“Goods That Are Truly Good; Services That Truly Serve”

Cardinal Turkson on the “moral dimension” of doing business


Christian Humanism in Economics and Business

Imagine the difference that businesses could make in the world if they had a holistic vision of the human being, said experts who gathered at IESE Barcelona for the 4th International Colloquium on Christian Humanism in Economics and Business. People are not mere economic resources, and their dignity and need for meaningful work must be prioritized.

(L t R) Jose Mª Simone, Peter Turkson, Luis H. de Larramendi and Domènec Melé / Photo: Roger Rovira

"Business people have a calling not only to do business, but to be exemplary business leaders."

Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, visited IESE’s Barcelona campus this week to present The Vocation of the Business Leader: A Reflection.

The document, he said, is a practical resource for business people that "expands on the concept of business as a ‘noble vocation’ – as stated by Pope Francis in Davos in 2014 – to meet the needs of the world with goods that are truly good; and services which truly serve."

Cardinal Turkson was speaking at the 4th International Colloquium on Christian Humanism in Economics and Business, which was moderated by IESE Professor of Business Ethics, Domènec Melé. Joining him were José Maria Simone, president of International Christian Union of Business Executives (UNIAPAC) and Luis H. de Larramendi, president of Acción Social Empresarial (Social Action in Business).

Time to Think, Reflect and Plan

Rather than present a "minimalist or negative set of guidelines," the goal of The Vocation of the Business Leader, is to "help build a model for action," said Larramendi.

"This document is not intended to admonish business people or to stigmatize efficiency. Nor is it a set of formulas to remove each and every doubt. It is a guide to help Christian business people improve themselves and to help make the world a better place."

The financial crisis of recent years has increased the pressure on business leaders to seek profitability, he said. Meanwhile, the increasing speed of information sharing and communication has had a "negative impact" in reducing the time available to think, reflect and plan.

"There is a need to combine the logic of the market with the logic of the gift. The gifts of talent, education and support that business leaders have been given by God should be seen as gifts to be shared, not as private goods," added Cardinal Turkson.

He went on to talk about the "divided self" – a tendency to compartmentalize and separate attitudes and behaviors from values or personal faith.

"Faith is not like spreading marmalade on toast – something to be added or removed to suit your taste," said Cardinal Turkson. "It should be an integral part of life."

"In this way business people overcome cynicism and fear arising from a divided self through faith; aiming to overcome obstacles and bring hope and light."

Redefining "Success"

The Vocation of the Business Leader also seeks to expand the definition of success beyond monetary terms and encompass concepts such as "human dignity and the common good above those of private gain," said José Maria Simone.

"We business people have excellent methods to measure the monetary value of work, but we do not yet have ways to fully measure all its benefits. Take the example of a worker who is fulfilled by his job – what is that worth?" he asked.

"One of the jobs of a business leader is to create jobs for others and to give those workers to opportunity to grow," Simone said. "The best way to create added value is to see people not as means but as ends in themselves."

Responding to the question of how business profits should be shared, Simone added: "Profits are vital, but how should they be used? All stakeholders in a business should be beneficiaries: owners, workers, shareholders..."

Cardinal Turkson brought the discussion to a close by urging readers not to view The Vocation of the Business Leader as a finished work but as a "work in progress." He welcomed feedback from the business community: "Businessmen and women reading this book should feel free to share their comments with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace."