A packed audience of around 200 Oxfordshire business leaders were given an insight into how the John Lewis Partnership puts the happiness of its Partners (staff) at the centre of its business, at a high-profile OCF event in Oxford this week.

Former Managing Director of John Lewis, Andy Street CBE, who built a 31-year career at the partnership, was speaking at Saïd Business School at an ethical business breakfast run by OCF’s responsible business group Reciprocate, and sponsored by Oxford recruitment consultancy Allen Associates.

Andy described the John Lewis Partnership’s structure as an elected representative democracy where all employees are Partners, have a stake in the profits and are rewarded for their performance. He explained that staff happiness is the First Principle of the Partnership’s constitution, based on the vision set out by founder John Spedan Lewis, and how those values had transformed a family-run business in London into today’s modern retail business. Watch John Spedan Lewis talking about the approach in the 1960s

Jayne Woodley, Chief Executive at Oxfordshire Community Foundation, whose responsible business group, Reciprocate, brought the event to Oxford, said: “I cannot think of anyone better to talk to us about genuine partnership in business than Andy Street, who spent almost a decade at the helm of John Lewis. The role of Reciprocate is to help businesses bring passion and purpose to their corporate social responsibility. I’m confident that Andy’s speech will have inspired many to think differently about how they engage with their staff, local communities and good causes, and the sound reasons why a more ethical approach makes good business sense.”

Kate Allen, managing director at Allen Associates and one of the founding members of Reciprocate, said: “Andy Street’s talk was truly inspirational and spoke to the values that many of us regard as the cornerstones of good business practice. John Lewis’ ethos of encouraging everyone to pull together for mutual benefit really resonated with me and is something that small businesses as well as large companies can learn from. Of course, implementing change is never easy, but it starts with small steps and a clear goal. A whole new generation of workers and leaders of the future are helping to drive change, as we know from our work in matching candidates with the right employers. Now more than ever, they want to work for businesses with a sustainable and ethical approach.”

View photos of the event

John Lewis is due to open a flagship store at the new Westgate Shopping Centre in central Oxford in October.

Find out more about our Reciprocate responsible business group