Challenged by Lancaster University Alumni Association to say how the book happened in just 300 words, this is what I came up with!
How did I, as a Lancaster alumnus whose career was in the public sector and heart ever in civil society, come to write ‘Welcome to GoodCo’, a book about the responsibilities of business?
I saw the limits to what government can achieve. After 13 years in Westminster I realised that some deprived communities simply don’t have the capacity to seriously influence their futures; lack of organisation means lack of self-determination and sustainability. Such communities, where business is often absent, will remain as spending sinks without the appropriate skills and capacities. Local businesses can help fill that skills gap in local voluntary organisations.
The private sector is massive. Only 15 of Britain’s 160,000 charities have a financial turnover bigger than a single typical superstore. If that power could be focussed on ‘doing good’, instilled as a duty of the corporate citizen, it could revolutionise the way society operates on every scale.
And I saw how some corporations in Africa work with communities today – compared to 30 years ago. Big companies invest in charities and social enterprise in order to increase the life expectancy of the communities from which their workforce is drawn, so as to reduce their own recruitment and training costs, previously exaggerated by premature deaths. There’s a business case for doing good.
‘Welcome to GoodCo’ argues that we have to make that business case. Every aspect of business, from investment, regulation and governance to community engagement, climate change and trading ethics is of legitimate public concern. And if business is not in harness we won’t be able to make the changes our communities and our planet need.
Business has the power to save the Earth. But it also has the ability to destroy the world as we know it. That’s the choice society – and business – has to make.