A reading for business leaders
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - September 5, 2019 - 12:00am

Vocation of the Business leader: A reflection is a 30-page document that is meant to be a vade-medcum for business men and women. The word is a Latin term that means  “ a handbook or guide kept constantly at hand for consultation.” It is also meant for professors  and instructors who teach management and business related subjects in schools and universities. 

The document is a practical and pragmatic work which may surprise many businessmen who may think that this is similar to sermons. There are 91 numbered paragraphs; and, each one is a  stand alone lesson or principle.  My suggestion is to treat this document like a handbook and do not try to read it in one sitting. I will not try to summarize this reflection in one column because it is already in summarized form reflecting the lessons for business people based on Catholic Social Teachings.

Most business persons would like to make their decisions based on their moral and personal values. The difficulty is the application and relevance of these values to business. The answer to this dilemma lies in the body of work known as Catholic Social Teaching. This is the body of social principles and moral teaching that is articulated in the papal, conciliar, and other official documents issued since the 19th century to the present dealing with economic, political, social  order. For Christians, it provides busy business executives and practitioners with some materials for reflection on how the way of doing business can be an expression , in very practical ways, of their faith and moral values. For all men and women of goodwill, this provides a framework for making business decisions based on personal moral values.

The document VOCATION of the BUSINESS LEADER was originally inspired by the Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate by  Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.  Several  Catholic institutions including the UNIAPAC (the International Union of Christian Business Executives Associations)  collaborated in producing the original document. The initial participants included business men and women, university professors and experts in  Catholic Social doctrine. 

The present document, published in 2018, is the fifth edition. It incorporates several recent teachings from Pope Francis on vocation of business, integral ecology, the technocratic paradigm and the importance of a more just distribution of wealth. The document speaks of the “...vocation of business men and women who act in a wide range of business institutions: cooperatives, multinational corporations, family business, social businesses, for profit/non-profit collaborations and so on.”

Here is an excerpt from the executive summary of this document:

“When businesses and market economies function properly and focus on serving the common good, they contribute greatly  to the material and even the spiritual well-being of society. Recent experience, however, has also demonstrated the harm caused by the failings of businesses and markets. Alongside their benefits, the transformative developments of our era – globalisation, communication and computing technologies, and financialisation – produce problems: inequality, economic dislocation, information overload, ecological damage, financial instability, and many other pressures that interfere with serving the common good. Nonetheless, business leaders who are guided by ethical social principles exemplified through lives of virtue and illuminated for Christians by the Gospel, can succeed and contribute to the common good.

Obstacles to serving the common good come in many forms – corruption, absence of rule of law, tendencies toward greed and poor stewardship of resources – but the most significant for a business leader on a personal level is leading a divided life. The split between faith and daily business practices can lead to imbalances and misplaced devotion to worldly success. The alternative path of faith-based “servant leadership” provides business leaders with larger perspectives and helps them to balance the demands of the business world with those of ethical social principles, illuminated for  Christians by the Gospel. This is explored through three stages: seeing, judging, and acting even though it is clear that these three aspects are interconnected.”

One of the most interesting parts of the document, for me, was actually the Appendix where there were several questions for business persons to answer. The title of the section was Meeting the Needs of the World. The questions were:

• Am I creating wealth or am I engaging in rent seeking behaviour?

• Do I truly accept the competitive market economy or am I engaging in anti-competitive practices?

• Does my business support and comply with intelligent regulations that benefit the world or does it try to avoid and undermine legitimate regulations for its own selfish reasons?

• Is my company making every reasonable effort to take responsibilities for externalities and unintended consequences of its activities (such as environmental damage or other negative effects on suppliers, local communities and even competitors)?

• Do I recognize the importance of  strong and lively “indirect employers” to ensure the right levels of labor protection and community dialogue?

• Do I assign technological and financial considerations their proper place or do these considerations overwhelm attention to the common good?

• Do my corporate decisions take into consideration the dignity of the human person and respect for God’s creation ( thus promoting integral human development within business) ? Do I refuse to make corporate decisions that treat people and nature as things to be used?

Creative writing classes for kids and teens

Young Writers’ Hangout on Sept. 7 and 14 (1:30 pm-3pm; stand-alone sessions) at Fully Booked BGC.  Adult class on writing poetry with Gemino Abad on Sept.28, 1:30-4:30 pm. For details and registration,  email writethingsph@gmail.com.

 Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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