IAJBS 23rd Annual World Forum University of Namur, Namur, Belgium

Experience level: 
Leire Alcaniz
Leire Alcaniz, Ricardo Aguado

The role of the firm in the process of achieving integral human development

The idea of integral human development (IHD) was presented by Pope Paul VI in the encyclical letter Populorum Progressio and supposes a comprehensive development of the person, not only economically but also culturally, socially and transcendentally. This paper states that a whole development should be the final end of every person. At the same time, it challenges the neoclassical economic paradigm, and states that the human being is the main element of the system. Firms and other organizations are understood as entities to serve persons and to develop them integrally. To do this, the study proposes a positive view of the firm, that is, firms are not harmful per se; instead, we think they are necessary and positive for a comprehensive development of the human being. While other concepts, such as human dignity or human rights are static concepts (that is, a person has dignity or does not; human rights are inalienable and indivisible); IHD, instead, is a more dynamic concept, in the sense that individuals are able to develop themselves further. Therefore, IHD has an encouraging connotation, because human beings are always able to improve their economic, social or transcendental domains. In this way, organizations not only provide the conditions to satisfy basic needs, but they also provide the context to develop human beings’ potentialities, human flourishing and virtuous behavior. The paper specifies some factors that contribute to IHD and how firms help to enrich those factors and, consequently, IHD. We distribute those factors in different spheres (economic, social and transcendental) and levels of development (basic, medium and integral development), where economic factors only contribute to a basic or medium development of the human being, while an integral development is achieved through social and, mainly, transcendental factors, such as: spirituality or freedom. This study contributes to the study of business ethics from the point of view of the Catholic Social Thought and, in addition, from a micro-level perspective (from the business to the employee as individual), a perspective that is not highly developed in the literature. We assume that the firm itself has the ability to be ethical, because it contributes to the IHD. From this perspective we are able to defend that, apart from rewarding the shareholder or supplying goods or services to consumers, firms have a more ambitious objective that is collaborating on the IHD.