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Professor Ian Thomson

The catalogue of harm caused by irresponsible businesses grows daily as businesses seem to lurch from one crisis to another.

Finding solutions to stop and reverse this trend is one of the pressing challenges of our time. Irresponsible businesses break the implicit covenant between society, business and nature, exploiting marginalised communities, damaging our ecosystems and unfairly redistributing benefits, costs, risks and harm.

The challenges associated with responsible business transformation cannot be under-estimated. The causes of irresponsibility are complex, deeply embedded within social and economic structures that have evolved over centuries of changing ideologies, forms of governance and social norms.

However, not all businesses are inherently bad and or intentionally irresponsible. There is a growing recognition that responsible business is associated with business excellence. Feasible alternatives to business irresponsibility have existed for centuries and have been successful in different contexts. Pragmatic solutions are available that would allow businesses to transcend the limitations imposed by the hidden or unspoken logic of business irresponsibility.

The newly established Lloyds Banking Group Centre for Responsible Business at the University of Birmingham offers a unique opportunity to work with a leading financial institution to inform the advancement of responsible business policy and practice, and operate at the frontiers of intellectual development.

This pathway to transformation will be based on innovative, robust scientific research, critical thinking and intensive dialogue with all key actors. The Centre will be a boundary organisation acting as an interface for academics, students, business practitioners, civic society, policy makers, and transformation agents.

In collaboration with research centres within the University of Birmingham and across the world, the Centre will collect, evaluate and disseminate authentic examples of corporate responsibility, which will be complemented by a process of critical enquiry into business irresponsibilities. Researchers will look to promote positive business responsibility and reduce irresponsible business activities as part of their engagement in the challenge to transform business thinking and actions.

Article by Professor Ian Thomson