Say to money: you are not God

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Sunday June 25, 2017 

By Simone Delochan, sdelochan.camsel@rcpos.org

It is expected that with the contraction of the economy, certain things are inevitable, job loss being at the top of the list. Central Bank’s Economic Bulletin, March 2017 reports with regard to labour, that over the 12 months to June 2016, the number of persons classified as unemployed rose by 8,000 persons.

The reader will know since June 2016 more people have been laid off and there are further indications by organisations, that they are left with little choice but to reduce their staff. With no real social programmes to assist in alleviating the costs of daily living (food, shelter, medical costs etc), and with these increasing, there are many who are teetering on the edge.

Speaking March 15 to employees of a television platform in Italy, Pope Francis said emphatically, business is obliged to protect peoples’ dignity – and those who lay off employees solely for economic gain commit a serious sin. The responsibility of an employer, therefore, is more than just ensuring that their wallets – and those of the shareholders – remain well padded. The employer has a moral responsibility to employees, the community and the nation.

The issues of a business leader’s moral responsibility can be a thorny. The Catholic News, via email, interviewed Fr Matthew d’Hereaux and Gary Tagallie to get their perspectives on how Christian business leaders should approach their business operations to avoid spiritual schizophrenia: worshipping the God of their faith and the golden calf of money.

In response to what exactly living the gospel means in a business context, Fr d’Hereaux says it is “recognising, upholding and promoting the dignity of the human person”. The principle all business leaders should adopt is “Human dignity should never be subordinated to wealth accumulation, shareholders’ interests or profit increases.”

“The Christian business leader has to ensure the basic rights of workers and customers are always protected…the worker should never be exploited, financially by underpayment or, by threats of job redundancy. The customer should never be sold sub-standard goods to lower costs and increase profits…”

The greatest obstacle, according to Vocations of the Business Leader: A Reflection, is a divided life: “Dividing the demands of one’s faith from one’s work in business is a fundamental error which contributes to much of the damage done by businesses in our world today, including overwork to the detriment of family or spiritual life, an unhealthy attachment to power to the detriment of one’s own good, and the abuse of economic power in order to make even greater economic gains.” (n 10)

Corporate social responsibility

To bridge the gap by living gospel values, Tagallie believes that it is “a conscious decision founded on his/her rootedness in Jesus”.

There are three considerations Tagallie believes Christian business leaders must think about: first, the type of organisation and ensuring the product has a positive effect. The example he gives is the opening of a rum shop, where potential abuse of the product could lead to a destabilisation of the family.

The second is how business is organised: who is employed and how they are employed, their terms and conditions: rights and responsibilities, opportunities for growth, possibility of profit sharing; honest relationships with all stakeholders; and transparent fiscal and financial processes and accounting.

The third is the larger consideration of the relationship to the immediate and wider community: social responsibility – contributing to the sustainable development of the local community and the vulnerable therein; the motive, type and quality of assistance which “must be in line with gospel values…that people are empowered and their lives transformed in the process of giving to the community” and partnerships with other stakeholders (public and private sector organisations).

To this end of community impact, many organisations have initiatives to fulfil their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) which participate also in their brand management. Both Tagallie and Fr d’Hereaux agree that this is not enough, especially where inherent corporate practice, to begin with, is flawed.

Fr d’Hereaux avers that “Corporate citizens should never be allowed to engage in band-aid policies after wounding a society by sins of commission or omission…CSR should not only be about providing schoolbooks for children in a poor area, but encouraging dialogue on the question, ‘Why are the parents of these children unable to provide their children with schoolbooks?’ Social responsibility is not treating with symptoms of a social problem, but with its root causes. This is being truly responsible.”

A Christian business must rethink its motivation for its CSR approaches, Tagallie states, “Is it from a genuine desire to be of service to others? The type of CSR initiative would be important, eg. companies can collaborate with social entrepreneurs in developing social enterprises that will address social issues in their communities or countries. This requires a lot more thought and commitment on behalf of companies….”

In an address on February 4, Pope Francis said to attendees of a meeting to mark the 25th anniversary of Economy of Communion, “Capitalism knows philanthropy, not communion. It is simple to give a part of the profits, without embracing and touching the people who receive those crumbs…”

While Pope Francis is speaking about profit sharing, he provides a framework for wider resonance: “But you can share more profits in order to combat idolatry, change the structures in order to prevent the creation of victims and discarded people….”

TO BE CONTINUED.

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