Nuts! Whole hazel nuts!

Roger Carr, the Chairman of Cadbury’s, has admitted that job cuts and redundancies are ‘an inevitability’ following the American firm Kraft’s takeover of this, highly British, business institution. ‘Nothing wrong with that’ I hear you say, ‘takeovers are happening all the time and, indeed, Britain itself is involved in the economic existence of other nations and owns companies abroad’. Well, that’s true, but just let’s examine what might really be at stake here and what is about to be lost.

Cadbury’s, as we all know, was founded by a family who followed the Quaker credo. George Cadbury, the founder, was a  ‘classic Victorian philanthropist’ who wanted to create an enterprise in which the individual worker was valued and prized. So, the venture spawned one of the first Garden Suburbs at Bournville (still a gracious and very human place to live, like Port Sunlight and New Earswick in York). Here, the factory workers enjoyed unprecedented space and light in their homes and a standard of living that was unparallelled at the time. Sharing in the profit making business in this way involved them all in its future prosperity: they became empowered and engaged, and therefore, presumably, happier and more fulfilled.  Over the years, this ethos has been continued, and present day workers speak poignantly about the business: ‘it represented something big, British and powerful’ and, of its sale, ‘this is the saddest day of the decade’. As we speak, local people in Bournville fear for the loss of the village fete, youth and sporting activities, the swimming pool and park: just some of the local infrastructure supported by the Company.

And what’s sad about it? What’s sad is that, once again, a high moral and ethical ideal in the conduct of big business has been sacrificed for the naked profit of a group of individuals. What’s ironic about it? What’s ironic is that Cadbury’s, because of its pursuit of ethical and moral modes of commerce, is a vastly more successful and profitable concern than Kraft. What’s worrying? What’s worrying is that all of this, in the present climate of the western world, can be justified openly and that there can be an frank admission that people will lose their jobs, their livelihoods and their way of life.

It’s nuts! And it’s one more example of how the moral compass may have been lost, and we are all the prey of globalised business, with no concern for local communities or people and a seeming default mandate to pursue profit for profit’s sake without having to worry about the effect it has having on real people in real communities.

It’s nuts, whole hazel nuts!

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~ by Tim Ellis on January 20, 2010.

4 Responses to “Nuts! Whole hazel nuts!”

  1. Cadburys was once a company which was created owned and run by a high principled family. However, that came to an end when the family made the company a public company and possibly because of the personal wealth that they would accrue, sold their shares to the general public. That is when the essence of the company and its fine ideals were sold. Not now, all that is happening now is that the public share ownership is changing and it can just as easily change back. So the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth are much much too late.

    Why did Kraft want Cadburys? In my view, Kraft see Cadburys as a way of getting access to the increasingly important and lucrative EU market. A companny in aother EU member state would have done just as well but other member state governments are comparatively ‘difficult’ about the acquisition of their companies outside the EU!

    Perhaps the political parties should decide whether they wish to be equally difficult?

    I recall that Cadburys had trouble a couple of years back with the EU Commission over whether their products could be described as chocolate. If that is true then maybe Kraft as part of their entry into the EU chocolate market may indeed discontinue products which cannot be easily marketed.

    There are many other british companies whose public shares have been bought by non-british companies, as was spelled out in the Questiontime debate last night.

    British companies who cannot and will not compete do not offer much security or future to their shareholders and shareholders will sell.

    On the other hand there are other well managed British companies who have bought and continue to buy public companies around the world where their judgement is that this is in the best interests of their shareholders

    It seems that the board did not want to compete anymore

  2. Sorry, you don’t hear me say “What’s wrong with that”.

    In this takeover we can be sure Kraft always intended to close down the Bristol factory, although they lied about it when the takeover was first mooted. Corporate lying seems to be different to normal lying (such as you and I may be tempted to do from time to time, well me anyway, since Bishops don’t lie). Corporate lying is OK because it is about making money where another set of rules seem to apply . I think it’s called the ‘bottom line’ by accountants and it overrules any other considerations such as loyal employees being thrown out of work – after all they are only people whereas the corporate bosses are Kings of the Universe. This is the fault line running through Capitalism and occasionally it erupts as an earthquake as in the Credit Crunch. But those guys always seem to come out smiling, bonuses intact. Will Capitalism ever again meet its Nemesis, Communism, or will people always aspire to rise to the top at the expense of other (lesser) people. Human nature I guess – what a depressing thought!!

  3. I left a response to “Nuts, whole hazel nuts” but it seems to have been ejected into cyber space – didn’t you like it? Really I was agreeing with you but I guess my reference to sinless bishops may have rankled. Sorry. I need to remember how Christians do not react well to ideas outside their own private interpretation of Christianity which is largely a mystery to us outsiders.

  4. Sorry I was a bit quick off the mark there. Feeling a bit paranoid at the moment, apologies. My faith is in shreds. Thanks for your kind and forgiving reply, Barry

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