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Dear Ethix – Issue 43

Religion in Business

Last issue’s perspectives of four major world religions was a very helpful reminder that the teachings of these major religions have much in common on the subject of ethics in business. It’s naive to believe that all religions are the same and can or should meld into a universal set of common norms. But, where many ethical principles are shared, bridges of relationship can be built, and a respectful and truly significant conversation can take place.

We need to accept that core spiritual beliefs and motivations to act ethically differ between followers of these faiths, but much can be gained through dialogue, especially in promoting tolerance in this part of the world where religious identity is much more integrated into all aspects of life.

Mark Carlson
Jakarta, Indonesia

I liked the July/Aug. 2005 issue of Ethix on Religion in Business a lot, but disagreed on two specific issues:

1. Religion is usually regarded as taboo in business, I believe, because of the hierarchical nature of business. Business is organized with managers (bosses) and workers, whereas religion is or should be an entirely voluntary matter. For example: What if your manager holds beliefs that you as a worker believe strongly are wrong or can lead to harm. Since there are civil rights and anti-discrimination laws, the worker will probably avoid mentioning religion at all and instead focus on the manager’s actions if he/she mentions it at all. I had mentioned earlier that business is organized hierarchically, thus the worker may be dependent on his manager for a good review or other aspects of his work life. Therefore the worker is unlikely to raise cantankerous issues.

2. I disagree with Laura Nash in that she posits two types of people who view the world quite differently: a business person and a religious person. In my view, we all are a mix of these two types. I believe that profit making and creating prosperity is consistent with a religious worldview. The trouble is that people, on both sides, have lost sight of this fact and adopted a short-range view. Profitable actions usually are also good. It is just that people need to postpone short-term gratification and view the business more strategically.

Michael French
New York, NY

The July/August issue of Ethix on Religion and Business is very informative, and there’s a lot a good material I will share with others at my university. Thank you for your commitment to the publication of Ethix.

Shirley J. Roels
Grand Rapids, MI
Encouraging Ethical Companies

We have begun a ground-breaking new initiative for responsible and accountable businesses. It brings companies, campaign groups, and people together on important issues which affect us all.

Many businesses in recent years have:

  • dedicated their operations to the pursuit of social, environmental, and ethical (SEE) achievement alongside financial success;
  • appealed to a rapidly-growing, influential demographic and generated stakeholder enthusiasm by revealing their values;
  • demonstrated that the business of business is a great deal more than simply maximizing profit and reaped considerable rewards by becoming producers and employers of choice.

We think this is a good thing and have developed SEEcompanies.com to encourage more businesses to do the same and to reach as broad an audience as possible. We contend that, if these SEE companies communicate their values to stakeholders and to the public at large with clarity and credibility, then:

  • civil society will grow increasingly aware that if SOME companies can be accountable for their actions and transparent in their operations, ALL companies can be;
  • expectations on all companies will increase, license to operate for-profits-only businesses will recede and standards across all business will improve.

For more information see our website at www.SEEcompanies.com.

Laura Cowell
SEE Potential Ltd.
London, England

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