These are the words of Dr Rowan Williams, chair of the board of trustees for Christian Aid and former Archbishop of Canterbury. In the next breath, Dr Williams goes on to explain why the international development charity he presides over “has increasingly looked to equip people in developing economies to take this kind of responsibility and so to enlarge the possibilities of those living in poverty”.
This vision of business as a force for good has turned into what is fast becoming a movement tapping into the very roots of value-based action: the sort of action that is at the heart of the Christian faith and of Christian Aid’s mission to address the systems and structures that keep people poor.
It is also why, in a couple of weeks’ time, we at Christian Aid will be launching our Salt Business Network in Scotland, with events in Aberdeen and Edinburgh. Originally launched in London some three years ago, the Salt Network has a vision to support, equip and encourage business leaders as we reconsider the purpose and practice of our work in the light of faith, in order to proactively frame business as a force for good in the world.
We cannot underestimate the similarities between business leaders here in the UK and those across the developing world. And so the Salt Network challenges its members to negotiate the inter-connectedness of a global economy and to embrace the opportunities this connectedness offers, through collective learning, positive impact and transformation commercial practice.
As a network, Salt is relatively simple: through hubs, resources, peer-to-peer mentoring and conferences we support business leaders wherever they are on their own journey, and whether their business is big or small. All that matters is their commitment to build a business that is good news. There are now six UK network hubs already active, with the imminent launches in Scotland taking that number to eight. This movement of action-focused game-changers and world shakers, of which you are invited to become one, is growing and making a difference.
To date, over 70 per cent of Salt Network members have pledged to reform business practices and implement a values-based strategy. Many Salt members have also been supporting Christian Aid’s Social Enterprise Programme as part of their commitment to resource change and stand together with entrepreneurs in some of the poorest parts of the world.
Reflecting on the theme of business as a force of good, Dr Rowan Williams goes on to say: “It’s impressive to see the steadily increasing number of businesses, large and small, that have become aware of the challenge this represents and are working to make their own practices more in tune with these wider concerns – testing environmental impact, looking at gender imbalances, whilst also building awareness of the scandals of modern slavery that are so successfully hidden in the background of some manufacturing enterprises.”
Embracing the UN sustainable development goals is the natural vehicle for bedding in this new awareness of the wider implications of production and commerce and committing to just and humane practices.
For those of us who are Christians working in the business world, the decisions we face which challenge our faith present us with an option to stand firm or to turn and run. As Salt, we say let’s stand, not alone but together with our sisters and brothers across the globe, united by the belief that business is a force for good with the ability to transform lives, communities and habitats, to eradicate poverty and generate prosperity.
The eradication of poverty and the generation of prosperity are not mutually exclusive but are held together by the ones who are courageous enough to say, together, “with the little we have, we can be the change”.
Samuel P S Williams is Salt Network UK manager, Christian Aid. The Salt Network’s newest regional hubs will be launching in Aberdeen on 16 March and Edinburgh on 18 March