Businesses as transformational agents for the common good
From an article by Transformational SME
There is good news and bad news. We can rejoice that the biggest lift out of poverty in the history of mankind has happened in our generation. Since 1990 more than a billion people have risen out of extreme poverty, and a large part of these in China and India, not through aid but trade, not by handouts or charity. Growing small and medium size businesses are key factors to this good news.
The bad news is that due to Covid-19, restrictions and lockdown measures, we risk a major global setback. The United Nations, World Food Program, International Labor Organization, International Food Policy Research Institute, Business Sweden, and others are painting horrifying scenarios on a macroscale: Around 50 million children could fall into extreme poverty. Hundreds of millions of jobs may be lost. 260 million face starvation, and three dozen countries risk famine. Most vulnerable are people in the informal sector.
When sales in clothes retailers like H&M went down around the globe, two million workers in the garment industry in Bangladesh lost their jobs. Their fate is similar to a message received from Myanmar: “What this (lockdown) has meant for poor people, who are part of the informal economy, is no work, no money and therefore no food. There is no government social security net and certainly no savings.”
In the face of these grim predictions, there is good news. People and nations have fought pandemics before, risen out of abysmal poverty and conquered dreadful diseases. So, what can we learn?
In 1575, plague descended on Milan. The city’s bishop, Charles Borromeo, hastened both to action and to prayer.
Bishop Borromeo had a holistic worldview, working with God and people to meet physical, social, economic and spiritual needs. He persuaded rich people to help the poor. He created and staffed hospitals and quarantine houses. He instituted social distancing policies and had a particular love and care for orphaned infants. He moved church outdoors, to mitigate risk of spreading the disease. But he also created jobs or supported a large number of laid-off workers.
Borromeo realized that the plague didn’t cause just one problem, and thus there was not just one solution. He raised funds, and tackled immediate needs like hunger and healing. He also sought dignifying and long-term solution by creating jobs. While acknowledging and dealing physical health issues, and identifying socio-economic needs, he also addressed the spiritual welfare of the people. We must learn from his holistic views and multi-dimensional solutions.
Because jobs are not just a matter of income or survival; work is an issue of human dignity. What is the best way to help a poor child? Give the parents a job. Charity has a place, and relief efforts are needed. But for a long-term solution we need a paradigm shift in thinking and praxis, from handouts to job creation, from mainly non-profit responses to for-profit solutions.
There is a need to embrace work as good, and we must acknowledge that business is a vocation. Business has a higher purpose beyond mere sustenance or just financial returns. Like Borromeo, we seek holistic transformation of people and societies. That includes seeking a positive impact on multiple bottom lines for multiple stakeholders as we do business.
We need to affirm the intrinsic value of work and business, and its power to restore and create health and wealth. We need ‘ora et labora’, to pray and work.
We know that businesses can be strong transformational agents for the common good. As Pope Francis says: “Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good.”
See full article here.
In the reconstruction phase of the pandemic, as we build our economy back, as we pray and work, let's also deliberately seek positive impact for those in developing countries affected by Covid-19 in so many ways.
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