Faith-based ethic in business: The Cadbury and Tata way

Faith-based ethic in business: The Cadbury and Tata way

By Antonia Filmer | 30 April, 2016
Lord Karan Bilimoria (centre) hosts Dr David Lansdman, Sir Dominic Cadbury and HE Navtej Sarna at Parliament

Many Zoroastrians gathered in Parliament this week to listen to Dr David Landsman OBE, Head of TataUK and Sir Dominic Cadbury Former Chairman of Cadbury Schweppes discuss “Faith-based Ethic in Business: The Cadbury and Tata Way.” Distinguished representatives from Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddist, Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths as well as academics, MP’s, members of the House of Lords and journalists were in attendance. Lord Bilimoria’s introduction praised The Everlasting Flame exhibition (Zoroastrianism in History and Imagination) at the National Museum in Delhi but he was concerned that the Persian language GCSE exam in the UK is under threat of being discontinued from 2018.

Dr Landsman explained the unique structure of Tata,100 independent companies, 30 of which are listed with available shares, all have governance according to Tata and Son principles that safeguard the Tata brand, accordingly Tata have a position called Brand Custodian and Chief Ethics Officer. All 6000 colleagues sign a clause in their contract declaring their conviction to equality and non-discrimination on any grounds. Dr Landsman referred to The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan, a study of the coming together of the spiritual and temporal worlds in international politics, commerce and culture, how Central Asia and India are shaping the modern world, how Mumbai is the Parsi capital of the Business world. Parsis run their businesses according to the Zoroastrain tenets of good thought, good word and good deed, the thoughts are of the founder, the words are the articulation thereof and the deeds are the execution, all must be matching in their goodness. Dr Landsman reminded that in 2014 Cyrus Mistry re-articulated the old foundation tenets of integrity and creating trust, self-effacement, moderation and keeping your promises; percolating the theory of religious doctrine but spared of sectarianism. There is a nationalistic element to Tata’s ethics which is all about creating a business that makes India strong and free, all reflected in Tata’s choice of industries: steel, nuclear and defence. Dr Landsman said swadeshi is important for people’s understanding of Tata’s cultural origins.

Parsis run their businesses according to the Zoroastrain tenets of good thought, good word and good deed, the thoughts are of the founder, the words are the articulation thereof and the deeds are the execution, all must be matching in their goodness.

Sir Dominic drew parallels between Zoroastrian and his family’s Quaker values. Cadbury has been well known in India since 1920’s (something that Kraft found attractive during the by-out in 2010), to the extent that South Indian plantation workers called the cocoa trees “Cadbury trees”. George Fox who founded the movement called The Society of Friends in the mid C17th rejected the hierarchy of the Church in favour of individuals having a personal relationship with God, he was jailed 60+ times for this unpopular belief.  Quakers believe in social justice and reform, lifting the poor and needy, they attracted the emerging middle class of the time, the industrious, self-disciplined and entrepreneurial. Many historic Quaker businesses still thrive: Wedgwood china, Clarke’s shoes, Reckitt & Colman pharmaceuticals, Bryant & May matches, Huntley and Palmers biscuits, Cash’s nametapes, both Lloyds and Barclays banks were funded by Quakers. Sir Dominic said Quaker capitalism and philanthropy protected the good name of their society, he named Quaker principles of business being: straight dealing, fair play, honesty, accuracy and truth, not that dissimilar to Zoroastrian tenets.

Both Cadbury and Tata are devoted to philanthropic ideals, Tata ask 6000 people for 1million hours of volunteering and Cadburys have donated much of their wealth to education, health and the provision of green spaces in Birmingham.

HC Navtej Sarna congratulated the Parsi community for their role in India's freedom struggle and in post-independence nation building. His Excellency reminded everyone how 1000 years ago Parsi’s had fled Iraq to India in order to express their faith freely; now India has 50% of the world’s Parsi population and this community have richly paid India back. He praised the powerful contributions of Parsi business, defence, scientists and artists, in particular Zubin Mehta, the Music Director for Life of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. He admitted he had a soft spot for Tata, as many years ago Tata had been one of his first employers; he had observed first-hand what made Zoroastrians so important in industry, noting how impressive was their commitment to ethics and philanthropy.

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