I have spent much of my week talking with folk whose working lives are in what we call the private sector, as I endeavour to build the partnerships that will bring sustainability to our organisation. It has been very refreshing to have been reminded over the week that, far from being the stereotype of money obsessed corporate types, the vast majority of those who work in the private sector are as committed to the same values and ethics that motivate our own work at Cyrenians.That may not always be the institutional image, but the human reality is different. More than one of them said to me that they wanted their Corporate Social responsibility to be the driving force of all their activity, not just an add on to improve their image.
I am sure that there are examples where this is not always the case but I believe that they are becoming fewer and fewer in number. There is still a long way to go. I am not naive about the choices faced by many large companies over wages and conditions for their staff (the recent furore over Amazon is testament to that), or how what they do affects the environment or the lives of their customers. And some of them, like Nestle’s CEO Peter Brabeck, who believes that access to water should not be a human right just need to be shouted out. There is much about a market economy that needs to be continually questioned.
But that’s doesn’t mean we shouldn’t engage with those in the private sector. And we should do so, not simply at a financial level (please can I have some money), but at a human one. Those who work in the private sector are our neighbours, our friends, our family and our fellow citizens, and we need to start our relationships with that sector with that in mind.
I believe to talk about public, private or third sectors is unhelpful. For our city to grow and prosper, those imagined dividing lines need to become much more porous. All of what we do, however the organisation we work for is described, can contribute to creating the kind of city we want to live and work in; if we are willing to collaborate, share our strengths and think creatively when faced with our challenges. That begins by understanding one another, working on what we see differently, and looking for long term sustainable partnerships that are built on parity of esteem.