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22 Jan 2009

An era of responsibility

George Onisiforou

There are lessons to be learned for businesses in Barack Obama's inaugural address, which was a call for restoring trust in government and a promise for an era of responsibility towards hard times.

There is no doubt that the financial crisis has intensified a continuous decline of consumer trust towards businesses, and Obama's words are guiding light on what people of this new era want and expect from institutions. In his own words, 'the world has changed, and we must change with it'.

'Responsibility' is the key word, which he repeated over and over. Businesses, as part of the market system, can still be a 'force for good', if the 'greed and irresponsibility of some' can be taken out of business culture. Obama hinted that the market might need a 'watchful eye' in order not to spin out of control again, but hopefully increased regulation and mandatory codes of conduct is something businesses can avoid by being responsible and increasing trust from all their stakeholders.

Obama was explicit in mentioning our responsibility towards the environment and the world's resources with regard to our impacts and consequences. He mentioned energy use, along with health care and education, as an important challenge ahead. He talked of 'further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet', and promised to 'harness the sun and the wind and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories', in order to 'roll back the spectre of warming the planet'.

It will be interesting to see how much of this commitment becomes action, but nevertheless, the reasoning and sagacity of his words is enough for businesses to take them on board.

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