During the afternoon on the second day of the XXVI UNIAPAC World Congress one talked about ethics and Common Good in the two panels. After a morning full of inspiring examples about inclusion and personal transformation in order to face businesses as a noble vocation, the afternoon was also equally inspiring and rich, beginning (in panel 3) with diverse – and good – examples of ethics in management, and finishing (in panel 4) with testimonies that prove businesses can – and should – have a positive impact on the promotion of the Common Good and on the creation of a more fair society.
BY MÁRIA POMBO
After a morning full of good examples, 23rd November afternoon couldn’t have begun in a better way in the Auditório Cardeal Medeiros da Universidade Católica Portuguesa (Cardinal Medeiros’s Auditorium in Portuguese Catholic University). The third panel of the UN IAPAC World Congress, organized by The Christian Association of Entrepreneurs and Managers (ACEGE) and by UNIAPAC, was dedicated to the theme “Inspiring Principled Business Performance”.
With the presence of speakers coming from different parts of the world, namely from Europe and South America, this was a much heterogeneous but intense panel in what concerns an idea present in all the intervenients´speeches: the idea that we should always practise the good, and that this posture is perfectly compatible with a business management and the success of an organization.
The moderator, Christoph Stückelberger, began by explaining that “we are going through a very difficult period”. Through some questions – “Which is the motor and/or the ultimate criteria for our decisions? If businesses can be a painful vocation, how can we support them?” – the founder and president of the platform Globethics. Net Foundation introduced this debate.
Based on the idea that we should search the best vision of ourselves, this session keynote speaker, Richard Higginson, began by saying that he is conscious that “all countries have their heroes and heroines in businesses” and that these “aren’t always catholic”.
Sharing a good example, the previous president of Faith in Business, in the United Kingdom, began by telling that, in times, he had known a group of people – “no more than 20 thousand” – who led their businesses in different areas (textile and pharmacy industries, soap production, for example) based on the divine message, “leading them in a responsible way and embodying prudence and moderation”, as in what concerns “to produce cocoa without additives, lodging their employees” and guaranteeing that these had a good life and work quality.
“Are there still philanthropists in the United Kingdom?”, he questioned, explaining that “many say they observe God’s Kingdom and embody Christian values inside their enterprises”, but, in practical terms, they remain far from questions that have to do with everybody’ good- being, managing their businesses in a scarce ethical way. For Higginson “an enterprise has to have its leader’s example and his principles have to be accepted by all labour force”, from workers to suppliers, and this is the basis of an “healthy businesses model”.
“An enterprise has to have its leader’s example and his principles have to be accepted by all labour force” – Richard Higginson
In his testimony, the main speaker of this panel also gave the example of an enterprise that ended in a collapse precisely because “its leaders were hypocritical”, as “they had values but didn´t put them in practise”. As this organization offered “low and unrealistic prices”, it could win many projects; however, it “didn´t respect the deadlines”, nor pay to workers and suppliers in time, accumulating more and more debts.
The second invited speaker was Mexican Alejandro Pellico who exposed his perspective about the meaning of leadership as a vocation. And, about this, the president of the Social Union of Mexico Entrepreneurs (USEM) has no doubts that “we have to help one another”, guaranteeing that “the financial benefit is the main objective of a business” and that “the cooperators are means to maximize the value of the enterprise”.
According to the Mexican, the enterprises should “contribute to the Common Good”, and this has to do with both the cooperators and the stakeholders and the community itself, tied this way to “the people’s well- being” in general. That is the reason why the speaker considers that “we have to generate economical value but we also have to place it in the service of the community”, giving people “what they need to work but also to be better persons”.
And all this contains the idea that “we should look at each individual as a singular being” and consider him “as part of the richness”.
“People are the essential value”
António Pinto Leite, focusing on love as management criteria, considers that if “the commandment of love is the first one”, so, “the ethics of businesses should also be sorted by love”. For the founder of the lawyers association Morais Leitão, Galvão Teles, Soares da Silva & Associates “an essential step is to understand that love as a management criteria is not a sentimental disorder”, but rather the power and responsibility of “treating the others as if we were on their places, with all information”.
According to the previous president of ACEGE, “love may appear in several words” as “solidarity” and “Common Good” and it will continue to be alive in whatever the revolution is”.
“Liberty is to do what is right and not what we feel like”, Etienne Wilbaux
Coming from France, the founder of the Cassiopée Foundation, Etienne Wilbaux, began by telling that, “when he was young he thought liberty was essential” and that “when he was 23 he had all, but he was not happy”. And it was after a long conversation with a Jewish priest that he changed his perspective of life, recognizing that “liberty is to do what is right and not what we feel like doing”, which is equal to saying “love your neighbor and go towards him”, being his focus the most disadvantaged communities.
Based on the work developed in his foundation, which supports projects in developing countries, promoting the inclusion of marginalized groups and fighting poverty, Winaux considers that “difficult times may be moments of reformulation”. Supporting micro- entrepreneurship, particularly among women and young people, as well as other projects (in agriculture, education and so on), the speaker affirms that “solidarity, respect for moderation and sharing” are fundamental in his life.
Having travelled from the other side of the Atlantic, Sergio Cavalieri, president of the administration council of the Asamar Group, began by explaining that it is “the respect for the values” that allows the familiar business to have survived for three generations and continue to be active after almost 90 years. For the Brazilian manager and civil engineer “people are the essential value” and it is fundamental “that they feel well in the community and at work”, stressing there are no differences between employees and employers”.
And, as he sees “enterprises that put aside the values and get involved in situations of corruption”, Cavalieri assumes he has no doubts that “the success of the enterprises has to do with the Christian values”.
The Brazilian ended his testimony with two notes. First, he explained that “there has been a change of shareholder to stakeholder”, stressing that “society is the main stakeholder of an enterprise” and that anyone who is linked to it “may change it”. Finally, he defied the entrepreneurs to get involved in political issues, giving the example of Venezuela and explaining that the enterprises in that country are not doing all to save it from a crisis without precedents.
Approaching the theme of corruption, the moderator questioned the speakers: “we can be against corruption, but what should we do if our enterprise is corrupted?”. According to Etienne Wibaux, to analyse this subject “is difficult” but for her “corruption begins when we can´t explain to the others how and why we have received a specific present”.
His turn, Sergio Cavalieri commented that it was corruption that shook Brazil, explaining that, due to “the “destroyed public finances and a broken government”, many families were indebted and “the country dove into its biggest crisis in its history”. As the civil engineer explained, “there was recently a change and a group of judges is sending the corrupted entrepreneurs to prison”, and he is sure that “if in four years these politicians don´t do their work correctly they will be moved away from power”.
Another question Christoph Stückelberger pointed out had to do with the changes that the technological revolution brought to the world. And, on this this issue, Alejandro Pellico thinks that “as Christians, the challenge is to understand that all this is a passage”. His turn, António Pinto Leite explained that “it is necessary to humanize the electronic relationships”, considering “there is a ‘dryness’ that impresses”.