The Social Vocation of Business

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by Jesmond Saliba

For all the slick project management tools and the smart agility techniques, organisations still function in automatic mode most of the time. Much like an ant colony, companies organise their lifecycles around a modus operandi that, although continuously transformed by new talent, technology, and the wider business environment, establishes a sophisticated way of doing things that becomes difficult to interrupt.

The pandemic itself is a stark example of the natural tendency of companies to stick to the course they are familiar with, even when everything around them is quaking.

For this reason, corporate governance is both an opportunity and an urgency. It is an opportunity because, if the processes are well thought-out and focused, the company will reap the rewards well into the long term. It is urgent because the chains of causality across business and society are becoming ever longer.

The principles of good governance often have greater resonance with issues of public life, where political influence may blunt accountability and the press corps are always sniffing around for traces of impropriety. But the business community is coming under increasing internal and external pressure to conform to higher standards of transparency, leadership, and compliance.

The tangible impact of public outrage at the misbehaviour or shortcomings of businesses if pushing companies to seriously assess the way in which they are directed and controlled. Nevertheless, a commitment to sensible corporate governance is not simply a reaction to social media takedowns; on the contrary, a solid system of checks of balances provides a strategic advantage that makes companies leaner, more effective and, above, more relevant to the public.

Good governance in the private sector and the public sector is not a chicken-and-egg question: improvements in both spheres are needed simultaneously and a betterment in one sector ultimately leads to change in the other.

As the general model of business shifts from sprints towards the maximum ROI into a relay of sustainable harvests, companies are gaining a broader understanding of the magnitude of their processes and decisions.

If we can draw another lesson from ants it is that, by performing their duties diligently, the humble insect provides a critical service to the entire ecosystem by aerating soli and clearing up organic waste.

While corporate governance may sound like a lofty concept at first, it is as practical a contribution to the wellbeing of society as a business can make.