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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 27 November, 2002, 10:14 GMT
Best of British business: Rowntree

BBC News Online is inviting readers to vote for Britain's greatest business figure. This is the case for Joseph Rowntree
There are plenty of good reasons to vote for Joseph Rowntree - but the Kitkat alone should convince you.

Joseph Rowntree
It's been the number one confectionery product in Britain for the past 16 years.

There's no doubt Joseph was a formidable businessman - when he joined his brother's cocoa works in York in 1869 the firm had 30 staff; when it was sold to Nestle in 1988 it had 12,000, and was worth 2.5bn.

But Joseph Rowntree's Quaker beliefs meant there was much more to the man than making money.

That didn't mean he just gave it away.

Pension fund

Like many of his contemporaries, he used it to try to cure the underlying causes of poverty and to cultivate self reliance.

So, he built a library, educated his younger workers and started a pension fund.

And 100 years ago he built New Earswick just north of York, a model in town planning. Each home had a south-facing living room, fitted cupboards, a larder and a generous garden planted with two fruit trees.

It is just one of Joseph Rowntree's legacies.

Changing our reality

Another foundation that he established still spends 7m a year on research into social policy.

But it is his philosophy that clinches it for me.

Joseph Rowntree believed we should, as he put it, "seek out the underlying causes of weakness" not just dole out money to the nearest soup kitchen.

He wasn't just a do-gooder. He believed that we construct our own reality and therefore we can change it.

And that's why I think Joseph Rowntree deserves your vote as Britain's greatest business figure.


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