Quaker Business People
February 1, 2013 9 Comments
“Look at the Quakers – they were excellent business people that never lied, never stole; they cared for their employees and the community which gave them the wealth. They never took more money out than they put back in.”-Anita Roddick
In England the Quakers have the reputation on being good business people.So who are the Quakers?
A Quaker is a member of the Religious Society of Friends, a Christian sect founded by the English religious leader George Fox (1624-91) in about 1650, whose central belief is the doctrine of the Inner Light. Quakers reject sacraments, ritual, and formal ministry, hold meetings at which any member may speak, and have promoted many causes for social reform.Quakers do not share a fixed set of beliefs but they do try to uphold a set of values, which they call testimonies, around themes such as truth and equality.
As they were not Anglican,they were in the past excluded from certain aspects of public life .In the 18th and 19th Century they couldn’t go into the military or the church, they were excluded from politics and couldn’t take a degree so were excluded from the professions ,so they found themselves going into industry.
Famous Quaker business people, we in India would recognize, are George Cadbury and Joseph Rowntree. They were in their time captains of industry and their names are synonymous with the industrial revolution and the history of British business.They were also known for their honesty and paternalistic way of caring for their workforce which stemmed from their Quaker beliefs.
When Quakers went into business they tried to uphold the testimonies.So they earned a reputation for honesty and fair dealing which led to their success.Their measures were very good – decent beer was a good alternative to bad gin. Their beer wasn’t watered down; there was no sawdust in their flour or brick dust in their chocolate,common sharp practices in their time.
Another reason for the Quaker’s success was because they were close-knit.Persecution made them determined to help each other out.They supported each other and were also critical of each other ensuring they maintained high standards in their work. In fact a Quaker could be disowned if he was declared bankrupt.Quaker business families also inter-married and so maintained their close-knit character.
However today there aren’t famous Quaker captains of industry but there are small firms run along Quaker lines and there are successful Quakers in business.Some famous Quaker families turned Anglican to fit in better with the other business elites in England.Other major Quaker family firms have been taken over.As Quakers didn’t wring every last penny out of a business so they were appealing companies to be taken over.However many former Quaker companies still exist, including manufacturers Cadbury, Rowntree, Fry’s , Clarks, Barclays and Lloyds.
Moreover,as universities were thrown open to Quakers many became teachers and doctors.However they are still a force to be reckoned with in the non-governmental space. Greenpeace, Amnesty International, Oxfam, Anti-Slavery International, Campaign Against Arms Trade and Circles of Support and Accountability were set up by Quakers.