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Let’s flip the switch: We can be heroes

Business is no longer a dirty word, or so I thought.

We are the heroes of our age. When children grow up they not only want to be doctors, lawyers, dancers and astronauts, they want to be entrepreneurs as well. Stories are told about us in blockbuster movies. When the state of Indiana tried to pass pro-discrimination ‘religious freedom’ laws it was not the rock stars but the corporates who made a stand.

Business has a positive role to play in society in a far more fundamental way than just corporate social responsibility or charity sponsorships. Business is society, and what’s bad for society is bad for business.

Good business has been the paradigm for the two decades of my working life, so I must have blinked and missed it when someone pressed the rewind button.

To hear recent election debates you would be forgiven for thinking there was a binary opposition between a vibrant economy and societal wellbeing. Political leaders have reverted to the timeworn narrative deadlock between inhuman business demanding deeper cuts, and an irrational society demanding outrageous spending.

This script overlooks the fact that we are all connected: economic prosperity is the only way we can pay for the public services we all value. Business contributes directly to social progress and not just monetarily.

People don’t believe business is the bogeyman anymore. It’s moved on to more complimentary and realistic pastures. Business is us, and in the knowledge economy, business is based on our hearts and minds not just our hands. As well as our wages, we take home achievement, self-actualisation, and a sense of community.

In business, employees and customers alike vote with their feet if you don’t reflect their values. As we’ve seen in Indiana, companies can, should, and will use their power to make positive change happen.

Business has fought valiantly to win its progressive reputation. Let’s not settle for being continuosly being typecast as villains. We can be heroes.