Putting the heart back into business

Money may make the world go around but as the Beatles sang, “Money can’t buy you love”. That’s certainly true when it comes to employees, it’s rarely about the money and often about how the business treats them.


“When success is defined by money and power, we forget that employees are people.”

Heart in Business is a new initiative launched by Andrew Thornton, a name well known in the retail food industry. The philosophy behind the Heart in Business programme (http://heartinbusiness.org/andrew-thornton-heart-programme-works) is a move away from the current corporate mindset, which puts quarterly profit above everything else, to putting as much value on people, community, environment and real values.

It is also about thinking long term, not short term as so many big businesses do, especially since the recession.

Unhappy staff make for unhappy customers.

A shocking fact is that we spend almost half of our life in work yet 87% feel emotionally disconnected from work, according to a recent research by Gallop. Research by recruitment firm Randstad claims a third of us are unhappy with our jobs.

With so many schemes about to engage your work force, to motivate and inspire them, you have to wonder why so many businesses fail to make employees feel good about the business. And if employees feel bad, customers pick that up.

Just visit B&Q and then Homebase, in one you’ll find older staff who are valued for their experience and knowledge who in turn are helpful and courteous, in the other you get underpaid juniors who feel used and couldn’t care less. Well that’s my experience.

Andrew Thornton, regarded by many as a thought leader in retail believes that staff need a purpose, “Staff don’t work to put big profits into shareholder’s pockets, there’s no purpose in that, but working for people and the planet is a purpose.”

He believes that if you have content, engaged staff this will carry through to customers and together this will deliver a better, more successful business.

“If your staff feel emotionally connected they work better, are more efficient, input more, work better as a team, especially in moments of crisis, and engage customers better.”


Lovemarks vs purposemarks

Back in the 90’s Kevin Roberts talked about ‘Lovemarks’, but a love brand is much more of a conceptual idea and it’s unrealistic to expect staff and consumers to love many everyday brands, especially as consumers are fickle, as Tesco has discovered. I would bet if they could get an honest answer their staff could not define a purpose or feel engaged, it’s a business driven by shareholders always looking for the next dollar.

Thornton is a pioneer in the world of ethics and retail, a man who literally put his money where his mouth was when he took over two branches of Budgen’s from the Musgrave Group and tripled the number of ethical products people buy. He has also helped a lot of small ethical brands get their first listings.

Proving the business case and escaping the profit addiction.

He has challenge myths like open fridges because the industry believed that if you put on doors people would buy less. Thornton did exactly that and proved the opposite whilst saving 50% of energy. Apply that to every supermarket across the UK and it all adds up to a big energy saving which is good for the environment.” I believe we have a moral duty to protect the planet,” says Thornton.

Thornton is a beacon to others when it comes to ethics and community, he is very active within his local communities and sees his retail units as part of the community not just servicing them.


Above the door you see the line “The community supermarket that really cares”, if this was on any other supermarket like Tesco it’d just be a marketing slogan, but on as Thornton’s Budgen it’s a belief system.

In Crouch End he started Food from the Skies, a roof based garden above Budgen’s that connecting people with real natural food and the business with the community.

Globally we waste almost 30-50% of all food produced and in the UK that’s 15m tonnes a year. Thornton’ passes unsold edible food to homeless charities rather than sending it to landfill. He argues that many of the extra costs companies may face treating staff with more respect and giving a company more purpose is offset by environmental saving.

The Triple Bottom Line

It’s obvious that Thornton is as smart a businesses man, as he is a champion for good values and a practitioner of the Triple Bottom Line – People, Planet & Profit (also known as the ‘three pillars of sustainability’). The TBL idea was coined by John Elkington back in 1994 as a more responsible way for businesses to operate, instead of just focusing on the bottom line (profits). Elkington argued that businesses need to balance the three. His ideas are not actually new, if you look at Quaker and Islamic businesses principles (and many others) a businesses is equally judged by what contribution it makes to society, not just, as in the West, what it makes to shareholders.

Having a purpose, not just a mission statement

It is surprising how many companies have abstract or clichéd mission statements but when asked “what is your purpose” you will probably meet a wall of silence.

Founders of Howies, (and ex Saatchi ad people) David and Clare Hieatt are well known for their ethical clothing brand. But when David took over an old jean factory in Cardigan in Wales and launched a new designer range of jeans, Hiut Denim, he launched it with a purpose –  “our town is going to make jeans again.”

He, like Thornton, believes companies need to have a purpose and it is this purpose that will engage not only your staff but the customer as well.

So if you are a MD of a brand, forget lovemarks, it’s more a purposemark your brand needs to be.


The Heart of Business Programme



Huit Denin