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Enterprise for the Common Good: Introducing The Exchange

Posted on 16 August 2017

A guest blog from Cliff Mills of Anthony Collins Solicitors who, along with Co-operative Energy and the Phone Co-op are coming on board as an associate partner for Greenbelt 2017, energised by our theme of The Common Good and committed to sharing a different way of doing business with us this festival – and beyond.

Is it possible for something other than the pursuit of private gain to be the force that powers business?

One thing we know for sure: the opportunity to make money acts as a powerful incentive; for individual workers and employees, for entrepreneurs and executives of businesses, and for investors. There is also nothing inherently wrong, immoral or anti-social about making a profit from trade. Indeed, any business will ultimately fail unless its income exceeds its expenditure.

That’s where we get into challenging territory. How much to pay the work-force; what sort of deal to offer customers; how careful to be about energy use, waste disposal and impact on the local community. These are all really tough decisions; but what guides that decision-making?

For investor-owned businesses, the primary purpose of the business is to generate shareholder value. The workers, the customers and future generations are not the priority, and the need to deliver profits commonly results in them bearing the costs. Since the industrial revolution when trading for private benefit became the principal form of enterprise, Parliament has continually had to intervene with legislation to redress the power imbalance and prevent oppression. It’s an imperfect system, and we are all bearing the costs.

Which brings us back to that basic question: is the pursuit of private gain the only basis for successful and sustainable business? It’s the prevailing model in the UK and beyond, yet it poses probably the biggest challenge to the future of the planet. Is there some other fuel that could power the engine of enterprise?

Yes there is, and at Greenbelt 2017 we will see a completely new venue to engage with this vital question. The Exchange will be a new space, dedicated to the subject of ‘Enterprise for the Common Good’ – for exploring how business can be a force for good, for reducing inequality, for building community, and for pursuing justice.
The Exchange has been made possible by Co-operative Energy, The Phone Co-op and Anthony Collins Solicitors, and will be a place for you to come and hear about their journeys and the values and principles they follow, as well as discuss common issues. The Exchange will also be a space where you can meet other co-operatives, social and community enterprises. You’ll be able to listen to some inspirational pioneers of enterprise for the common good, engage in panel discussions, and find out about start-up, funding, and transformation.

We are delighted to see this co-operative venture birthed at the festival this summer. In a year when our theme is The Common Good, it’s great at last to see the festival making real and tangible connections with parts of the Co-operative Movement. Our own chair of trustees, Steve Baker, is himself committed to business for good and full-square in the Enterprise for The Common Good camp. We look forward to seeing the engagement and exchange of ideas and inspirations that unfold in The Exchange this year and we are very grateful to Anthony Collins Solicitors for acting as a ‘broker’ since the last festival to enable this new partnership with them, Co-operative Energy and The Phone Co-op.

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