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John Watson donation an inspiration for all in business

Last week wasn’t the best for the champions of business. As one scandal edged closer to an end the extent of another slowly began to emerge.   The Financial Conduct Authority laid out proposals to set a 2018 deadline for claims for Payment Protection Insurance which could cost the banking industry north of £26bn to settle. 

At the same time the scale of the provision that Volkswagen may have to make to deal with the fallout from its falsified emissions scandal could end up being much the same. Two trusted institutions in banking and in the German car industry have let customers down and customers may well turn out to have very long memories. 

When I studied for an MBA back in the early 1990s I don’t recall much content on business ethics. Then there was some evidence published in the Journal of Business Ethics back in 2007 that the majority of the top 50 global MBAs had since introduced material covering ethics, corporate responsibility or sustainable development. 

Nowadays I would be surprised to find an MBA programme that doesn’t include this issue. The sheer scale of the damage that can be caused by unethical practices means it is far from a peripheral issue. 

So it was especially cheering to be presented with very clear evidence last Thursday evening at the Glasgow Business Awards that social responsibility is alive and well in a very traditional form here in Glasgow. 

John Watson sold his family printing business last year so that he could retire. He led that business for 48 years through some of the most dramatic technical challenges printing has faced since its invention over 500 years ago. It hasn’t been an easy business life. 

Since retiral he has been making several large donations to causes he feels are important to his family and to the city.   

The Chamber was delighted to receive a cheque for £100,000 at the Awards ceremony.   John set us a challenge to use the money to invest in helping growing young businesses in Glasgow who might become the corporate giants of the future. 

As he presented the cheque to Chamber President Vic Emery, he drew on the example of Andrew Carnegie as his personal inspiration. He felt keenly his own responsibility to give back to society from the gains of a successful business career.   Amongst the business folk of Glasgow I know he is not alone. 

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