Business

The writing is on the wall…

Marcus Rashford. Picture by Nigel French/PA Wire
Roseann Kelly

AS I sit in my daughter’s home in Chester nursing my week-old grandson Darragh, 'm struck by the huge responsibility we all have for the future of our economy, our society and our planet.

What kind of a world has Darragh arrived into? One with a global pandemic, with global anti-racist protests and many many countries facing humanitarian crisis.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has assessed the 10 countries at greatest risk of a humanitarian crisis in 2020 and have reported that these countries represent less than 6 per cent of the world’s population, yet host more than half of all people identified as being in need globally, and have produced nearly three-quarters of the world’s refugees.

The crises they face — which largely include armed conflict, disease epidemics, and natural disasters — have changed little since last year, highlighting the "protracted nature of many of these crises and collective failure of the international community to resolve their root causes," the IRC said.

I must demand better. We, the business community, must be better. From the coronavirus pandemic and police brutality to the marginalisation of minority communities around the world, many leaders have been corrupted by power and are devoid of humility, inclusivity or honesty. They have put at risk our public health, our safety and the future of younger generations.

The business community in Northern Ireland has been excellent in recent years in coming together with one voice on any issues which threaten business, which threatens the economy, last year Brexit and currently Covid 19.

I say well done, but we must do more. Our remit needs to go beyond the economy we need to lobby for our society and our planet too.

Over my many years in business, I have sat through numerous strategic planning days which all included a session on company values. I have visited many large organisations who have their values creatively displayed on walls for everyone to see. On most values lists you will find some or all of the following: integrity, honesty, trust, equality, accountability, boldness and diversity.

The problem, I believe we have, is that they are just writings on the wall and it will stay that way until we have leaders whose whole focus is on corporate cultures and values, leaders who have humility and empathy, kindness and compassion. These are the companies who will thrive who will deliver for everyone including their share holders.

Last week Marcus Rashford, the 22-year-old Manchester United footballer, made the government do a u-turn on the provision of school meals over the summer term.

know he has a huge platform, but I firmly believe that what made his voice strongest, what amplified his ask, was his amazing humility and empathy. As I watched him on TV, during my 5am to 8am baby-minding shift, talk about what he was doing, talk about his up bringing, talk about his mum, it was crystal clear he was the genuine article. He was authentic.

I say to our business leaders - look at the state of the world and please amplify your voice by practising your values and help make the change we all deserve and need, otherwise if we keep going on this path, the writing will be on the wall!

Roseann Kelly is chief executive of Women in Business (www.womeninbusinessni.com)

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