Speaking at the 2nd annual Pears Business Schools Partnership lecture, Sir Andrew Witty, Chief Executive Officer of GlaxoSmithKline, made a powerful case for businesses to connect more strongly with society and its values and reap the business benefits of doing so.
He spoke before an audience of over three hundred business leaders, academics and students at Cranfield School of Management, with the speech broadcast live to business schools in Denmark, Spain, Belgium, Brazil and France, and followed up with an extensive Q&A session.
The main points he raised were:
• Now is an important time to consider the intersection of business with society
• Trust in the private sector has eroded and corporations have become more de-humanised over the past twenty years
• Businesses need to put the individual at the heart of everything they do – from their staff to customers, suppliers and shareholders – and align themselves with their values as people
• Businesses which take corporate responsibility seriously and take the long term view are likely to be more successful and sustainable
• By acting on their values, businesses have a stronger licence to operate, a more authoritative voice on key issues and promote a longevity that a sole focus on quarterly earnings does not
• Senior business leaders need to take responsibility for setting the tone and leading by example in terms of corporate responsibility
• The UK needs to positively re-balance its economy, growing the private sector with a focus on manufacturing. If we want the next Apple to be British, businesses must engage on the values of the people they are trying to attract
He ended his speech with a challenge to current business leaders and the potential future leaders he was addressing at Cranfield and beyond:
“We must stand in front of the mirror and ask ourselves – what’s the most we can do to make a positive difference, to do better, be responsible, to keep challenging and demanding better?
“One person can make a difference by accepting the responsibility of doing the best they can do, for the business and wider society.”
Speaking after the lecture, Trevor Pears, Executive Chair of the Pears Foundation, said:
“It was great to hear a business leader speak so refreshingly and openly about both individual responsibility and the positive role that businesses can and do play in society. This Partnership is about inspiring the next generation of business leaders to make a positive difference both to their businesses and the world. Basically, we want more people like Sir Andrew running businesses!"
Professor David Grayson CBE, Director of the Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility at Cranfield School of Management, who chaired the lecture, commented:
“Andrew Witty gave us a master-class in what it means to be a successful and responsible leader in a world of intense connectivity and enforced transparency. He asked all of us in any position of authority whether in government, management, teaching or family life: ‘what are you going to do with the power you’ve been handed and entrusted?’ He showed us all that we can make a positive difference – and given that, we shouldn’t settle for silver, we should always aim for gold.”
Pamela Hartigan, Director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford University’s Said Business School, said:
“We need to find a way to clone Sir Andrew. I have no doubt that the students listening to his powerful presentation came away inspired by his visionary leadership and values and spurred to reflect on the ways they can follow his example wherever their life journey takes them. Business leaders like Sir Andrew are proof that we can create companies that are fundamentally innovative, morally compelling and philosophically positive.”
Sir Andrew Likierman, Dean, London Business School, said:
“It is inspiring to hear Sir Andrew Witty outline the important role businesses can play in contributing to our society, and emphasise the business benefits of doing so. At London Business School, we have always believed that good corporate responsibility and ethical business go hand-in-hand with successful business practice, and it has long been part of the core curriculum in our MBA programme. The Pears Business Schools Partnership, through the rich case studies it is producing, is helping that aspect of our work even further.”
The Pears Business Schools Partnership is a collaboration between Cranfield School of Management, London Business School, Said Business School and Pears Foundation to promote sustainable and responsible business in society by engaging and inspiring the next generation of leaders.
Its aim is to inspire future leaders to make a positive difference through corporate responsibility, social entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship, sustainability, core business practice, and individual philanthropy and other innovative models for change.
It is doing that through:
- The development, publication and teaching of illustrative case studies on the positive value businesses and business leaders are contributing to society
- The staging of an annual lecture by a leading business figure who is innovatively using the power of business to make a positive difference
The 3rd annual lecture will be held at Said Business School.