Over the past couple of weeks there’s been renewed criticism of large executive bonuses and banking groups that may have acted inappropriately and, in some cases, possibly illegally.
I understand arguments that say you need to pay what appear to be enormously high salaries to get the best person for the job. I understand you need people of high calibre to perform at the top of their game in a complex environment. I acknowledge banking groups have to make fiscal decisions in global markets that change by the hour. But even in the most multifaceted and complex business it’s surely right that business leaders act ethically and excesses of pay are checked and challenged.
Where excessive salaries are paid I would call on the recipients to use their income and positions to support those most in need in our society. There’s nothing wrong with having money; it’s how we use it that’s most important. Using it to support the vulnerable and weak must be one of the best things we can do.
But I also want to support and encourage business and its leaders. When I was Archdeacon of Leeds I helped set up the first chaplain to its business community. We offered pastoral care and support for business leaders and employees. It built relationships which enabled the church to challenge poor business and employee practice. It also facilitated discussions about faith and engagement with the society. We discovered most business leaders worked hard to support their staff. Many supported community and charitable interests financially and through human resources. They provided employment and contributed enormously to the economic and social fabric of society. Successful businesses, of course, make a profit. If they didn’t how would they survive, how would they expand if appropriate, how would they pay salaries? That is part of business practice but there is also a challenge as to how profits are used to the benefit of the majority.
That is also true of many business leaders I’ve met here in Doncaster, working to provide good job opportunities and contributing enormously to help Doncaster reach its potential. Many leaders sit on boards and committees outside their immediate business to facilitate growth in the town. I’m not overly naïve; I recognise what benefits the town should benefit them.
I’ve said before Doncaster’s a great place, with many good, exciting and positive things happening and we should encourage all those working hard to make it so and to counterbalance the negative and outrageous comments made recently which describe this as “grey block seventies architecture typical of so many ex-industrial towns which are trying to find their way”.
What do they expect, a town made of gingerbread? There may be truth in some of the comments, but what they fail to mention is that what makes Doncaster great is its people.
* Peter Burrows, Bishop of Doncaster