Mission of a business (#5)
5. We wish to speak specifically to Christian business leaders, who have at the heart of their work the deep sense of God’s calling to be collaborators in creation. Such leaders play an important role in advancing and bringing to life ethical social principles, drawing on the Catholic social tradition where appropriate, in their day-to-day routines. We also wish to speak to all business leaders of good will who have an influence on the behaviors, values, and attitudes of the people comprising their enterprises. From CEOs to heads of teams to those with informal influence, business leaders of all kinds play a critical role in shaping economic life and creating the conditions for all people to develop integrally through business institutions. Such institutions are broad and diverse, including cooperatives, multinational corporations, small entrepreneurial start-ups, employee-owned businesses, family businesses, social businesses, partnerships, sole- proprietorships, joint ventures with government, for-profit/ non-profit collaborations. Some of these businesses are publicly traded stock companies, while most are privately held. Some have revenues larger than many countries, but most are small. Some are owned by thousands of investors, others are owned by a single person or family. Some are legally defined as for-profit entities, others, in new legal constructs, are termed “social businesses” with a special status. Business is a diverse institution and Pope Benedict XVI has indeed welcomed a mixing of institutional forms.
Commentary: We business leaders are addressed here in terms that are not familiar: “collaborators in creation,” “leaders…who create the conditions for all people to develop integrally.” Those twin goals, collaborating with God in furthering his creation; and creating an environment where employees can develop integrally, are more important than maximizing a financial return. That will come too, if we do these other jobs right, but our focus should be on partnering with God in using our businesses to further develop creation. Do we talk to our executive teams about how to implement these missions?
For instance, we should occasionally address this question with our executive team: “How does our product or service improve society (or the common good)?” Get the answers up on the white board. Then write up a one pager and distribute it to everyone. It may seem trivial, but there is nothing trivial in God’s kingdom.
And a second question: “Concretely, how are we helping our employees (and other stakeholders) ‘develop integrally?’” How are we helping them increase their human dignity? Are we treating them as persons, or as entries in a financial spreadsheet? What could we do to help them improve as persons?