The time that we live in is a period of triumphant capitalism. Communism has been shown to be a failed ideology and traditional socialism has resulted in the transference of responsibility from individual to the state at a cost that many societies seem more and more unwilling to pay. At the same time globalisation is sweeping the world with the effect of increasing incomes in many developing countries that embrace capitalism’s tenants, too often following a “greed is good” mantra. It is greed that fuelled the housing bubble and created a financial crisis that almost destroyed the world’s financial markets, that makes the rich, richer at the same time as increasing the cost of basic goods for the poor and that pollutes our air and seas and threatens the extinction of many animals in our shrinking wilderness. Greed is clearly not good but we have yet to find and articulate an alternative paradigm. The challenge for us today is to find a different path defined by a pragmatic understanding of economics, finance and business and informed by a faith that is focussed on the values of Christianity and driven by our calling as Christians.
For those of us who are called to the marketplace there is no more pressing need then for us to reform businesses to be more than profit making enterprises and become more socially responsible in a way that goes beyond social corporate responsibility programs, beyond philanthropy and beyond ethical and corporate governance. For Christian organisations, marketplace mechanisms must be wielded in ways that are responsible to communities and business decisions must be subordinated to Kingdom goals. As much as we may cheer contemporary movements that support philanthropy or corporate ethics, indeed many of which are founded on Christian principles, we need to reach further back to ask ourselves how our modern corporations and financial systems can and should be changed to reflect Biblical principles. The goal is no less than one of redefining global corporations and we, in the marketplace, are best equipped to do this work. The work starts with understanding of where profit ceases to be a tool that generates productive enterprise benefitting communities and begins to be greed that only enriches individuals often at a cost born by the community.
We need to return, to an extent, to the ideals and Biblical norms that first informed the formation of business that seems missing from many of our global corporations but can be seen in a nascent stage in many social enterprises in developing countries. Social enterprises focus on community engagement and shared responsibility and aim to achieve higher goals through using the tool of profit. Redefine global business and we start to unravel issues like global warming, the wealth gap and so many other social ills that plague us today and have their roots in trade-off between the pursuit of immediate wealth against future harm for our children. *
*Christian Economic Forum 2015