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Saturday, 2nd December 2023
Diverse Ethics - Atul Shah - Wisdom Blog

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Greetings, Namaste and Merry Christmas,

As the world teems with violence and uncertainty, and as the rich get richer (without much effort) and the poor get weakened by global finance, inequality and property prices, I pen my reflections. I am truly grateful to my mentors Lynne Sedgmore CBE and Jim Harding for guiding me and encouraging in my career over the years. One important thing I learnt from them was that leadership is necessary if we are to change the world, and humility is critical to making an impact and influencing others.

For me, it has been a very eventful year on the research, teaching and education fronts. Sir Anthony Seldon, the famous British educationist, visiting my University said that ‘education is the best profession and has been throughout human history.’ He said the teacher should take pride in their work, and transmit this enthusiasm to inspire the mind, body and spirit of their students, for learning is the best gift one can give. Culture and values are central to education. I have spent the year writing a series of articles on ethical finance, and presenting my research at conferences, and also engaging in reform and policy arenas. The findings show that the ethical teacher is rare in this world, and their work is really cut out, especially in the area of finance, where exploitation and abuse are the common behaviours. Tax avoidance and evasion are rampant, even though everyone relies on and benefits from a good state which provides safety, transport, education, security, health – so many things which would really break society if it were not supplied. I was honoured to have worked with Tax Justice Network and Tax Research – organisations which have been at the forefront of raising awareness about Tax fraud and justice. I was also appointed an advisor to the global Fair Tax Mark, a unique initiative to transform corporate behaviour.

Sadly, fewer and fewer people today want to join the teaching profession, as its financial returns cannot help them get rich quick or buy a property where they can reside. If this continues, who will teach your grandchildren and future generations? I find teaching to be very empowering and challenging, an opportunity to also enrich my own learning. Rich business leaders need to direct their philanthropy towards education and help open horizons for future generations. Here are links to the research I have presented at various conferences in the last year.

In the area of inter-cultural communications, I have continued to remain active, by organising field trips for leaders, helping my local Hindu community engage with leaders from different cultures, and speaking on UN Human Rights Day. It was an honour to meet Nipun Mehta from California at a retreat in London, and learn from this giant of a visionary in building ethical inclusive communities and inspiring them. The Economist recently labelled Gujaratis as the world's best entrepreneurs. It made me proud of my heritage, and also proved that business schools need to pro-actively teach culture and its relationship to enterprise.

I am surprised to discover that too many leaders are very culturally illiterate, and very few can step out of their skin and empathise with people from different faiths and cultures. Ethical crises are caused by leaders who are selfish and unreflective, and culturally parochial. This must change for us to establish more peace and harmony in the world. Even education needs to be culturally rich and sensitive, and sadly too few theories in the social sciences incorporate cultural diversity, and too often teaching is ‘culturally neutral’ and hides the real cultural biases behind the teaching and research. Dr. Prakash Shah’s latest book on Caste is a must read for those of us who want to understand how India was classified, divided and rules. Such theories have caused havoc in finance, as I explained when speaking at the Indian Institute of Management in September 2015. Whilst there, I learnt a lot from my host Mr. Sunil Jain, who is the Chief of Police in Meghalaya and a pioneering public leader with vast experience and wisdom on social cohesion.

Following on from my pioneering research on Boardroom Diversity, I am sure that such positions are closed precisely because of the greed and insecurity of the existing leaders, who want to hold on to their power and reduce challenge. Cultural difference is a serious threat to such people, and they don’t even realise that mono-culture is what leads to rot at the centre of power. There is too much hypocrisy, and leaders do not even see that their actions do not reflect their words. Women and minorities rarely get a look in when it comes to leadership.

I am really excited to work with Dr. Aidan Rankin on our new book on Ethical Finance for Routledge, which draws from Jain ethics and philosophy. This book opens new ways of thinking about finance, and practicing it sustainably. When the book is finished, we plan to tour around the world with it, and your help in this area would be much appreciated – funding for the research and promotion would be very welcome. We want it to transform whole communities and economies, and are very keen to engage with the media. The Jains have a long history and experience of ethical finance, and a rich philosophy of detachment and non-possessiveness, which provides rare insights into sustainable development and finance.

This newsletter will reach over 2000 people all over the world. I am very active on Twitter and you can easily follow me @atulkshah -in this way you get to see the new articles and developments of interest very quickly. We wish you all an excellent 2016 and pray that you will get more strength to shape a harmonious world, within and without. Your comments or observations are most welcome.

Article added on 24th December 2015 at 5:40pm