Brands must have faith and wake from their daze with atonement

by .
Originally published in The Jewish Chronicle

I am a Jewish atheist. Nearly four decades after my barmitzvah, I am beginning to understand the relevance of Yom Kippur and the need for formal atonement.

Curiously, having spent years listening to rabbis of various institutional flavours, it was an archbishop who opened my mind.

I am privileged to have spent time with Dr Rowan Williams, from whom I learned that trust – the subject of my recent book – and faith have the same root. We cannot have trust in business if we do not have faith in business, with both a small and a capital F. The former Archbishop of Canterbury cited Aristotle and Aquinas. The cornerstone of faith is a belief in the common good. This demands ethical, principled behaviour and leadership.

Dr Williams sparkled on the nature of apology. “We’re all familiar with how we feel”, he remarked, “when someone says only ‘I am sorry that you feel like that’, rather than apologising outright”. We all know what he means. Sometimes, only a proper “sorry” will do.

We Jews of course do a formal sorry at least once a year. On Yom Kippur, we are enjoined to practise teshuvah – repentance.

How can we understand this in the context of the business world today? We could start by socialising the notion of corporate repentance – a proper sorry for corporate failures and wrongdoing.

Look no further than Thomas Cook, the company recently embroiled in scandal following the tragic deaths of two young children in Corfu. A proper apology was only forthcoming after a huge press and public outcry.

You can read the full article on The Jewish Chronicle 


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