Enterprise or Exploitation - Can Global Business be a Force for Good?
Enterprise or Exploitation - Can Global Business be a Force for Good?
The New Statesman Lecture: 11 July 2001
International Chairman, Accenture
Secretary of State, thank you for very much for your introduction. As I travel around the world, I find real recognition of an approach adopted by the Government, which is both principled and pragmatic and is so well exemplified in the Department for International Development's White Paper on Globalisation. DfID recognises that globalisation carries both benefits and risks. The key is to make globalisation work for the world's poor through sustainable development - a theme that I will re-emphasise in these remarks.
It is indeed a great honour and pleasure to deliver this annual New Statesman lecture. Years ago the New Statesman made what we would now call a "mission statement". It consisted of four words: "dissent, scepticism, inquiry, and non-conformity". With that formula the New Statesman has made itself a powerhouse of political, economic and social debate. If I may say so, it has also demonstrated an impressive record of capitalist acquisition, having absorbed The Athenaeum, The Nation, New Society and - most symbolically - Marxism Today.
It is a special pleasure to be here in the magnificent surroundings of the Banqueting House, the revolutionary masterpiece of Inigo Jones.
Of course, Inigo Jones was a businessman as well as an architect, and one who benefited from global markets and the opening of trade. By travelling to Italy he learnt not only to be a classical architect but a stage designer who brought England the proscenium arch and moveable scenery. Like so many artists throughout history, Inigo Jones illustrates the benefits of free movement across frontiers.
There is another lesson for business leaders in this marvellous setting - a lesson in the perils of ignoring the society around them. It was from a window in this Banqueting House that King Charles the First walked to the scaffold. Now when Charles ruled without Parliament he financed his government (and this wonderful Rubens ceiling) by giving monopolies in essential products to his business supporters. The monopolies were extremely unpopular. His subjects boycotted the Royal products and the King ran out of money. He had to recall Parliament and the English civil war was set in motion. The monopolies were bad politics that became bad business, and they exposed Charles to the ultimate form of hostile takeover - one that gave an altogether sharper meaning to the health of the bottom line.
Now, "Global business as a force for good". To many people this may sound like King Herod writing a manual on childcare! However, I believe that although the advance of global business is inexorable, adverse consequences are not. Global business has the potential to help transform global society for the better and to liberate human beings wherever they live. The question before us is whether, and how, that potential will be achieved.
A basic belief of mine, which underlies my whole talk, is that private enterprise - i.e. capitalism - is the only proven engine to fuel and to drive sustainable improvements in economic and social well-being. Over the last two centuries, capitalism defied the predictions of Marxists: instead of keeping people poor it enabled them to become consumers, instead of stagnation and over-production it renewed itself by growing its markets. It is not perfect. It has some very rough edges. It can be abused.
And it has not benefited everybody equally. There are excluded under-classes even in the most developed countries.
But all non-capitalist experiments to drive economic and social progress through other means have failed.
Nevertheless, some people perhaps with a romantic view of the poor, question whether there has been 'real progress'. They should ponder whether they would take a lottery ticket offering the chance to go back and live in the 19th century or even earlier. If they had any real insight into the unimaginably poor and restricted lives the great majority of the population were condemned to, very few would take the risk.
Others have a romantic view of the "simple life" in developing countries today and worry about 'progress'. But, again, I doubt that they would want to take an opportunity to become one of the billions of the worlds poor. There is nothing romantic about abject poverty.
In countries such as the UK, it has been capitalism that has provided the engine of growth and prosperity. But pure capitalism alone is not enough. It works best as part of a civilised democratic society where excesses can be curbed, rules can be set, corruption eliminated and welfare nets established for those excluded from its benefits. The fine details of how this all gets balanced is of course at the heart of our political debates.
We need all this to happen faster and more effectively on a global scale. We live in an increasingly globalised economy, and, as I shall show, this is an irreversible trend. Global business has the capacity to touch and materially enhance the lives of more and more people around the world. Moreover, I will argue that if this can be done in the right way, it will be good for business as well as good for the world.
But it is not happening fast enough or effectively enough. We must do more as global business to find ways of igniting local engines of growth and I believe this can only be done in partnership with government and other elements in our civil society. I will draw on my experience in the "digital divide" area to illustrate that. Finally, I will argue that the way in which most multinational corporations organise themselves to operate globally, though very logical and efficient, actually makes it harder for them to do what is right in developing economies, both in terms of opening new markets and sustainable development.
But, first, what is driving global business?
The impulse of business to act, organise and think globally is based on irreducible - and unsentimental - economic logic. A global business can buy and sell in the best markets, produce and distribute in the best locations, and by creating globally recognised products, enjoy economies of scale and develop a global customer base.
The onward march of globalisation - of markets, products, sourcing, and management systems - has been driven by three developments. The first is the huge advances in information and communications technologies. The second is the rise of a neo-liberal economic model, emphasising sound macro-economic policy free trade and the removal of restrictions on cross-border investment and the encouragement of market forces. The third is the progressive acceptance of this model by so many but not all governments.
By any conventional measure, the global economy is becoming more and more integrated. Since 1950, world trade has increased 14-fold, compared with a 6-fold increase in world output. More and more productive assets are acquired across borders. Global foreign direct investment flows represented over $1000bn. in 2000, compared with only $160bn in 1991- that's an increase of almost 600 per cent in less than ten years. Businesses across the world are increasingly linked through cross-border alliances and mergers, global sourcing and the integration of supply chains.
The rise of the global corporation has been both a cause and a consequence of the global economy. About one third of world trade takes place within multinational corporations. But globalisation is in turn transforming the nature of the corporation - both in scale and structure.
New and more disaggregated forms of business have emerged, notably in the form of outsourcing and electronic marketplaces. Rather than concentrating production in their own hands and in one country, firms commission production from many independent sources in different countries at the lowest possible cost.
These developments have led to globally integrated businesses. National boundaries in business organisations have been dismantled in favour of business units organised by global product or service lines. But as I said earlier for all its economic logic, this type of organisation carries hazards. It can make global business look remote and unaccountable and blind to its impact on local communities and world society.
Now, my presence here today and the title of this lecture are a sign of the change in the debate about business and the rest of society. For most of the second half of the twentieth century, although I do remember the protests of the '60s, the inexorable rise of the global corporation that I described earlier provoked few challenges or even questions over its role or place in society. Yet, in just a few years, it has become the subject of a fierce, worldwide debate. Personally, I welcome this debate. I believe that global business has every motive to recognise and assist the aspirations of global society. To quote the founder of Matsushita: 'businesspeople too should be able to share in creating a society that is spiritually rich and materially affluent'.
However, we must acknowledge the fervour of the current backlash against global capitalism. Indeed, I have experienced what the EU leaders, the World Trade Organisation, or the World Bank must have felt over the last year when I chaired a session on "bridging the digital divide" at the World Economic Forum's Asia-Pacific summit in Australia, and I saw at first hand the rage of the protesters. The irony was that those attending the meeting undoubtedly shared the same objective as the protesters - namely, to help the poorest and most excluded people in the world.
However, irony is generally lost on the protesters. Gordon Brown tells the story of seeing outside his hotel in Washington DC an NGO group displaying an enormous banner. It proclaimed 'the world-wide movement against globalisation'!
Some people may dismiss the protesters as a naïve, misguided, unrepresentative, or even violent minority. And some may well be that. But for each protester on the street there are thousands more who privately worry about the power and influence of global business. One might question the degree of power which global corporations really possess now that markets are becoming more and more global. But the concerns are real enough and represent a serious challenge which business needs to address.
A common theme for many critics, in all parts of the political spectrum, is that global capitalism has been blind to its casualties and deaf to social concerns. They accuse it of ignoring the growing gap between the world's rich and poor, and the destruction of local systems which provided a safety net against destitution.
Global business also faces more specific criticisms. These reflect the highly disparate concerns of the interest groups who make up the anti-capitalist coalition: the third world, the environment, labour rights and standards, the welfare of local communities, democratic control and local accountability, and an eclectic range of cultural and spiritual issues.
Global business - and often governments - stand accused by some critics of imposing "unfair" terms of trade on poor countries, under the cover of liberalisation. They claim that it promotes and exploits a world trading system which discriminates against poor countries by excluding them from rich country markets while "dumping" on them the surplus products the rich countries cannot, or will not, sell to their own customers. Indeed there is some truth in these claims - industrialised countries do often berate developing nations for not liberalising their markets fast enough while continuing to protect many of their own. Market liberalisation must not be a one-way process.
Other critics have focused on the allegedly secret and unaccountable influence of global corporations, which has shifted power from local communities to distant boardrooms thousands of miles away. They accuse them of acting to undermine the will of elected governments, and not only those of small countries but also those of powerful states. In some countries, global business stands accused of co-operation with repression or complicity in corruption. Again there is some truth in all these accusations.
Still others attack global business for playing off developing countries against each other, to secure better conditions for investment, through lower or non-existent environmental or labour standards, taxation and regulation. Commentators such as Noreena Hertz have called this "a race to the bottom" - an environment where corporations face no control on their behaviour and no obligations to the state or its people or institutions.
It is easy to find confirmation of these charges in media reporting - and indeed from observing the state of the world. The response of global business to these criticisms has varied. I do see an increasing trend for business to acknowledge its relationships with the rest of society, and recognise that its own long-term profitability and wider interests cannot be divorced and isolated from the social fabric in which it operates.
The trend is reflected in a range of concepts and initiatives by business to demonstrate its value to society. They include charitable giving, partnerships and projects with voluntary organisations and social and community audits of their activities. However, the value of these approaches can be weakened if they are too vague or inadequately integrated into the core values and objectives of business. This makes it too easy for protestors to reject them as PR spin and for shareholders to reject them as pure costs that are unsustainable in the longer term.
Although many businesses continue to search for new initiatives to demonstrate their social awareness, others have reacted to the protestors with a vigorous defence of traditional business values. They take their gospel text from Milton Friedman, who said notably: "There is only one social responsibility of business - to use its resources to engage in activities to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game. " (Of course, this does beg the question as to how the rules of the game are shaped by society and government - but more of that later on).
This robust defence by business, and its singular focus on the pursuit of profit and shareholder value, have perhaps been fortified by the new political administration in the United States. And, in a recent much debated article in the Financial Times, Martin Wolf highlighted business concerns that the trend towards corporate citizenship is deflecting business from its true goal of enterprise and wealth creation, and forcing it to bear unnecessary costs in the process. The implicit recommendation is that business should stoutly defend its record, rather than make apparent concessions to its critics.
How can these trends be reconciled? Let us start by recognising that both responses have a point. The "robust" school are right to remind business to focus on activities which are sustainable, make good use of its strengths, and which add value to its operations. But the "concerned" schools are right to recognise the wider influence of society on companies, and indeed the influence of those companies on society.
The more extreme defenders of business have one thing in common with the anti-globalisation protestors. They both tend to see the relationship between business and society as a zero-sum game: one can gain only at the expense of the other. Yet business has always had a long-term commonality of interest with wider society. This was accepted long ago by the medieval Guilds, who sought not only to promote skills among their members but also to create a stable, prosperous, strongly governed society in which those skills could flourish. Recognition of this commonality of interest is a key element of today's concept of corporate citizenship. It implies a need for business to acknowledge societal obligations and expectations.
And business, although sometimes initially resistant, has constantly evolved to meet society's goals and fuse them into its own interests. In this way society's interests come to form part of the business case for making particular decisions.
An obvious example is health and safety. In the nineteenth century, companies could and did put their workers' health and safety in peril. However, enlightened employers realised that this not only damaged worker morale and productivity, but increasingly ran counter to society's expectations. They joined a campaign alongside civic organisations. Other employers gradually came to accept their case and, over time, business, society and legislation moved forward in a common direction. Worker safety became, quite simply, 'good business'. I believe that a similar process will happen with global business: recognition of social goals will be seen to be good business; neglect of them will be bad business.
Of course, different countries sometimes have different societal expectations - for example, over the use of child labour. Critics say that it is these very differences which multinational businesses are able to exploit - in some cases they may be right. But I am certain that there will be a levelling up of the standards which corporations are expected to meet - and that levelling up will be the result of globalisation. Why? ___First, because supply chains are becoming more and more integrated across the world, and good practice in one part of the chain will be diffused more rapidly into others. Second, because faster communications mean that corporate activities will face greater and greater scrutiny throughout the world. Precisely because of globalisation it is not enough for corporations to behave as good corporate citizens just in their home country. The recent controversy over the selling of generic anti-AIDS drugs in South Africa shows the importance of business working with, not against, such broader societal expectations and the importance of understanding those expectations in the first place.
I have dwelt on this theme of the mutual interests of business and wider society because it is urgent and relevant for all of us and particularly in developing countries. This is a key message that I have sought to promote in my role as Chairman of the Board of the Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum. Supported by many of the leading multi-national companies from Europe, America and Asia, the Forum is now active in over 40 countries.
And a good example of the work of the Forum was in Poland and China, where my own company worked with other members of the Forum - such as ABB, BP, Coca Cola and GlaxoSmithKline - to show how business practices and problem-solving skills could be aligned with wider development objectives, to the mutual benefit of business and local communities. It is highly significant that so many major corporations are engaged in this project and it would be easy for me to pick out many more companies who are working on similar lines. But I will tonight concentrate on initiatives of which I have first-hand knowledge.
One of these is a strategy game called Chusco, for MBA and executive education students. Accenture has developed this game, in collaboration with the London Business School, from the project I described a moment ago. The students are not told beforehand that the game is about corporate citizenship. But by playing the game, winning students learn how they can get the most effective solutions to common business problems only if they work in harmony with other stakeholders in society.
This new thinking on business, markets, and society is perhaps most desperately needed in the least developed countries of the world, to address the horrific dimensions of poverty and exclusion. As the UN Development Programme's Human Development Report, published this week, points out, there have been real and substantial improvements in health and living standards for poorer people in the world over the last 30 years. These improvements have been driven by globalisation - of markets and technology. Nonetheless, of the world's 6 billion people, almost half still live on less than 2 dollars a day, and one fifth live on less than 1 dollar a day. While the poorest countries remain in relative poverty, the richest countries have raced ahead. In 1960 average income in the richest 20 countries was 18 times that in the poorest 20. By 1999, this gap had more than doubled to a shocking 37 times difference.
If poorer countries continue to be excluded from the benefits of global economic change, the world will become an ever more fragile and unpredictable place. Within the next 25 years, the world's population will grow by about 2 billion people, and most of this growth will be in developing countries. Will these new people live in exclusion and subsistence or will they join and expand the world's markets as new producers, new consumers, new savers and new investors? That is the both the challenge and opportunity for global business.
Some far-seeing companies are already pioneering new business models explicitly geared to the needs and circumstances of individual countries and communities. In India, for example, Arvind Mills has developed a network of street tailors to produce jeans. Purists have suggested that jeans are a misguided product for India, and that the tailors should be producing indigenous clothing. Yet the market disagrees: markets prefer to recognise what people really want, rather than what romanticists tell them they should want. The tailors are therefore getting the rewards for their enterprise by making a sought-after product of high value.
Imaginative enterprises of this kind have much to offer, but they are only part of the answer. The solution as I've said requires a more holistic long-term approach, in which business must be willing to work co-operatively with other parts of society - especially government and civil society - to bring about change. Too often in the past each sector has stayed in its own silo, unwilling or unable to see areas of mutual interest where much more could be achieved by working together.
Next week we will see real proof of the benefits that such co-operation can bring. At their summit in Genoa, leaders of the G8 governments will review the work of the Digital Opportunities Task (DOT) Force. We became involved in the DOT.Force because of our understanding of these issues which we had been examining for the last four or five years, and it's been an interesting experience. But I was particularly struck by the great spirit of co-operation among all those involved - governments, both G8 and developing, civil society, and the business sector - and the determination to bring about real change. Compared with what might have happened only a few years ago, there was far less suspicion from G8 governments and the non-profit organisations that the private sector was only out to grab subsidies for large-scale infrastructure projects. Perhaps the biggest shift in attitudes was among developing-country governments. Initially suspicious of the process, they were gradually re-assured that it would not - after all - turn into yet another attempt by Western governments and companies to gain unfettered and unreciprocated access to their markets.
The starting point for our work on the DOT Force, however was that the real divide is not a digital divide but actually a socio-economic one and not as is commonly portrayed just about access to information technology. Without access to digital technologies, and the markets and opportunities they create, existing inequalities will be exacerbated and developing countries will be forced deeper and deeper into the margins of global society, with all the dislocations that can bring - for example, mass migration, political instability, or even regional conflicts.
We cannot take such a risk in a fragile world. Our economic systems have been wound up to such a high pitch of efficiency - partly by firms like ours! - that it makes them even more vulnerable to quite small shocks. Ask any motorist who looked for petrol in the crisis last year - a major social and political drama caused by a temporary shortage. - How will our global society cope with a deeper crisis?
If we are to avert such major dislocations to global society, we need to find a way of way of creating a cycle of sustainable development in the world's poorest countries. Part of this, as I mentioned earlier, rests on the need for much greater co-operation between business, government and civil society. It will also require a change in the way we view information and communications technologies.
When the DOT Force was formed last year, protesters marked the occasion by burning computers on the streets of Okinawa. I think they missed the point. But we should not be thinking of this in terms of a trade-off between computers and development needs, rather we should be looking at all the ways in which digital technology can actually help in health, in education and in creating economic and social opportunities. Used in the right way, it can help enable networks of local learning and knowledge, improved productivity and efficiency, increased access to government services, and the creation of new markets.
Technology by itself is not enough: it can only help bring about sustainable development if the other fundamentals are also right. We have done some research with the United Nations Development Programme and the non-profit Markle Foundation which points strongly to five fundamentals: infrastructure; policy; education and training; local relevance; and, above all, entrepreneurship. These are the five pillars of sustainable development. Global business clearly has a major role in building these pillars, but it will not be able to do this in isolation. It will need to work co-operatively with other stakeholders - governments, non-governmental organisations, and multilateral development agencies. I will deal with each of these pillars more specifically.
The first pillar, infrastructure, is of course important. Without a basic communications infrastructure progress is hard and slow. However, this is not just about communications backbones. Nor is it about wiring everyone to a personal computer - an expensive futility in countries where literacy rates are low and people rely on verbal communication. In such conditions, direct access to a telephone is more valuable than access to the Internet.
We should remember that more than half the world's population has never even made a telephone call. Often it is about finding the right technology - we should be thinking of mobile telephony and Internet radio as well as other forms of accessing the Internet. In many developing countries public or community access centres have a key role to play in bringing people into the digital world, as well as generating opportunities for local entrepreneurs.
Secondly, the overall policy environment must also be right. Take, for example, the question of liberalising telecommunications markets, which in many developing countries are state monopolies. This often raises the need to balance several competing objectives, such as securing incentives for investment and the entry of new operators, while at the same time encouraging universal access and preventing too much erosion of government revenues.
Education and training form the third pillar. Simply providing computers without the training to use them is a sure-fire formula for disaster. Basic literacy and numeracy are of course important, as are tertiary education and corporate training. But it is also crucial to ensure a core of knowledge workers: people with the technical capabilities to maintain ICT infrastructure and adapt it to local requirements.
A focus on locally relevant content provides the fourth pillar, after all it is useless building elaborate Internet networks or providing computers if the only software and content available is that designed for people living thousands of miles away. We have got to be sure that the technology will make a real difference to people's lives, and that can happen only if content and software - and of course language - are relevant to the individual culture and circumstances of developing countries.
The fifth - and for me the key - element is entrepreneurship. And it is a subject we care passionately about, publishing a major study on it only last week. It is vital for sustainable development, providing the engine for economic growth and generating the revenue to pay for social goals. Of course, it is influenced by many factors- not least, access to finance and credit, property rights and commercial law, a fair taxation regime, and elimination of corruption.
Within this development framework, global business can play a hugely important role. It can channel its expertise, know how, and other resources to help local enterprise develop on the ground. It can share its expertise in education and training, and assist the development of locally relevant content. And this is not just theory. I and my colleagues on the G8 DOT.Force have offered real resources and real management commitment to turn the opportunities into reality. I hope the G8 will take forward the framework for this.
Let me say that all of this is not about western multinationals imposing their own business culture, values or ways of working on people in developing countries. Quite the contrary, it means working with those who best understand the local community.
There are many digital success stories in the developing world which have been built on these five pillars through collaborative working between business and other stakeholders.
The story of GrameenPhone in Bangladesh illustrates the difference that even simple technology can make. Its founder, Iqbal Quadir, had vivid memories as a 12-year-old boy of walking for miles in the country to buy medicine, only to find the medicine shop closed. It made him realise how simple access to a telephone could save much unnecessary toil. The Grameen Group now loans money to people in over a thousand villages to purchase cellular handsets. Phone owners then rent the phones out to village farmers and other community members for a fee and also provide messaging services. For the owners, mainly women, the scheme has brought new income and savings; for the users, mainly farmers, it has brought productivity gains through access to market information, weather reports, and pest and disease alerts.
The Grameen story is a great example of how to create economic opportunity married to social goals. - To me, it shows how in making the world a better place, a company makes it a better place for its own business. It turns neglected areas into new markets and new sources of supply. Companies which are partners in locally-generated development acquire new customers and new local knowledge of how to satisfy their needs. Put more crudely, starving people don't make good customers. Uneducated people don't make good workers. And poor people don't make good investors.
And the benefits of such an approach are not only felt in developing country markets. Companies are also seeing that it helps them in their developed markets as well. Increasingly, consumers want to buy from companies who are doing good things and not doing bad things. Similarly, investors want to put their money in companies who are working for a better society. Just yesterday, we saw the launch of the FTSE4Good ethical index. And we are not talking about small sums either. The market for socially responsible investment is expected to reach 300 billion £ in the UK alone this year.
Global business is not something apart from society: its health and even its long-term survival depend on the global environment in which it operates. In his critique of corporate citizenship, which I mentioned earlier, the Financial Times's Martin Wolf, said: 'the role of well-run companies is to make profits, not save the planet'. Well, I can share a secret with you: most analysts now believe that the end of the world would have a depressing effect on company profits.
As I said at the beginning, the advance of global business may be inexorable, but its consequences are not. They are matters of choice, and business itself has the power of choice. It can choose to ignore the interests and concerns of others or it can recognise them and thereby discover new means of creating value and serving its own interests.
Can it seize this opportunity and make the world a better place? Certainly there are many challenges to overcome. A commitment to working with wider society must not just be for the good economic times, when profits are high. It needs to continue even when, in fact especially when, times are tough. The best way to guarantee that happens is to make sure that good citizenship is institutionalised within all aspects of the business. Even where good practices exist now they are often segmented within silos. For example, Human Resources will concentrate on aspects of corporate citizenship that meet employee expectations, while Marketing will concentrate on those aspects that enhance image and build brand. But all parts of a business need to be able to exchange ways in which good practice can enhance all of their objectives.
A similar challenge for companies is to overcome the difficulties in taking a holistic view of countries. As I mentioned earlier, under the competitive pressures of globalisation, many companies have moved away from country-based operations. Key functions such as marketing, purchasing, branding, manufacturing and R&D are now commonly organised along global lines. Profit responsibility is often along global product, customer or service groups which can lead to a blinkered over - centralised view of the world.
I was talking recently to the American CEO of a Saudi Arabian bank. His bank had found that the service it obtained from a computer hardware and services company had deteriorated significantly over the last few years, and that there was no co-ordination between the various product and service lines operating in his country. When he decided to complain, he found that there was no unit or even person within the company responsible for quality and co-ordination within the Saudi market, except for the CEO himself. It was clearly not on his radar screen; nor should it be. Not only is this a problem of customer satisfaction, it also means that no one in that company is taking a holistic view of the potential of the Saudi market and that company's position in it.
To me, this seems to highlight a dilemma for multinational corporations such as us. We need to work within global structures, but in a way that recognises the importance of individual countries and communities. Many of us are already trying to meet the challenge of restoring an appropriate balance between global and local. This has been shown by the emerging new breed of country managers who do not have profit responsibility but whose job is precisely to act as a focus for the company's strategy in individual countries.
The importance of this challenge came home to me recently when we asked local community leaders in the UK to give their views of multinational business. They saw global business as increasingly out of touch with the communities in which operates. More than 70 per cent believed that multinational businesses took all their decisions at corporate headquarters; only 5 per cent thought that decision-makers understood the communities in which their businesses operated. And almost 70 per cent thought that as businesses became more global, local communities were being left behind. But there was a much more encouraging message too.
Just under half agreed that global business can be a force for good - well above the number who disagreed. In the wake of crises such as Longbridge and the Corus steelworks - blamed on globalisation - I find this a significant result.
To sum up - the inexorable rise of the global corporation has undoubtedly brought many benefits: increased business efficiency; rising prosperity for many; dissemination of technology; expanded consumption possibilities, greater knowledge and awareness of different cultures, to name but a few. But global business needs a framework in which these benefits can be transferred and multiplied across society, without the unintended ill consequences that can arise from globalisation. That framework must incorporate recognition of the needs and interests of individual nations and communities and greater co-operation between business, government and representative organisations in society.
Disseminating and sharing the benefits of global capitalism - that is the greatest task we face in the world today. It is a task we can all share. We can take inspiration from this very setting created by an artist and a businessman. Like art, business has the same power to give people a new vision of themselves. For millions of people across the world, no journey is more empowering than the journey to market. It represents not only the opportunity to buy and sell, but to exercise autonomy and choice. Both literally and figuratively, global business is bringing more and more people to market, giving them new opportunities to trade and exchange, to work differently, to access education and training, to acquire property and capital, to provide for their children, to form a new view of the world. In all of these ways, global business is liberating people while at the same time creating new value.
So, can global business be a force for good? My answer is yes, provided two things - first, that it widens its horizons sufficiently, second that it recognises its interdependence with the other stakeholders in society. This is my personal experience. It is the experience of my company and its clients and it is an experience shared by more and more businesses, their suppliers, customers and employees around the world.
But ladies and gentlemen, nothing is certain and complacency could be fatal. The fact is that those of us who share this view will need to be determined and consistent. Our view is unlikely always to remain fashionable, it will however, remain right for if global business proves not to be a force for good then the prosperity and consensus that underpins the future could shatter. This is a time for resolution.