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The Debate on Globalisation

Originally Published 07 December 2001

 An invited audience from business and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) gathered in the centre of Birmingham on 5th November for the latest in the successful Warwick Debate series. The Warwick Debates and the Warwick Policy Briefings are events, organised by the University, and supported by the Financial Times, bringing together opinion formers to examine issues of national and international importance. It would be difficult to get more international than this Warwick Debate with its topic entitled Globalisation: problem or opportunity?

Held in the Conference Suite of The Birmingham Rep in the city's Centenary Square, the debate was organised as one of the events available to delegates of this year's CBI conference in Birmingham. The invited guests put a range of questions to a panel including Anita Roddick OBE, Professor Howard Thomas (Dean of Warwick Business School), Mark Godyer (Director, Centre for Tomorrow's Company), and Sandra Macleod (Chief Executive of Echo Research), which was chaired by James Harding, the media correspondent of the Financial Times.

Before the debate those attending were presented by Echo Research, on behalf of the University, with a list of the possible key influences on company policy including: customers, the local community, anti-globalisation protestors, etc, and were then asked to state which groups they pay the most attention to when forming corporate plans and actions. Unsurprisingly the analysis of the results by Echo suggested that the customer remains king with over 80% of companies ranking their customers as the top influence but  " much more surprisingly" anti-globalisation protestors actually came bottom of the list of most important influences. They were ranked below employees, Government, shareholders, local communities, and even NGOs. Only 1% of companies polled ranked anti-globalisation protesters as a major influence on their business strategy.

The Warwick Debate was informed by discussions that took place at a public lecture at the University given by Lord Browne of Madingley, Chief Executive of BP plc on 31 October. Lord Browne spoke on "Globalisation - the next Agenda" and BP's approach to globalisation, focusing on social investment and relatively small schemes close to areas in which BP works. "Such schemes are designed to support individuals and communities by offering them the chance to develop their own talents. Giving them access to knowledge and technology provides real examples of human progress achieved in many cases by simply opening a door to the world of global knowledge."