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Ethical Reading celebrates award-winning essay

An organisation dedicated to making Reading a more ethical town hosted a prize-giving ceremony last week for its essay writing competition at the University of Reading.

Ethical Reading, a non-profit ‘Community Interest Company’, tasked University of Reading undergraduate students with writing an essay on ethics relevant to business. This competition, now in its second year, is funded by Grant Thornton UK LLP and NatWest.

Libby Blissett won first place with her essay on commercial surrogacy. Second prize went to Faris Al-Said, who wrote about resolving sweatshop labour issues.

On 28 June 2023, Libby was presented with a cheque for £300 in recognition of her insightful argument on an important topic. Representatives from Grant Thornton and NatWest were on hand to help the University of Reading’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Robert Van de Noort, present the first-prize award.

Speeches were given by Professor Brad Hooker of Ethical Reading, Grant Thornton’s James Carroll, Dr Luke Elson of Reading’s Philosophy Department, who was the judge for this year’s competition, the Vice-Chancellor, and Libby herself.

Libby’s sister and grandparents came to watch her receive the prize. The teacher for whom the essay was written, Dr. Sarah Goff of Reading’s Politics Department, also came to celebrate Libby’s success.

Ethical Reading aims to make Reading a better place to live and work, especially by advancing the ethical behaviour of people in the town’s organisations.

Libby Blissett, undergraduate student studying History and International Relations at the University of Reading, said: “I am honoured to have won Ethical Reading’s Essay competition with my submission on the ethical and moral issues surrounding commercial surrogacy. I think it is fantastic that Ethical Reading are providing students with this opportunity to widen their research and engagement beyond the topic of their degree.

“Thank you to Ethical Reading for organising the competition, to the prize funders, NatWest and Grant Thornton, and to the university for their help and support as well as hosting a memorable presentation.”

Professor Robert Van de Noort, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading, said: “Congratulations to Libby and Faris for coming first and second in this year’s Ethical Reading Essay Competition. In today’s society, we see companies trying harder to be more ethical in their approach to business, and so it is fantastic to see our students starting to consider this for themselves.

“The University of Reading is proud to work with Ethical Reading in a number of ways, including this essay writing competition. We have a strong connection with the local community, and many of our students go on to live and work in the Reading area after they graduate, so it is important for us to work alongside local partners to help make Reading a better place for all.”

Jim Rogers, a partner at Grant Thornton UK LLP based in Reading, said: “Businesses have an important role to play in making our society more ethical, whether that’s ensuring opportunities are equally available for all, progressing sustainability, ensuring a high level of health and wellbeing – and everything in between! This is why it’s so important to support initiatives such as Ethical Reading, which is encouraging respectful, compassionate decision making in our town.

“Grant Thornton have been involved with Ethical Reading right from the start back in 2017. It’s great to see initiatives such as this as well as the impressive essays that this competition has produced from local students, who will be tackling these issues as tomorrow’s future business and community leaders.”

Steve Mayo, Senior Commercial Relationship Manager from NatWest, said: “Congratulations to Libby in first place and Faris as runner up for this year’s essay competition on business ethics. Both essays provided thoughtful analysis and well supported arguments highlighting the importance of good ethical practices in the business world. Your achievements are well deserved and should serve as an inspiration to others.”

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Ethical Reading award presentation (left to right): Steve Mayo, Senior Commercial Relationship Manager from NatWest; Libby Blisset; Katherine Nicoll and James Carroll who are both Audit Associates at Grant Thornton.

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