A new way of doing business

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A new way of doing business

In two issues of the Catholic News’ God @ Work business supplement, two interrelated business concepts were introduced to the reader who may not have been aware of them: Social Entrepreneurship, and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG).

Both seemed timely as worldwide there are economic and social deprivations against a backdrop of ongoing environmental concerns, and a burgeoning awareness that mere bottom line, and a piecemeal approach to community and environment are inadequate.

Corporate social responsibility is not the intermittent beach clean-ups, or donation drives once or twice a year.

What actually are these concepts and what do they entail?

ESG criteria were used primarily by brokerages to guide investors to responsible investment.

According to Investopedia.com: “Environmental criteria consider how a company safeguards the environment, including corporate policies addressing climate change, for example. Social criteria examine how it manages relationships with employees, suppliers, customers, and the communities where it operates. Governance deals with a company’s leadership, executive pay, audits, internal controls, and shareholder rights.”

This of course means that companies themselves had to ensure they fulfilled particular responsibilities to its employees, stakeholders, and environment in which it resided, to be attractive to investors.

Social entrepreneurship, an example of which is the excellent work of Mode Alive in an article in the September 4 issue, “is all about recognizing the social problems and achieving a social change by employing entrepreneurial principles, processes, and operations. It is all about research to completely define a particular social problem and then organizing, creating, and managing a social venture to attain the desired change…” (managementstudyguide.com). Both concepts are rooted in the common good and are an unwitting application of gospel values as business models.

The Catholic Church has been visionary in this regard and has long proposed and urged this intricate relation between business/economy and the larger moral responsibility to community with preferential option to the poor.

In 1891, Pope Leo XIII issued an encyclical Rerum novarum, or ‘Rights and Duties of Capital and Labour’, generally seen as the “first major application of Christian principles to the modern economy” (Forbes).

Other popes have deepened his ideas and expanded upon them, from Pope Pius XI, Pope St John XXIII, Pope St John Paul II, and Pope Francis.

Pope Francis, in January 2022, said to French Catholic entrepreneurs: “The pursuit of the common good is for you a cause for concern, an ideal, in the context of your professional responsibilities.”

He described as “very good and courageous” that, “in today’s world often marked by individualism, indifference and even the marginalization of the most vulnerable people, some entrepreneurs and business leaders have service to all at heart…”

To Italian entrepreneurs in March 2022, he expressed optimism in the formation of “a new economy that respects human dignity and the environment”.

Catholic Social Teaching has again proven its relevant, practical, and intellectual resonance.

What does all this mean for Trinidad and Tobago, with its small economy battered by global happenings?

The pandemic/lockdown years showed how vulnerable we all are, and there are many with talent, skills and motivation who are simply awaiting a door be opened for them.

And there are many businesses whose profit margins may have shrunk some, but who still have the resources and expertise to lend assistance for sustainable living.

It is indeed now outmoded thinking to merely go about the traditional, money-driven impetus to commerce while the community falls apart around you. All are impacted.

Perhaps, a new business philosophy and definition of success can be found in the deeply powerful words of Mode Alive owner Gary Aboud in that September 4 article, “Our payback is the success of these entrepreneurs. If they succeed, our business will prosper.”

In short, if they succeed, we all succeed.

Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash