Business training must evolve. Faith-Based Lens Can Help Move Your Focus | The social enterprise magazine

Important questions are now being asked about the very purpose of the business enterprise and the need for sustainable enterprises and leadership. This means that business leaders need to have a long-term mindset and be concerned not only with their own bottom line, but also the larger society and the environment.

Secular business education – the genre taught in hundreds of business schools around the world, including undergraduates, postgraduates, and executives – doesn’t matter in this state. ‘spirit. Even the professional training of accountants and financiers is deeply acultural, secular and exclusive. The best academics and writers are now starting to question whether business education is fit for the purpose of our present age.

Even the concept of secularism stems from a particular western history and does not apply to all cultures – in many cultures there is no clear line between faith and infidelity. Indian Dharma Philosophy is a good example of an inclusive worldview that sees animals and nature as fundamental to human guardianship of the planet. Meanwhile, sciences like economics are categorized by prominent scholars and writers (like Herman Daly, John Cobb, and Satish Kumar) as selfish, violent, and materialistic, rather than respecting their original claims of universality.

The “cultural” role of finance must be placed at the center of its training and education

It is vital that business training transforms its paradigm as the needs of our world evolve. Trust is a key ingredient for lasting success in finance – it is essential to remember this in our shattered transactional society. It is an opportunity for investments and faith-based leaders to have a seat at the financial executive table and a chance for communities to work together towards ambitious societal goals.

Reform and renewal

To understand the roots of faith-based investing, it helps to go back to the roots of faith.

Faith communities have a strong sense of history, meaning and purpose in life. Unlike traditional finance, where there is an active denial of death, here death is accepted and seen as a reminder of the larger goals and meaning of existence. Death is simply not addressed in the calculations of finance which are primarily corporate and made impersonal, when in reality finance is a deeply personal experience, even for business executives. This “cultural” role of finance must be placed at the center of its training and education.

Some religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, are actually non-anthropocentric, which makes them particularly interesting in the Anthropocene era. We now know that of all the species on the planet, humans have caused irreversible damage to the ecosystem. Reform and renewal require us to fundamentally change our beliefs and attitudes towards nature. The economy has been a big part of the attack on nature, long seen as a resource. Human organization into communities, as sets of networks and relationships, also demonstrates that for people of faiths, interdependence is not a theory but a lived experience.

Moral compass

This social capital, this sharing of knowledge and information is already generating significant investment results. Trust means there is no need for complex contracts or high legal fees; rather, relationships develop and flourish in an environment of reciprocity and community. Knowledge about markets and opportunities is actively shared within communities, and joint ventures and cooperation are also becoming normalized. Historically, the science and education of corporate finance seem counterintuitive as its primary focus is on building competitive financial wealth, rather than on sustainable businesses. Corporate finance has yet to fully recognize the importance of culture and community – it often makes it seem like none of it matters.

Often business leaders don’t show their faith publicly, but it guides their decision-making and relationships

In my own research on a variety of global religious communities including Hindus, Jains, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Zoroastrians, and Sikhs – what I have found is that for business leaders, faith gives them a strong sense of meaning and purpose, and a conscience that guides their moral actions.

Often, leaders do not display this faith publicly, or impose it on others, but it guides their decision-making, corporate relationships and culture, and the way they deal with suppliers, customers and others. the employees. It can transform the quality of the experience for a variety of stakeholders, and trust is developed and nurtured, rather than diminished and destroyed. Elaborate rules and codes of conduct, auditors and lawyers are not necessary to control the governance of these companies. They act ethically, simply because their leaders believe this is the right way to behave – they bring the conscience and the public interest to the top of the organization. It would be interesting to see non-denominational business leaders also consider their general guiding principles, their moral compass. Unfortunately, too many business leaders operate in a transactional fashion, where their own best interests come first. the lowest paid worker.

Impact with humility

Among faith-based investors, there is also a very sophisticated understanding of the nature and limits of money, which is crucial to how long-term impact works. Money is seen as a means to an end rather than an end in itself. Hindus and Jains worship Goddess Laxmi not only to gain more personal wealth and fortune, but also to enable their economic success to better serve the community. At their annual “Chopda Pujan” worship rally, business leaders pledge to open new accounts with ethical meaning and purpose, and an increased duty to serve society. Saraswati, the goddess of the arts, ethical wisdom, and knowledge, is never far from these ceremonies and is seen as the key to long-term progress. When interdependence is understood and accepted, expropriation is instinctively avoided. It is seen as an attack on oneself.

Hindus and Jains worship Goddess Laxmi not only to gain more personal wealth, but also so that their economic success can better serve the community.

This business approach leads to results that have a huge impact on all stakeholders and creates a shared sense of ownership and investment. Impact may not always be ‘measured’ in a social sense, but the nature of leadership is such that jobs are created and maintained, suppliers and customers are respected, and employees are trained and rewarded in a meaningful way. that their whole family can benefit from the income and stability.

Likewise, the environment can be protected by minimizing waste and providing useful and sustainable products and services, rather than low-quality and temporary ones. As these companies pride themselves on maintaining their reputation, they do not seek to expropriate the customer – win-win is their motto. Faith leaders often have a strong social impact with humility and self-regulation of behavior. The experience of belonging and community, along with the stories and memories of the past through faith and family, mean that culture and meaning survive and grow through such business ventures.

In light of the above, strategies and products designed to harness the strengths of faith communities will lead to greater social responsibility and more sustainable economies. Such impact investing will build confidence in society and replenish social capital instead of depleting it. Targeted approaches to education, health and social protection will thus have much better results, as they will be sensitive to specific needs and priorities. Ignoring faith communities in these times is damaging the very fabric of society that can pull us out of this climate and sustainability crisis. There is an opportunity for us to work together in a new way. Religious leaders and communities provide us with a unique and untapped opportunity for sustainable development – they can bring long-term purpose, awareness and public interest, and nurture trust and relationships, rather than drain them.

  • Atul Shah is professor at City University of London and author of several books.

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Norma A. Roth