This past week the Council for Inclusive Capitalism with the Vatican formally launched. I found the announcement exciting. I live my life squarely at the intersection of the business community and the Catholic Church and have a deep love and profound respect for both institutions.
The announcement also strikes me as ironic. Having lived squarely at this intersection of faith and work for twenty years, I can confidently say that leaders from both sides have historically failed to fully understand the other (yes, I personally know leaders on both sides).
Embracing Inclusive Capitalism: understanding the reality of each institution.
Many will see “Inclusive Capitalism” as a breakthrough in societal thought. Those that do not understand the depths of Catholic teaching will be tempted to claim that She has embraced modern movements. Nothing could be further from the truth. Central to Catholic Teaching, the ideas of the dignity of work, societal progress and the inclusion of all peoples are central to millennia of Church social teaching. She has always espoused equality, responsibility, and inclusion.
Those that do not understand free market economics and the origins of capitalism will likewise be tempted to claim that capitalists have finally embraced their corporate social responsibility. Again, this perception will prove to be shallow. For centuries, businesses have had a profound, positive impact on countless individuals and helped advance society. Among other impacts, modern capitalism has helped elevate billions of people from poverty.
Living Inclusive Capitalism: actively embracing traditional ideals.
Others will rail against both institutions as part of the problem. Undoubtedly, neither the Church nor the business community are blameless. Both have failed to flawlessly live up to the ideals that the Inclusive Capitalism movement espouses. But, just as it would be inaccurate to see this movement as a significant change in thinking from either institution, so too would it be wrong to write it off as meaningless. To the contrary, this partnership and level of explicit commitment to the principle of the dignity of the human person seems revolutionary, and in line with exactly what the world needs.
Inclusive Capitalism seeks to ensure that every person – regardless of sex, ethnicity, nationality, religion or socio-economic background – has the opportunity to flourish. It does so by prioritizing people over profit and the stewardship of resources for the sake of the common good. The movement solicits tangible commitments from businesses. It seeks lasting change through sustainable, grassroots action. Inclusive Capitalism is a noble attempt to put humanity back into business.
A noble calling and daunting responsibility.
I commend Alan Murray, CEO of Fortune, for his leadership in this movement. On numerous occasions I have heard him speak about the profound impact his meeting with the Holy Father had on him and the Fortune community. I have seen him espouse the dignity of every human person and actively promote the idea of stakeholder capitalism. Undoubtedly, Alan has played a major role in bringing this movement to life.
In doing so, he has led by example. As the preeminent business journalist of our time, Alan has lived the ideals he espouses. He has neither ignored his social responsibility nor rejected the idea of capitalism. Instead, he has led responsibly, excelling at his craft and committing to do well by doing good. It is precisely his exceptional journalism and business leadership that has provided him the opportunity to influence so many leaders. Together, they are changing the world.
And that, precisely, is the promise of Inclusive Capitalism. Each of us, by leveraging our God-given talents, should have the opportunity to make the world a better place. As we do, we are rewarded according to our contributions. And, as we are rewarded, we accrue both wealth and influence. We are responsible for using this wealth and influence to ensure that others have the opportunity to use their talents and likewise contribute and flourish.
The economic system of capitalism is a powerful source for good when its leaders act with virtue. Unfortunately, when leaders become greedy and self vs. other-oriented, it can become a source for great evil. I am grateful to Alan, the Holy Father and the Guardians of the Council for Inclusive Capitalism for their leadership in reminding business leaders of both the nobility of business and the awesome responsibility each one of us possesses.