09 February, 2022

People, Education and Ethical Business


The greatest asset of our country is its people. This has always been the case and is even more so today when progress is measured in terms of the creation and application of knowledge, success at absorbing new technologies, the attainment of environmental sustainability goals, and the implementation of good governance practices. All this requires high calibre human resources.

It is for this reason that The Malta Chamber is engaged in promoting improvements in education for the future and in fostering closer relations with those entities that are involved in research and higher education, notably the University of Malta and the Malta College of Arts Science and Technology (MCAST). In our policy document for a National Workforce Strategy published in August 2021, we proposed 56 recommendations directed at attracting, retaining, upskilling, and nurturing talent to improve Malta’s competitiveness. We must incentivise active labour market participation; contain the risks of excessive labour turnover and brain drain; identify critical skills gaps and address them through upskilling and sustainable sourcing of foreign labour; and use all resources available to us to develop better foresight of our labour market. The latter requires that we have a holistic and dynamic economic vision that provides direction and responds to changing domestic scenarios and international developments, whether political, economic, environmental or health-related.

One scenario that has changed substantially over the last couple of years is the world of work.The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the absorption of remote working technologies by businesses that had to find a way of adapting to social distancing challenges. The learning curve was steep, but those businesses that managed to drive digitalisation systematically and pragmatically through their organisations performed much better than competitors who were unprepared and slow to respond.

The lessons for the future of work are there for all to take away: build your organisation on the best people you can possibly find; keep abreast with technology and make sure you are able to harness it before your competitors; take a risk-based approach to decision-making and keep in mind that the long-term target is sustainability. When we look at countries that are doing well no matter their size, we find that they invest heavily in people and technology, try to mitigate their impact on the planet and pursue high value-added activities. Way back in 1994, the triple bottom line accounting framework was proposed, featuring the 3Ps of People, Planet, and Profit. Twenty-five years on, we are moving towards ESG reporting, where we will be obliged to look at the environmental, social and governance aspects of organisations. The inclusion of governance along side the environmental and social aspects of business is an important development that is of pertinence to Malta, as several of our recent challenges as a country were rooted in weak governance.

A well-educated population is able to value good governance, and to balance economic prosperity with wellbeing and the quality of life. Uneven progress in educational attainment threatens social cohesion and can be dangerous in a democracy. Prosperity without consistent progress in educational attainment is particularly dangerous because wealth provides the means to undertake initiatives but not the value set that enables decision-making that safeguards the common good and long-term sustainability. As we approach the next general election, let us all remind ourselves of our responsibility to engage in the democratic process with decency, reasonableness, and objectivity. As the foremost business organisation in the country, our mission is clear: to be the true voice of ethical business.

This article was first published in The Malta Chamber Economic Vision 2022.

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