Sayings for Perspective

The following quotes can inspire, challenge and provoke, as well as inform. They are offered on their own merits; they do not necessarily reflect the thinking of Transforming Business.

Feel free to use them in your own work - one good quote can be as effective as ten arguments!

Quotable Quotes

'Poverty is the deprivation of opportunity.' Prof Amartya Sen, Nobel economics laureate.


'We have the knowledge, resources, and capabilities to make global capitalism work in a more inclusive and socially responsible manner while retaining – indeed enhancing – its economic benefits.' John Dunning, Professor of International Business, Universities of Reading (UK) and Rutgers (USA)


'Nobody talks of entrepreneurship as survival, but that's exactly what it is and what nurtures creative thinking.' Dame Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop.


'Companies have to wake up to the fact that they are more than a product on a shelf. They're behaviour as well' Robert Haas, Levi Strauss.


'Business cannot succeed in societies that fail. Likewise, where and when business is stifled, societies fail to thrive.' Björn Stigson, President, WBCSD.


'One should not withdraw from individuals and commit to the community what they can accomplish by their own enterprise and industry' Pope Pius XI in Quadragesimo Anno.


'I want to be a trader because it's a good profession. I can earn money. I want to sell biscuits, chocolate and sugar.' Sintayhu Shewatatik, a nine-year-old Ethiopian boy.


'Spirituality...is the new resource for business creativity, personal leadership, and social harmony. It is regularly enlisted to empower the manager to be a better person, create a better business, and contribute to a better society.' Prof Laura Nash, Harvard Business School.


'Man was not made for the service of economies; economies were made to serve mankind; and men and women were made – so we believe – to serve one another, not just ourselves.' Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi.


'The future is not inevitable. We can influence it, if we know what we want it to be.' Charles Handy, business guru.


'Economics is (now) about emotion and psychology.' Robert Shiller, Professor of Economics, Yale University.


.'Business is the most powerful institution on earth today. It is more powerful than politics. Business serves us very well in some ways, but it doesn't serve us as fully as it should; it doesn't serve us fully as people.' Michael Rennie, Director, McKinsey & Co.


'Personal risk is the mainspring of entrepreneurial energy. The entrepreneur is not motivated by profit, but by a primitive survival impulse. If the business goes, so do you. And your car. And your house. Profit is what stops you ending up on the street.' Hugh Rayment-Pickard, Area Dean of Kensington


'Business is good for development and development is good for business'. World Business Council for Sustainable Development.


'Private businesses are important partners in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Long-term poverty reduction in developing countries will not happen without sustained economic growth, which requires a vibrant private sector.' The Sachs report, Investing in Development: A Practical Plan to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals.


'My husband is unemployed and we did not have enough money to send our two sons to school. Now they can attend because I earn my own income. Every day I prepare traditional Venezuelan desserts. I sell these around town and I earn some money. At the moment I am participating in the Women's Bank/ConocoPhilips capacity programme and I am improving my skills for running my own business.' Tomasa Oncoré, microentrepreneur, Venezuela.


'The costs associated with crime, corruption, over-regulation, weak contract enforcement and inadequate infrastructure [in developing countries] can amount to over a quarter of company turnover, or more than three times what companies typically pay in tax.' World Bank, World Development Report 2005: A Better Investment Climate for Everyone


'Economics, as it has emerged, can be made more productive by paying greater and more explicit attention to the ethical considerations that shape human behaviour and judgment.' Prof Amartya Sen, Nobel Prize Laureate in Economics.


'The limited liability corporation is the single greatest discovery of modern times; even steam and electricity are far less important.' Nicolas Butler, President of Columbia University, in 1911.


'We are in the presence of a new organization of society. Our life has broken away from the past.' Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States, on the rise of the corporation, in 1912.


'There is an alternative to terror. It is called, in the political order, democracy. In the economic order, it is called the dynamic enterprise economy. (...) It empowers poor people from the bottom up. (...) A dynamic economic sector is the poor's best hope of escaping the prison of poverty. It is the only system so far known to human beings to take poor people and make them, quite soon, middle class, and some of them even (horrors!) rich.' Prof Michael Novak, American Enterprise Institute.


'There is no single policy to which one can point and say – this built the Morris business. I should think I must have made not less than one thousand decisions in each of the last ten years. The success of a business is the result of the proportion of right decisions by the executive in charge.' William Morris (Viscount Nuffield), car manufacturer, in 1924.


'Failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.' Jim Rohn, business writer and entrepreneur.


'It is because business executives recognize the need for business principles and an explicit set of values at the heart of their companies that companies have become such important carriers of values in our society'. Brian Griffiths (Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach), Vice Chairman, Goldman Sachs.


'Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. You can be that generation.' Nelson Mandela.


'Without applying business eyes and business thinking, development will fail. Kurt Hoffman, Director, Shell Foundation.


'Let us choose to unite the power of markets with the authority of universal ideals. Let us choose to reconcile the creative forces of private entrepreneurship with the needs of the disadvantaged and the requirements of future generations.' Kofi Annan.


'Global poverty as we see it today - the billion plus people that live on less than a dollar a day - it totally unacceptable to any Christian.' Lord Brian Griffiths, Goldman Sachs.


'Be the change you wish to see in the world.' Mahatma Gandhi


'All business and all business leaders – for good or ill - are engaged in processes which underpin values in human behaviour.' Robert Davies, CEO, Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum.


'When you get a mobile phone it is almost like having a card to get you out of poverty in a couple of years.' Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank and Grameen Phone in Bangladesh.


'Soul-friendly companies...have always existed, but it is now, in this time of stress and turbulent change, that they are emerging as leaders with something extraordinary to offer the world, a way of working that uses spiritual principles to achieve success.' Georgeanne Lamont, author of Spirited Business.


'Values cannot be speedily forgotten if it is inconvenient or commercially expedient. Values have to have meaning and longevity; otherwise they are valueless. You cannot embrace innovation up to a point or only sometimes. Branding demands commitment; commitment to continual re-invention; striking cords with people to stir their emotions; and commitment to imagination. It is easy to be cynical about such things, much harder to be successful.' Sir Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin.


'To me, business isn't about wearing suits or pleasing stockholders. It's about being true to yourself, your ideas and focusing on the essentials'. Richard Branson, Chairman, Virgin.


'More and more countries of the world have decided that corporations do a better job of generating and deploying capital than do states.' Prof Max Stackhouse, Princeton.


'I believe that companies, doing business in a responsible and sustainable way, can help raise the quality of life and standards of living in some of the poorest parts of the world' Anthony Burgmans, Chairman, Unilever.


'Nimble, responsive, and without restraint, yet thoughtful, informed, and ever responsible. While our approach may seem a paradox to some, this is the entrepreneurial way - the hallmark of innovative thinking and a springboard for transformative ideas.' The Kauffman Thoughtbook 2005.


'In theory, practice and common sense terms.most routes out of poverty start with enterprise' Kurt Hoffman, Director, Shell Foundation.


'Development in emerging markets cannot succeed without business. Conversely, business cannot succeed without an active and engaged civil society, committed to holistic solutions, and most importantly relentlessly pursuing active partnerships with business.' W. Robert de Jongh, Latin America Regional Director, SNV (a Netherlands-based international development organization).


'NGOs are now turning to market forces as a catalyst for change' Claude Martin, Executive Director, WWF.


'The constraints on developing a sustainable private sector are widely known – and generally accepted.(.) Now the focus must shift from determining what the constraints are to how they are to be lifted and who is to lift them.' UNDP, Unleashing Entrepreneurship: Making Business Work for the Poor.


'Governments must take on the central role of creating an investment climate across Africa that supports enterprise and the role of the private sector and provides a clear and predictable economic policy framework for business to succeed.' Jeroen van de Veer, CEO, Shell.


'I shop, therefore I am.' Sure, it's satire, but there's a grain of truth here. Without buying and selling – without trade between one person and another or one country and another – we're all of us much more likely to be, well, poor. Trade Matters in the Fight Against Poverty, UK Government's Department of International Development (DFID).


'The future of Africa lies not with external actors but within Africa itself. The future of Africa lies here in Africa.' Paul Boateng, British High Commissioner to South Africa.


'The developed world has a moral duty – as well as a powerful motive of self-interest – to assist Africa. We believe that now is the time when greater external support can have a major impact and this is a vital moment for the world to get behind Africa's efforts.' Our Common Interest, report of the Commission for Africa.


'It would appear that, on the level of individual nations and of international relations,] the free market is the most efficient instrument for utilizing resources and effectively responding to needs.' Pope John Paul II in Centesimus Annus.


'I am frankly enraged that business people continue to be assigned the role of moral menials.' Prof Laura Nash, Harvard Business School.


'I think that because this is a moral universe, then right will prevail, goodness will prevail, compassion will prevail, laughter will prevail, love, caring, sharing will prevail. Because we are made for goodness. We are made for love.' Desmond Tutu, former Archbishop of Cape Town.


'Doing well and doing good are not opposites, they're companions.' Dave Olsen, Senior VP, Starbucks.


'Civil society rests on moral relationships. They are covenantal rather than contractual. They are brought about not by governments but by us a husbands and wives, parents, friends and citizens, and by the knowledge of what we do and what we are makes a difference to those around us. (...) Renewing society's resources of moral energy is the program, urgent but achievable.' Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi.


'Millions of people in the world's poorest countries remain enslaved by the chains of poverty. It is time to set them free.' Nelson Mandela.


'The poverty problems faced by the world demand resources that far exceed those generated by either public funds or charity.' Allan Bussard, CEO, Integra Ventures.


'In an age of interdependence, global citizenship - based on trust and sense of shared responsibility - is a crucial pillar of progress. At a time when more than one billion people are denied the very minimum requirements of human dignity, business cannot afford to be seen as the problem. Rather, it must work with governments and all other actors in society to mobilize global science, technology and knowledge to tackle the interlocking crises of hunger, disease, environmental degradation and conflict that are holding back the developing world.' Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General.


'Where there is no bread, there is no law; where there is no law, there is no bread.' Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah (ca 90 CE - ca 155 CE).


'Aid is the process by which the poor in rich countries subsidize the rich in poor countries.' Prof Peter Bauer (1915-2002), development economist.


'Aid can be immensely effective in leveraging higher private investment into developing countries. If a significant proportion of overseas development aid can be devoted to creating the right environment for business, capital flows into developing countries could grow significantly.' WBSC, Business for Development.


'I can't express in words how happy I am. Not long ago I was almost begging for money to feed my family. Today, I've got my own house and enough money to feed my children and send them to school.' Gulbadan Nesa, a Bangladeshi mother who started a business with a micro-loan from the Grameen Bank.


'Hope, even more than necessity, is the mother of invention.' Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.


'There's no such thing as no chance.' Henry Ford.


'An enterprising person is one who comes across a pile of scrap metal and sees the making of a wonderful sculpture. An enterprising person is one who drives through an old decrepit part of town and sees a new housing development. An enterprising person is one who sees opportunity in all areas of life.' Jim Rohn, business author.


'Saying something's impossible is merely an excuse not to try.' Anon.


'No one can guarantee you a job other than satisfied customers. That's the only thing that works. Nothing creates work other than products and services you provide that create satisfied customers.' Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric.


You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
You cannot further the brotherhood of man by encouraging class hatred.
You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn.
You cannot build character and courage by taking away man's initiative and independence.
You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves. Abraham Lincoln.


'The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we stand as in what direction we are heading.' Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.


'There are some things one can only achieve by a deliberate leap in the opposite direction.' Franz Kafka.


'Private firms are at the heart of the development process. Driven by the quest for profits, firms of all types - from farmers and micro-entrepreneurs to local manufacturing companies and multinational enterprises - invest in new ideas and new facilities that strengthen the foundation of economic growth and prosperity. They provide more than 90% of jobs - creating opportunity for people to apply their talents and improve their situations. They provide the goods and services needed to sustain life and improve living standards. They are also the main source of tax revenues, contributing to public funding for health, education and other services. Firms are thus central actors in the quest for growth and poverty reduction.' World Bank, World Development Report 2005.


'Developing countries present a real opportunity for sustainable consumption. There, we can start from a clean slate and develop appropriate products and services that serve people's needs in a more efficient, integrated way.' Paul Meyer, CEO, Voxiva.


'On the NGO side, we are witnessing a shift of understanding of the potential to work with business.' Mike Aaronson, Director, Save the Children.


'Economic history is the most fundamental branch of history; not the most important. Foundations exist to carry better things.' Sir John Clapham (1873-1946), Professor of Economic History at Cambridge.


'Human beings are not things needing to be motivated and controlled; they are four dimensional - body, mind, heart, and spirit.' Stephen Covey, best-selling business author.


'The forces, movements, and energies that today we call religious, spiritual, or faith-based have related through the ages in diverse ways to the spheres of life that today we call economic and that we see embodied in business and commerce.' Prof Martin Marty, University of Chicago.


'By refusing the teach students about ethics, we abandon an important part of our historical mission. Society needs graduates who have at least a basic sense of ethics.' Steven Schwartz, VC of Brunel University, addressing the National Conference of University Professors, January 2005.


'There is a continuum that runs from character to productivity. Who you are and what you believe make a difference to those who look to you for leadership. The values you live will reach the bottom line of your company.' Walter Wright, business writer.


'Liberty is not the power of doing what we like, but the right of being able to do what we ought.' Lord Acton.


'Within the character of the citizen, lies the welfare of the nation.' Cicero (106 BC - 43 BC).


'The ultimate is not to win, but to reach within the depths of your capabilities and to compete against yourself.' Billy Mills, Olympic Gold Medallist in 1964.


'If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that, if it is comfort or money it values more, it will lose that too. William Somerset Maugham, English playwright and novelist, in 1941. 


'Extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice...Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.' Barry Morris Goldwater, candidate for US presidency, 1964.


'If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.' William Wilberforce.


"What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us." Ralph Waldo Emerson


"He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how." Friedrich Nietzsche


"If we are to be really great people, we must strive in good faith to play a great part in the world. We cannot avoid meeting great issues. All that we can determine for ourselves is whether we shall meet them well or ill." Theodore Roosevelt


"Every great man is always being helped by everybody, for his gift is to get good out of all things and all persons." John Ruskin


'The ability to form organizations depends on institutions like property rights, contracts, and a system of commercial law. But it also depends on a prior sense of moral community, that is, an unwritten set of ethical rules or norms that serve as the basis of social trust'. Francis Fukuyama.


'A new consensus has emerged. This sees organizations as living systems in which relationships are much more important than structures and processes'. Tim Morgan, former CEO of the Industrial Society.


'We need to create the conditions in which people can make their own decisions and be responsible for their actions. That applies both outside the company as we try to be a force for good in society - and inside the company as we motivate people to think and act in a socially responsible manner.' Luc Vandevelde, former Chairman and CEO of Marks and Spencer.


'The pursuit of commerce reconciles nations, calms wars, strengthens peace, and commutes the private good of individuals into the common benefit of all. (...) Commerce penetrates the secret places of the world, approaches shores unseen, explores fearful wildernesses, and in tongues unknown...carries on the trade of mankind. Hugh of St Victor (1096-1141).


'There is no question that the world needs peace to prosper, and prosperity to have peace; that the quality of ecological and social environments have become inextricably dependent on the visions and strategies of business leaders.' Prof Nancy Adler, McGill University.


'Another name for peace is development.' Pope John Paul II.


'Poverty is pain; it feels like a disease. It attacks a person not only materially but also morally. It eats away one's dignity and drives one into total despair.' A poor woman in Moldova.


'If the cause of poverty is marginalization, the cure is inclusion.' Richard J Neuhaus.