EDITORIAL: Welcome to a new age of enlightenment

EDITORIAL: Welcome to a new age of enlightenment - Thinking of a change of career? It's that time of year. You could, apparently, do worse than consider a move to professional football. Even the more modest journeymen toiling in the first division command an average of pounds 175,000 a year. Not a bad prospect - plenty of outdoor work, fresh air, green grass and the chance to go out with someone with a name like Chardonnay - and if there's any hint of a groin strain you can put your feet up and be massaged by the physio for a month.

by MATTHEW GWYTHER, Editor
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Thinking of a change of career? It's that time of year. You could, apparently, do worse than consider a move to professional football. Even the more modest journeymen toiling in the first division command an average of pounds 175,000 a year. Not a bad prospect - plenty of outdoor work, fresh air, green grass and the chance to go out with someone with a name like Chardonnay - and if there's any hint of a groin strain you can put your feet up and be massaged by the physio for a month.

Looks good from the outside, except that professional football in the UK is as sick as a parrot at the moment. Jim White's feature this month shows that British football is a show run according to pie-in-the-sky business models, the frailty of which hasn't been seen since the dot.com boom. No wonder Peter Kenyon, the chief executive of Manchester United, has issued the grim warning that fewer than half the 92 professional clubs will survive the current financial crisis. We may yet see a return to Ron Manager's jumpers for goalposts in the Premiership if they don't get those players' wage bills down soon.

No. Forget the beautiful game, which has now turned ugly. If you want to move into a boom sector go into Corporate Social Responsibility. CSR is the buzz acronym of the moment and CSR advisers, workshops and statements of intent are popping up everywhere like spring crocuses. Even British American Tobacco has produced its own CSR brochure.

Good CSR can be good for business. And it's not just the big multinationals like Shell and BP that can benefit. Look at the effect of a bit of social responsibility on Jamie Oliver plc. The TV chef's brand value among the chattering classes has soared since the mockney ciabatta-muncher, who made piles of cash from Sainsbury's and the BBC, put his reputation and his own house on the line in a project to turn 15 awkward, unemployed kids into chefs. We're all belt-tightening, yet putting something back is in vogue.

Our feature shows that CSR is nothing new. It's the latest version of a phenomenon that has existed since commerce first began thousands of years ago. After early anxieties about rich men and camels passing through the eyes of needles, it has moved through Quakerism and Carnegie to someone like Anita Roddick (don't groan - she was historic in her way). Enlightened and charitable behaviour has been there since we were in caves. Indeed, it is supposed to be one of the things that sets us apart from lower forms of life. Yet, looking around at the world today, the mess we've made of it and the way some of us treat each other, you'd be forgiven for wondering where our species stands in the civilisation league table.

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