What is CABE?
The Christian Association of Business Executives (CABE) is a fellowship of Christians in business life who share common concerns, offer mutual support and seek to promote the application of Christian principles in the working environment.
CABE aims to support Christians who work in business and commerce by exploring the relationship between the faith that they profess and the world in which they work. We affirm that the world of work is a valuable and necessary part of God’s creation and that in it Christians have a unique and special contribution to offer. In asserting the positive role to be filled by the world of business, CABE also calls upon individual Christians to bring the values and moral teachings of Christianity to bear upon the manner in which the business process is conducted.
Why Business Principles?
John McLean Fox (Chairman of CABE 2005-2009) describes himself as a “career management consultant” who had worked for many years with the PA Consulting Group, and an Anglican Christian who has also been a member of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis (commonly called a ‘tertiary’) since 1984. He and his wife Maria joined TSSF because they felt that being a member of this Franciscan community would help them to develop spiritually and so it has proved.
For a long while, John believed that his vocation, combined with an aim to operate as an effective management consultant, was to act as a bridge between organisational life, particularly business life, and the Church, or life as a Christian. He leads a small group within TSSF called ‘Market Place Franciscans’ that focuses on this aspect, and has met 3 times a year since 1987. Over the years he has tried to bring the Franciscan insights and experience gained to whatever work he has been involved with.
CABE’s main mission in earlier years was to develop and launch the Institute of Business Ethics (IBE, in 1986). Initially Christian, IBE gradually embraced a broader ethos and was registered as a Charity separate from CABE in 2000. John was at that time asked to lead a Working Group for CABE to explore the original Charity’s potential for addressing its specifically Christian objectives. This quest is continuing to the present day and has been quite a challenge, since CABE had a relatively small membership and needed to rediscover its purpose. Two members of this Group in particular, Clive Wright, Chair of SPCK, and John McLean Fox, were determined that CABE should find a new direction forward. They felt that the existence of a body that provided a focus for mutual support and encouragement to Christians in the business world was of paramount importance.
In pondering these requirements he was led to reflect on the Franciscan practice of Community Obedience which includes, each day, consideration of the ‘Principles for Daily Living’. These are contained within a concise booklet covering:
- The Society’s Object
- Its three aims: 1. To make our Lord known and loved everywhere. 2. To spread the spirit of love and harmony. 3. To live simply.
- Its three Ways of Service: Prayer, Study and Work.
- Its three Notes: Humility, Love and Joy.
He decided to draw up a similar set of principles that applied to Christians in business life, getting endorsement and approval for this approach to development from the CABE trustees.
The Franciscan Principles embrace the Christ-centred approach expressed by Francis throughout his life and ministry, so admired by countless people through the ages, including scholars Bonaventure, Duns Scotus and Bishop John Moorman. Tertiaries strive to follow Christ in the way of Francis, and the early drafts of the CABE Principles attempted to emulate this aspect closely. However, the themes and topics evolving have ended up in three groupings:
- Priority Aims
- Corporate Values
- Personal Qualities
John was joined in this work by fellow management consultant and CABE Trustee Patrick Lavin. They progressively modified the text, exchanging draft upon draft until they got close to a satisfactory outcome. They sought input from other CABE Trustees and checked the near-final version with Stephen Green, Chairman of HSBC, who made a number of suggestions for improving the text, and endorsed the idea of publishing the Principles.
The formal launch of Accessibility took place on 16 February 2006 at KPMG’s London HQ, when Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach gave them a stirring introduction, claiming that everyone in business should have a copy. An imaginative article in the Tablet by Lord Griffiths followed this launch, and the clamour this generated in Christian business circles led to a formal project being set up by CABE to further publicise and distribute the Principles more widely.
An interesting feature of the Principles is its similarity to the little red book ‘Conduct for the Rules of Life’ given to Liverymen when they are admitted a Freemen of the City of London; it is essentially a Christian document. Some values never become outmoded or obscure, and CABE’s task is to ensure that full attention is given to this modern version of such values from a Christian perspective.
CABE’s Principles were reviewed and updated in 2010 by CABE’s trustees led by Richard Higginson. Two new principles have been added “Prudence” and “Moderation“, particularly in light of the recent financial/economic crisis, and the categories have been refined to include “Responsibilities to Stakeholders“. It’s fair to say the Principles are as relevant to those in business as they were when they were launched!