Laudato Si’ in Action: Business as a Vocation Promoting the Common Good
Often business students arrive in a business ethics course with an understanding of the purpose of business that is limited to shareholder theory. The Vocation of the Business Leader challenges such a narrow view of the purpose of business by expanding the range of stakeholders and widening the purpose from profit maximization to promotion of the common good. For a practically-oriented student, though, these concepts can seem rather abstract. For such a student, Laudato Si’ moves one from experience to reflection to action, like Ignatian pedagogy. Laudato Si’ models an Ignatian pedagogy that begins with the experiences of a world negatively affected by human practices (chapter 1). Pope Francis reflects on these experiences in light of the goodness of God’s creation, the human responsibility to care for God’s creation, and discipleship as learning from Jesus who was in right relationship with the Father and all of creation (chapter 2). In this reflection on experience, Pope Francis provides not only biblical vision for evaluating contemporary experience but also an explanation of the root causes of this experience (chapter 3). Based on this he advocates a vision of integral ecology that recognizes the interrelatedness of all things and promotes sustainability, the common good and intergenerational justice (chapter 4). This vision calls for collaborative action between businesses and government to promote the common good, recognizing that laws are not simply coercive but also pedagogical in function (chapter 5). This collaborative action in turn depends on an ecological education and spirituality that empowers individuals to change (chapter 6). Not only is Laudato Si’ a text worth studying as an important contemporary synthesis of Catholic Social Thought, but it is also a model for teaching business students about Christian faith and the management professions. Such a course can begin with students’ experiences of the world. The first chapter can come to life by examining one concrete problem from the chapter, such as our throw-away culture, through experiential learning at a landfill about the effects of plastic bags, polystyrene or organics in a landfill. The biblical vision of caring for creation provides a motivation for improving the situation. Partnership with a city government committed to sustainability, as well as corporations committed to sustainability, provides an opportunity to think about caring for the earth with multiple stakeholders in mind. Such a shared commitment to the common good encourages students’ dialogue and collaboration to develop policies to support sustainability. These policies will depend on ecological education that moves both intellect and will; business students are well prepared to put their knowledge of marketing to work to create such resources. For many the choice to embrace a simpler lifestyle is a response to the work of the spirit in their lives. A valuable way for students to reflect on the community-engaged, experiential learning in dialogue with Laudato Si’ is to write a letter to Pope Francis about their experience of putting Laudato Si’ into action.