful drivers” (page 97), yet she also suggests that we should not be seeking meaning through work, (page 134).

It is hard to work out exactly what she believes the problem to be. Having apparently, in the early chapters, lamented and explained (at least to her satisfactory) the decline in “good” work and asserted that we need to respond “as good jobs grow scarcer” (page 134), towards the end of the book, she dramatically states that “our National Work Disorder is not really about scarce opportunities: there will always be more than enough good work to go around” (page 319).

Unsurprisingly in light of the confusion as to the nature of the problem, Shell’s “solutions” are unclear. She states that “For many if not most of us, the first step is to question the hard-held assumption that we must make ourselves a good fit for the job rather than create work that is right for us, work that we control rather than a job that controls us” (page 66). Yet later she quotes Michael Pratt as saying that “it’s a dangerous business to advise young people to ‘follow their passion’. Most of us never find one, at least not one that pays the bills” (page 106).

She is equally confused in relation to job stability. Having early in the book demonstrated the decline of the life-long job, one of the stories towards the end of the book illustrates the warmth generated by one particular initiative by quoting an employee who states that they “plan to spend 40 years with this company” (page 310). Shell gives no warning that this may be a pipedream.

The detailed “solutions” put forward in the second half of the book are a hotchpotch of ideas which Shell would doubtless defend on the basis that they illustrate the fact that there is no one over-arching “solution”. However, the solutions themselves are full of contradictions and lack adequate analysis. For example, she spends some pages talking about promoting arts and crafts and asserts that “for every hundred jobs created directly in the arts, sixty-two more jobs blossom in retail, information technology, manufacturing, hospitality, and food service” (page 201). However, she appears to have forgotten what she herself has said about the unreliability of craft production (page 99) and the far greater leveraging effect of heavy industry (page 177). Likewise, her feel-good stories about cooperatives, employee ownership, the use of wasteland and small manufacture, whilst illustrating initiatives that are commendable and doubtless enriching the variety of economic and societal activity, smack more of romanticism than serious proposals for economic change. One of the big problems with Shell’s proposals is that she gives no evidence that they are scalable.

Some of Shell’s other ideas leap from nowhere and are inadequately worked through or justified. These include the suggestion of modifications in the tax structure to incentify employers to create “not just more jobs but better jobs” (page 236) and the suggestion of a “Basic Income Guarantee” (page 315ff). Shell might respond that, in some cases, she is merely noting what others have suggested and, in others, she is merely putting forward ideas for further discussion. However, if this is the case then the book is saying little that is new, which is not its claim.

Following a deluge of stories towards the end of the book, Shell says, “Great stories, sure, but you have every right to ask, “What’s your point?”” (page 311). Indeed we do and this question may be applied not only to the stories in the chapter in which it appears but to the book as a whole. It may well be that one of the main reasons for the popularity of the book is that, by asserting so many different things (including things that are contradictory), by avoiding specificity and clarity and by not committing unequivocally to particular ideas, the book can be all things to all people (at least those of a mildly centre-left disposition). In any event, whilst many will enjoy reading The Job and will be stimulated by parts of it, those who are seeking careful analysis and clearly worked through proposals need to look elsewhere.

 

 

“The Job” by Ellen Shell, was published in 2018 by Currency, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House (ISBN 978-0-4514-9725-3). 326pp, plus notes.


Richard Godden is a Lawyer and has been a Partner with Linklaters for over 25 years during which time he has advised on a wide range of transactions and issues in various parts of the world. 

Richard’s experience includes his time as Secretary at the UK Takeover Panel and a secondment to Linklaters’ Hong Kong office. He also served as Global Head of Client Sectors, responsible for Linklaters’ industry sector groups, and was a member of the Global Executive Committee.

 

Richard Turnbull: “Social Entrepreneurship: New Models of Sustainable Social Change”, edited by Alex Nicholls

The great contribution of this book, edited by Alex Nicolls, now a Professor at the Said Business School in Oxford, is that it brings together in one place, and for the first time, the exciting stories of social entrepreneurship, analysis of issues and the academic research agenda. In doing so, the book is well-placed to look forward.

Social enterprise and the wider agenda of social entrepreneurship is a creative and innovative agenda of new initiatives to deal with social need, harnessing business approaches to social objectives. Alex Nicholls, in his introduction, notes that has been ‘an unprecedented wave of growth in social entrepreneurship globally over the last ten years’ (page 3). Indeed, as another author in the compendium says, the ‘hallmark of social entrepreneurship is its’ ability to combine social interests with business practices to effect social change’ (page 205). The sector is not only expanding but in the light of ‘government failure’ or ‘social market failure’ new partnerships between the market, the state and civil society are essential. This of course raises questions of capital, of the place of philanthropy and so on which the book begins, but only begins to address.

The book is divided into four parts: New Perspectives, New Theories, New Models and New Directions. My only quibble is it is not all ‘new’ but it is all together in one place. The first section consists of the inspiring stories, the second of the academic research base, the third of approaches and paradigms around social entrepreneurship and the fourth challenges for the future. The variety of voices is both helpful and slightly confusing. It is excellent to bring praxis and theory together, but the style and tone did sometimes seem slightly discordant between chapters. Some of the academic chapters were somewhat turgid and somewhat repetitive. Consequently, they felt the least integrated. The answer really lies in recognising this is a first-class reference book and probably not to be read cover to cover in a single sitting.

The book it at its strongest in setting out the vision of practitioners and also setting out the different structural approaches to social entrepreneurship. Muhammed Yunus gets the volume off to a visionary start. Yunus founded Grameen Bank providing credit and loans to the poorer sections of Bangladeshi society. The loans range from study loans, micro-finance for establishing small businesses to loans for housing. The record speaks for itself, Grameen Bank ‘lends out half a billion dollars a year, in loans averaging under $200 (£116) to 4.5m borrowers, without collateral, and maintains a 99 per cent repayment record’ (page 44). One cannot help wonder whether domestic debates around credit, finance and even the role of credit unions in the UK seems rather stale when compared to more market-orientated social solutions? Yunis is clear that profit is not a dirty word. Bill Drayton, founder of Ashoka, refers to the productivity gain by bringing together business and social systems ‘that have not talked for centuries’ (page 51).

Certainly, for those for whom this field is relatively new, chapter 10, dealing with the variety of structural models of social entrepreneurship is essential and helpful reading. The basic distinction is between embedded models (the social programme is fully expressed within the organisation’s business, for example, the provision of health education through a for-profit business model), integrated models (the programmes are linked, for example, the provision of health education to poorer communities funded by the sale of health education on commercial terms elsewhere) and external models (the programme are not linked, for example, health education is funded by the commercial sale of a different product in a different market). There are, of course, many hybrids. Amongst the more conceptual chapters the challenge of bringing social entrepreneurship to the academic table, developing curricula and inter-disciplinary rigour whilst maintain a practitioner approach was an interesting read (chapter 13).

The book raises a number of important questions for the future. Conceptually the development of the idea of ‘blended value’ is an essential building block in the development of new rapprochement between enterprises which seek an economic return and those that seek a social return. These categories are not mutually exclusive. The provision of capital and indeed the availability of appropriate financial products (e.g. social impact bonds) and investors are increasingly recognised as essential to the future development of the sector and raise questions that really belong to the period after this book’s first publication.

Alex Nicholls has done a great service in putting this material together and into the public domain. Yes, the volume is probably more of a reference resource but it is none the worse for that. To put academic research and market practice together is an important linkage too often not made. As suggested, things have developed and moved on further and it seems to me that a new volume would be beneficial. The field is an increasingly important one; and we need to do everything possible to encourage innovative thinking and the placing of this material into context, conversation and collaboration.

 

 “Social Entrepreneurship: New Models of Sustainable Social Change”, edited by Alex Nicholls, was published in 2006 by Oxford University Press (ISBN – 10: 0199283885).  498pp.

 


Richard%20Turnbullweb#1# (2)Dr Richard Turnbull is the Director of the Centre for Enterprise, Markets & Ethics (CEME). For more information about Richard please click here.

Steve Morris: “Entrepreneurial Leadership” by Richard Goossen and Paul Stevens

I have to begin by declaring something of an interest. Before becoming a priest in the Church of England I was an entrepreneur and writer of business books. For the majority of the time I ran my brand agency I was a non-Christian. Looking back, I think we managed to be a highly ethical business with no direct input from Christian sources. At one point I hired an ex-priest who came to work for us. I remember him saying that we were far more ethical than any Christian organisation that he had ever worked for. In fact he said that we were the most Christian place he had ever worked.

So you’ll probably realise why I have a few problems with this book by Goossen and Stevens, who at times seem to make a claim for the moral high ground for especially Christian entrepreneurial leaders.

But let’s begin at the beginning. This is certainly an admirable enterprise and it sets out to ask and answer some pertinent questions. Are entrepreneurs born, not made? What difference does a Christian faith make to being an entrepreneur? Where does leadership come from?

The book begins with some interesting section on what entrepreneurialism is – what is its essence. This is clearly an important issue for the church. There is perhaps an inherent dualism whereby church is seen as a place of holiness and work a place of toil and compromise. The authors are keen to help us torpedo this.

The authors are persuasive in their conviction that entrepreneurialism is a process more than a genetic or societal disposition. This is liberating and helps us see that we all have the ability to innovate and embrace change. They draw on the work of that great hero of modern management, Peter Drucker who argues that there is no such thing as an entrepreneurial personality. The authors suggest there are five tenets that make up the essence of entrepreneurship – innovation, seizing opportunities, enjoying it, doing risk analysis and developing good habits.

The book is interesting in its dissection of what makes a leader and the particular challenges of being a Christian leader. This is especially true when we begin to grapple with what it is to be a servant leader. There could have been much more on this – perhaps a whole book.

Goossen and Stevens move onto the thorny issue of what exactly is the difference between the Christian entrepreneurial leader and the secular one. This had me gripped and although I didn’t agree with it all, it is a discussion that needs having. The authors highlight a major difference between the two categories in terms of worldview. Thinking back to my time as a non-Christian entrepreneur, that does hold water.

The authors suggest that the worldly entrepreneur tends to spin a narrative of self-making, eliminates God from the equation and does it mainly for self-fulfilment. I wonder if this is just too partial. Many non-Christian entrepreneurs I know are driven by far more complicated and also altruistic motives for their work. It is so easy to sound self-righteous. The authors position the Christian entrepreneur thus. They,credit God, they look to their faith for ethical anchors (the ten Commandments come in handy), and they develop spiritual gifts in themselves and others for the glory of God.

The book covers much important ground. It looks at how being a Christian adds meaning and purpose the work. It gives a blueprint for how to put practical Christian entrepreneurial leadership to work. And this is perhaps the most useful and cogent part of the book. This is no trot through the Bible it is a programme for how to become the leader God wants you to become. It is in these chapters that we begin to get a sense of the author’s passion and deep scholarship.

I have a few minor quibbles. The points for reflection and discussion are a little twee and seem grafted on. But this is the case for many Christian books that try to cram a bit of interaction and perhaps to open up their market to home groups and other discussion groups.

What does work well is the tone. The book is beautifully written by people who thought long and hard and prayed about it. There could have been more about being an entrepreneur in church perhaps, but the authors are on the money when they describe the world of work and commerce as the great mission field and testing ground. You have only to spend a few hours in the City of London at rush hour and see the tens of thousands of people going to work or returning from it to wish that we had more engagement here.

The City is steaming on, the world is moving apace and we can’t afford to be stuck in churches while ignoring the great opportunities that are out there.

This book will encourage people to see their calling and to go for it. In that it is positive. I would have liked to see more credit given to non-Christian entrepreneurs but probably that’s just me being fussy. Entrepreneurialism can be Godly. Thank God for that.

 

“Entrepreneurial Leadership” by Richard j. Goossen and R. Paul Stevens was published in 2013 by IVP USA (ISBN-10;0830837731). 185pp.


Steve Morris is the parish priest at St Cuthbert’s North Wembley. In earlier days he ran a brand agency, worked as a journalist and wrote books about management.

 

Richard Godden: “A Voice to be Heard: Christian Entrepreneurs Living out Their Faith” by Richard Higginson & Kina Robertshaw

 

A Voice To Be Heard is not a systematic economic, theological or historical analysis of Christian entrepreneurship, although it contains a number of economic, theological and historical observations. Instead, it comprises ordered reflections on Christian entrepreneurship based around the stories and thoughts of 50 contemporary Christian entrepreneurs interviewed by the authors.

The authors are the well-known Director of Faith in Business at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, Richard Higginson, and the rather less well-known Zambian entrepreneur, Kina Robertshaw. They say that the book is “for actual entrepreneurs, aspiring entrepreneurs and anyone who wants to know more about them” (page xvi) but they are being unduly modest in their expectation: the book provides food for thought for all Christians and, since it is readable, interesting and important, it deserves to widely read.

It begins with pen portraits of five Christians involved in business and uses their stories to clarify what the authors mean by the term “Christian entrepreneur”. They are not referring to “entrepreneurs who happen to be Christian” but rather to “Christians who see their companies as an outworking of their faith” (page 13).

The authors then provide some brief comments on what the Bible has to say about entrepreneurship, attitudes to entrepreneurship in the UK today and the history of Christian entrepreneurship in the UK. This part of the book comprises less than 50 pages, so it is not an in-depth study. However, it is useful in framing the discussion that follows.

The heart of the book comprises an examination of a series of issues that are of particular relevance to entrepreneurs the idea of a calling to business; the question whether business may contribute to the advance of God’s Kingdom; vision and purpose; risk taking; relationships; stewardship; integrity; prayer; and perseverance. Each section combines the stories and views of those who have been interviewed with the reflections of the authors.

Fortunately, the authors have resisted the temptation to provide statistical analysis of the answers to their interview questions or to include the answers of all of their respondents to every question. They have been selective in their quotes and used them to set up a dialogue on particular issues in which they have then inserted their own thoughts. The result is that business issues are brought to life by means of stories and the related theological and ethical issues are clearly laid out.

The authors are clearly reluctant overtly to criticise those they interviewed. However, the methodology used invites the reader to evaluate what is said and the authors gently correct some views and challenge others, perhaps recognising that they should not expect those they have interviewed to be as successful as theologians as they obviously are as business people!

The most interesting part of the book is that which considers the answers that the authors received to the question “Do you see your working business as contributing to the advance of God’s Kingdom?” They tell us that the answer “was a resounding yes” (page 77) but that the answers to the follow-up question – “If so, how?”, varied hugely. Some of the entrepreneurs focussed on their belief that they are contributing to making the world a better place, some on the way in which their companies are run (i.e. the embodying of Christian values), others on the opportunities to witness provided by their businesses and still others on the opportunity to give to charitable and Christian causes. The authors suggest that the Kingdom of God is being advanced in each of these four ways and urge entrepreneurs to have “a broad view of God’s Kingdom rather than a narrow one” and “to embrace all these different categories in a holistic understanding rather than limit themselves to only one” (page 89). This is surely right: we are called on to serve God not in spite of our work or even simply in addition to it but in it and through it (see Colossians 3:23).

The authors issue an equally big challenge to the Church as a whole. This arises from the answers to the question “How do you view the attitude of the church towards you? Negative or positive?” (page 189). A mere 20% of the answers were positive and a further 30% were broadly neutral. The rest of the answers were negative, a result that demonstrates that, despite progress in recent years, Christians who have been called into business are often “made to feel like second-class citizens in God’s Kingdom” (to quote Jeff Van Duzer, in Why Business Matters to God).  Many of the entrepreneurs interviewed “often feel appreciated only for the financial support they are potentially able to provide” (page 194) and there is very little evidence of positive support being provided to Christians in business.

Of course, some of the apparent problems may be a matter of perception and it may also be that people in churches naturally offer support to those who appear obviously in need of it (perhaps even emotionally fragile), overlooking entrepreneurs since they are the kind of people who appear self-sufficient. However, the Church needs to do better and the authors suggest that there are six things that the local Church ought to do: to listen; to give entrepreneurs a voice in the Church; to pray; to make biblical teaching more relevant; to be open to the fact that God might seriously be calling people beyond the confines of the Church and to recognise that entrepreneurs may have a significant role to play in Church leadership. These are all points that deserve proper consideration and action.

Overall, the book is broad rather than deep in its analysis: there are many books that examine the relevant history and underlying theology and ethical issues in greater detail and libraries could be filled with weighty tomes examining the economics relevant to entrepreneurship. Furthermore, the book does not have incisive new insights for those who have already looked at the theory in detail. However, these comments are not criticisms: they merely indicate the nature of the book. It focusses on the practicalities and real-life issues faced by Christian entrepreneurs and it does not merely look at the easy bits: bankruptcy and difficult issues relating to integrity are addressed in an honest manner. Of course, there are things that many would take issue with (e.g. the suggestion that God resembles an entrepreneur in having “a willingness to take risks”, page 28) and some parts of the book are weaker than than others (e.g. the chapter on prayer is of a very general nature and has little that is specific to entrepreneurs). However, these points are minor quibbles: the book is well worth reading.

 

“A Voice To Be Heard Christian Entrepreneurs Living Out Their Faith” was published in 2017 by Inter-Varsity Press (ISBN: 10: 1783595655); 208 pp.


Richard Godden is a Lawyer and has been a Partner with Linklaters for over 25 years during which time he has advised on a wide range of transactions and issues in various parts of the world. 

Richard’s experience includes his time as Secretary at the UK Takeover Panel and a secondment to Linklaters’ Hong Kong office. He also served as Global Head of Client Sectors, responsible for Linklaters’ industry sector groups, and was a member of the Global Executive Committee.

 

 

 

Edward Carter: “Enlightened Entrepreneurs: business ethics in Victorian Britain” by Ian Bradley

This book’s subtitle is deceptive; it is not a volume about business ethics so much as a fascinating piece of social history. Ten great Victorian entrepreneurs are described in turn, with very little attempt to add any interpretation. The names of the ten speak for themselves: Thomas Holloway, Titus Salt, Samuel Morley, George Palmer, Jeremiah James Colman, Andrew Carnegie, George Cadbury, Joseph Rowntree, Jesse Boot, and William Hesketh Lever. Each chapter takes an essentially chronological view, with many delightful details set alongside a sweeping narrative of business-building, all within the context of the major social and economic changes that the Victorian era brought.

I was struck by how deeply these ten particular accounts of enterprise intersected with my own life history. For example, Thomas Holloway founded Holloway College in Egham, Surrey, which is very near where I grew up; the Colman factory site in Norwich, Nofolk, included nearby some purpose-built housing, one of which made a fine (albeit small) home for me and my wife when we were first married; and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (JRCT) is now a member of the Church Investors Group (CIG), which I chair, and one of the CIG Trustees is a JRCT nominee. More generally, many of the household products made or retailed by these companies are still to be found on our larder shelves. This is the kind of history that really does overlap with our lives in an ordinary, down-to-earth way.

While Bradley himself does not offer much interpretation or synthesis, I found plenty of themes that emerged. First, each story included accounts of what I call ‘attentiveness’: the ability to spot an opportunity and to be persistent in following it up. The entrepreneur is not someone who will carefully construct a five-year strategic plan for the future. Rather, she or he will be alive to opportunities. For example, we read of Titus Salt: ‘One day in 1834, while on a buying visit to Liverpool docks, he noticed a pile of 300 or so dirty-looking bales lying in a corner of a warehouse. They turned out to be fleeces of the alpaca…’ (p.28). As the account unfolds we discover how an attentive entrepreneur made the most of an opportunity that started a new industry. The technological advances needed came from someone else (the inventor), while the entrepreneur had eyes on changes in society, on ways in which resources could be mobilized, and how people’s imaginations could be caught and aspirations met.

Secondly, the connection to a certain kind of Christianity is very striking. Quakerism and Congregationalism, with their focus on temperate living, self-help, lack of privilege and simple hard work had a tremendously formative influence on all these ten men. Although they were restless in seeking out profitable business opportunities and in being competitive, they were never personally greedy for riches. Their lifestyles were in many ways frugal, and they all showed extraordinary generosity as benefactors.

Thirdly, all of them were to a greater or lesser extent paternalistic. In nearly all of the businesses described there is a ‘family’ feel, whether through care of employees who fell ill or through the well-known model villages such as Saltaire, Bournville, Earswick and Port Sunlight. One of the significant things about this is the way it anchors a business in a locality, and gives depth to its history. Although Bradley does not discuss this aspect, it seems to me that this ‘rootedness’ of enterprises is one of the hallmarks of the Victorian era. These were companies that had a good sense of where they belonged, both in time and in place, something that is generally much weaker now, when production facilities are relocated because of marginal cost advantages. It is simply inconceivable that George Cadbury would have moved his Bournville factory to Eastern Europe or the Far East to reduce costs.

Fourthly, each of these ten men was involved to some extent in public life. They wanted to make a difference to society, often in local or national politics. They saw business as an integrated part of how society works, rather than an ‘external’ source of tax revenue or some kind of threat to government or the people.

I enjoyed this book, but would have valued some kind of attempt to interpret these themes. Even more interesting would have been a discussion about how entrepreneurs today might help society rediscover its roots in time and place, but without the paternalistic baggage that belongs to a different era. Although it is tempting to describe the Victorian period as a golden age for enterprise, the truth is that businesses such as Facebook and Google have stories that are just as fascinating. However, such analysis doubtless belongs in a different book.

The writing style is clear and easy to read. Most of the book was written in 1987, with additional material added in 2007. It is therefore occasionally out of date, for example when describing the Cadbury business of today.

 

“Enlightened Entrepreneurs: business ethics in Victorian Britain” was published in 2007 (Revised Ed.) by Lion Books (ISBN-10: 0745952712).


Edward Carter is Vicar of St Peter Mancroft Church in Norwich, having previously been the Canon Theologian at Chelmsford Cathedral, a parish priest in Oxfordshire, a Minor Canon at St George’s Windsor and a curate in Norwich. Prior to ordination he worked for small companies and ran his own business.

He chairs the Church Investors Group, an ecumenical body that represents over £10bn of church money, and which engages with a wide range of publicly listed companies on ethical issues. His research interests include the theology of enterprise and of competition, and his hobbies include board-games, volleyball and film-making. He is married to Sarah and they have two adult sons.

 

 

Richard Godden: “Managing as if Faith Mattered” by Helen Alford & Michael Naughton

 

Managing as if Faith Mattered” is the first volume in the Catholic Social Tradition Series, published by the University of Notre Dame Press in response to Pope John Paul II questioning how many Christians really know and put into practice the principles of the Catholic Church’s social doctrine. Its target audience is thus, first and foremost, Catholics in business, although the authors say that they are directing their book towards Christians as a whole and that its content will be worth considering by all people (page xvii).

At the time the book was published, in 2001, Helen Alford was Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas in Rome and Michael Naughton was Director of the John A. Ryan Institute for Catholic Social Thought at the University of St Thomas, St Paul, Minnesota. Unsurprisingly, they adopt a precise analytical approach to their subject and, as the 73 pages of end notes illustrate, seek academic rigour. None-the-less, the two questions that they pose in order to frame their discussion are profoundly practical: “What kind of person should I as a manager or employee strive to become?” and “What kind of organisational community should I as a manager or employee strive to build and maintain?” (page 8).

They suggest that two unhelpful paradigms foster a divided life in present day Western culture: first, the paradigm of the “secularisers” (typified by Tom Peters, co-author of “In Search of Excellence”), who suggest that religion and spirituality have nothing to say to business since religion is by its nature a private affair; secondly, the paradigm of the “spiritualisers” (typified by Andrew Carnegie), who may have strong personal faith and seek to live out this faith in personal virtue but who “avoid judging business policies in light of their faith” and who “fail to be true to a faith that does justice” (page 15). Alford and Naughton, asserting the relevance of faith to business, take issue with both paradigms, before analysing three models of linking faith and work: what they call the “natural law approach” (which seeks to find common ground in order to mould secular organisations); the faith-based approach (which is manifested by organisations founded explicitly on faith inspired values); and the prophetic model (which seeks to challenge organisations). They recognise weaknesses in all of these models but urge that they all be kept in mind.

Alford and Naughton then address the purpose of business. They severely criticise the suggestion that this is merely to make money or, indeed, merely to enhance shareholder value; they draw attention to the limitations of a stakeholder model of organisational purpose; and they conclude that the purpose of business is “working together for the common good” (the title of Chapter 2), defining “the common good” as “the promotion of all the goods necessary for integral human development in the organisation, in a way that respects the proper ordering of those goods” (page 70). This definition then leads naturally into the consideration of the concept of human development in a corporate community and, at the core of this, is a discussion of “virtue” and, in particular, the four Catholic Cardinal Virtues.

The book then moves from the theoretical to the practical in four chapters that are collectively entitled “Making the Engagement”. These consider, in turn, job design, just wages, ownership and marketing and, whilst continuing to analyse and develop theoretical concepts, seek to consider practical solutions to business problems. Thus, for example, the discussion of pay suggests that three basic tests need to be applied: whether something is a living wage; whether it is an equitable wage; and whether it is a sustainable wage (page 130). This theory is then applied to remuneration concepts such as ESOPs (Employee Share Option Plans).

Finally, the book turns to spirituality at work, considering the use of prayer, scripture, daily reflection and, perhaps more surprisingly, liturgy.

All of this provides much food for thought. The critique of modern professional education for its failure to address the “ends of business” (page 16) and its recommendation by default of a “privatised professional ethic” (page 18) is particularly telling and its fresh look at the objectives of job design and remuneration is challenging. Unfortunately, however, the book is heavy going in places and some of it could have been more simply expressed. For example, the book would have been more accessible to its lay readers had the authors expressed more pithily their points relating to the distinctions between “foundational goods” and “excellent goods” (page 42) and between “common goods” and “particular goods” (page 49). Similarly, the discussion of virtue would have been more accessible to modern businessmen had the authors not felt it necessary to tie it back to Aquinas’s teaching. More generally, there is a grave danger that the key points made by the authors become lost in a sea of detailed analysis.

It is also disappointing that, for all the care in the analysis, unsupported contentious statements from time to time leap off the page. For example, the quotation (with apparent approval) of Peter Maurin’s statement that “when everyone tries to become better off, nobody is better off” (page 92) suggests a naïve “zero sum gain” view of global economics and the quotation (again with apparent approval) of the assertion that “a manager’s first obligation is maintaining the company as a going concern for the benefit of the stakeholders” (page 149) seems contrary even to the purpose of business as contemplated by the authors. Furthermore, many Christians will raise eyebrows at various theological statements such as the statements that we are meant “through virtuous living to attain the possession of God” (page 64) and the quotation of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s statement that “God is inexhaustibly attainable in the totality of our action” (page 207).

Those who are not used to Catholic academic analysis may also find the frequent quotation of Thomas Aquinas, Pope John Paul II and other Catholic authorities a distraction rather than a help and the authors’ use of the terms “Christian Social Tradition” and “Christian Social Teaching” to refer to what is specifically Catholic teaching is irritating even though, as the authors point out, in recent years there has been some ecumenical convergence in relation to social teaching (page 247).

This book is worth reading but it requires time, determination and a degree of patience.

 

“Managing as if Faith Mattered” was first published in 2001 by University of Notre Dame Press (ISBN 0268034613, 9780268034610)


Richard Godden is a Lawyer and has been a Partner with Linklaters for over 25 years during which time he has advised on a wide range of transactions and issues in various parts of the world. 

Richard’s experience includes his time as Secretary at the UK Takeover Panel and a secondment to Linklaters’ Hong Kong office. He also served as Global Head of Client Sectors, responsible for Linklaters’ industry sector groups, and was a member of the Global Executive Committee.

Richard Godden: “Why Business Matters to God” by Jeff Van Duzer

Why Business Matters to God” is addressed to Christians. Jeff Van Duzer, now Provost of Seattle Pacific University and formerly Dean of its School of Business and Economics, suggests that Christians in business “have often been made to feel like second-class citizens in God’s kingdom” (page 9). His aim is to counter the attitudes that underlie this by affirming the intrinsic value of business work “as work full of meaning and importance to God”, whilst at the same time challenging what he describes as the “dominant business paradigm of the day” (page 9). The result is an excellent, well-argued and thought provoking book that should be read by all Christians engaged in business.

Van Duzer undertakes his task by using a theological framework, considering in successive chapters the implications for business of the biblical accounts of creation, fall, redemption and consummation.

From the creation story, he concludes that the material world matters to God, that human beings are called to steward God’s creation and that we are made to work (i.e. that work is not a punishment or a necessary evil). He notes that society has many institutions (e.g. families, churches and governmental bodies) and asks “which aspects of the creation mandate are best suited for business to handle?” (page 41). He points to the role of business in the creation of wealth and concludes that the intrinsic purposes of business are “to provide the community with goods and services that will enable it to flourish, and … to provide opportunities for meaningful work that will allow employees to express their God-given creativity” (page 42).

At this point, the reader may feel that the account of business is too rosy but this issue is squarely addressed in the next chapter, which considers the implications of the fall. Here Van Duzer parts company with the more extreme free market enthusiasts (both Christian and non-Christian) by stressing that “the market will not usher in the kingdom of God” (page 75) and suggesting that the market mechanism is an aspect of common grace that mitigates some of the consequences of the fall. He stresses that we cannot “equate market forces with God’s perfect will” (page 79).

Having done this, Van Duzer reverses the logical theological order and leaps on to consider what the biblical account of ultimate salvation (“consummation”) can teach us that is of relevance to business. In doing so, he heads into stormy theological waters as he assesses the relative merits of adoptionism and annihilationism as an explanation of how God’s new heaven and new earth will be inaugurated. He sides with the “cautious adopters” (page 94) but those who don’t take this view will be pleased to hear that it is not central to his argument and he acknowledges that “any conclusions we may reach must be held lightly” (page 83). This result is that this part of his analysis is less fruitful than other parts of it.

He next considers redemption and suggests that business must “concern itself with redemptive as well as creative work” (page 114), whilst accepting that it is operating within the “messy middle” (page 118). In this context, he rejects both the cynicism of those who suggest that “Business ethics is an oxymoron” and the optimism of those who argue that “Good ethics is good business” in the sense that there will always be a bottom line benefit for those practicing good ethics.

Van Duzer recognises that our attitude to business will turn to a considerable extent on our view of how Christians should engage with the world (what he calls our “posture of engagement”) and also upon our attitude to institutions of all kinds in the modern world. He devotes an “excursus” to each of these issues, of which the first is particularly helpful. It adopts Niebuhr’s typology (“Christ against culture”, “Christ of culture”, “Christ above culture”, “Christ and culture in paradox” and “Christ the transformer of culture”) and demonstrates how our answers to several key theological questions are likely to determine which type of cultural engagement we adopt and, specifically, our view of the role of business.

The final quarter of the book is less well structured than it might have been and parts of it would have better merged with the earlier chapters. None-the-less, it contains some worthwhile discussions of important issues such as business sustainability (in the broad sense) and, most importantly, the role of profit and enhancing shareholder value. Van Druzer recognises the essential instrumental role of profit but denies it any greater significance, specifically rejects the notion that the maximisation of profit or shareholder value is a primary goal of a business.

Although published under the IVP Academic banner, this is not an academic work. It does not interact extensively with other literature and it has no bibliography, although it makes good use of footnotes that may suggest further reading.

It is a short book and could not possible consider all of the angles on its subject. None-the-less, it would have been helpful had Van Duzer considered questions that arise from his dethroning of profit and shareholder value: Might this result in a loss of focus on efficiency and thus reduce wealth creation? How can managers be rendered accountable for the delivery of goals that cannot be quantified or otherwise clearly measured? If shareholders in a public company appoint and remove them, will the directors not always focus on the maximisation of shareholder value? Who might enforce any broader directors’ duties? Van Duzer is a lawyer by background and his views on these issues would be interesting.

Despite the final chapter’s focus on “making it real”, many readers may be left wondering how it is possible to translate Van Duzer’s vision of business into practice in a secular Western business context. This is a significant issue. However, the purpose of this book is to provide a Christian conceptual framework for business not to analyse in detail its implications in relation to day to day management. Addressing these implications would require another book and perhaps the only significant criticism that can be levelled at Van Duzer is that he hasn’t yet written it!

 

“Why Business Matters to God” was published in 2010 by InterVarsity Press (ISBN 10: 0830838880). 201pp.


Richard Godden is a Lawyer and has been a Partner with Linklaters for over 25 years during which time he has advised on a wide range of transactions and issues in various parts of the world. 

Richard’s experience includes his time as Secretary at the UK Takeover Panel and a secondment to Linklaters’ Hong Kong office. He also served as Global Head of Client Sectors, responsible for Linklaters’ industry sector groups, and was a member of the Global Executive Committee.

Richard Godden: “The Tides of Life” by Bill Pollard

 

The Tides of Life is impossible to categorise: it is not an autobiography, although the majority of it comprises autobiographical material; it is not a business leadership and management manual, although it contains a lot about leadership and management; and it is not a systematic work about Christian living, although it is full of guidance about just that.

Bill Pollard was for many years the CEO of ServiceMaster, the much studied and admired former Fortune 500 Company. Prior to that, he was, for a time, a practising lawyer in private practice and, for a brief period, an academic. Throughout his life he has been involved in educational projects and charities. He has seen much success, including the extraordinary growth of his company, but has also experienced the varying “tides of life”, including the early death of his father and, recently, the death of an evidently much loved grandson (who appears on the cover of this book). Now, in the evening of his life, he has written a book about what he calls the “lessons and choices in life”. Essentially, it is an overview of what he has learned through his many and varied experiences.

The result is a structured miscellany: there are reflections on what “our humanity is all about” and on God’s ordering of the world; thoughts about responsibility and stewardship; discussions of the nature of work of and purpose of business, the role of leaders and managers and how God may be served by those in business; and, last but not least, reflections on the importance and nurturing of relationships. In all cases, Bill Pollard teaches by means of stories from his own life, which are placed within the framework of a biblical world view.

Happily, in recent years there has been a considerable upsurge of interest in the calling of Christians to serve God throughout their everyday lives rather than through some detached “Christian service” element of them. Bill Pollard believes passionately in this calling and wishes to pass on what he has learned about how to put the theory into practice. He is clearly a man who has never stopped learning and, judging by the number of times he quotes what others have said to him over the years, a man who never forgets advice that he has been given. Above all, he is a man who believes in providence and who lives his life in the light of Proverbs 19:21 (“Many are the plans in a man’s heart but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails”), which is quoted at the head of one of the chapters of his book.

Arguably, he tries to cram too much into the space available. For example, the seventeen pages devoted to good corporate governance include matters as diverse as the ideal size for a corporate board and comments regarding what went wrong in the banks in the run up to the global financial crisis. Some business people will find this section of the book superficial. However, this is a quibble rather than a serious criticism.

More significantly, even having read Bill Pollard’s fierce criticism of the results of the absence of morality in the market place, some Christians may question the merits of the market economy to which he is committed and may be disappointed that he largely asserts these benefits rather than arguing for them in an academic manner. He similarly asserts his Christian world view rather than seeking to defend it. This, however, merely reflects the nature of the book: it does not purport to be a work of free market or Christian apologetics. It is thus unlikely to persuade a reader to accept its basic premises. However, it demonstrates how these premises may be lived out in practice and may cause sceptics to ask themselves whether this might indeed be the way that we should live our lives. Furthermore, if like me you agree with the premises, you will find here a mine of practical Christian teaching and advice.

This is not a book to read quickly. It is worth reading in short sections over a prolonged period of time, reflecting on each part of it before moving on to the next part. It may be impossible to categorise but it is none the worse for that.

 

“The Tides of Life” by Bill Pollard was first published in 2014 by Crossway Publishing (ISBN 1433541742, 9781433541742).


Richard Godden is a Lawyer and has been a Partner with Linklaters for over 25 years during which time he has advised on a wide range of transactions and issues in various parts of the world. 

Richard’s experience includes his time as Secretary at the UK Takeover Panel and a secondment to Linklaters’ Hong Kong office. He also served as Global Head of Client Sectors, responsible for Linklaters’ industry sector groups, and was a member of the Global Executive Committee.