It is both sad and unfortunate to read in the news how often a company or CEO gets caught for improper or unethical conduct. Examples include a company that knowingly imports its toys with lead paint; a pharmaceutical company that pays for and publishes studies in distinguished professional journals, but leaves out results which reflected poorly on its products; a CEO who embezzles money from his or her company or falsifies business records; an oil company not taking responsibility for their environmental catastrophe. But the question of ethics has become a heightened one, as we have witnessed the scandalous behavior of many companies over recent years. Maybe these companies should start focusing on a concept I have been reading about lately called Spiritual Capitalism.
“Spiritual Capitalism doesn’t mean prayer sessions on the shop floor and guided meditations in the boardroom. At least it doesn’t have to. What it does mean is the success of an enterprise is measured by values like ‘integrity’ and ‘commitment’ as much as by targets like ‘efficiency’ and ‘profitability,’” states Ode Magazine. “Whether you’re the CEO of a major multinational company or the head of your own small firm you are in the service industry, and the services rendered must benefit not just yourself and your shareholders, but the planet and other people as well.”
Adam Smith, who first published his The Wealth of Nations in 1776, stated the benefits of the free market should accrue not just to individuals, but to society as a whole. He argued the free market is the best way to build wealth. Smith describes the free market as something where “every man, so long as he does not violate the laws of justice, is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest his own way and to bring both his industry and capital into competition with any other man.”
Julie Gregory, charitable gift planner for the Central Oregon office of OCF (Oregon Community Foundation) states “Not only is philanthropy good for our communities, culture and society, but it’s good for business. The desire to help others can be a powerful motivator for individuals and the companies for which they work.” The OCF is a statewide nonprofit organization that administers permanent charitable funds established through gifts and bequests from individuals, families, businesses, and other organizations. OCF helps Oregonians support the causes they care about. “Spiritual capitalism enriches our quality of life, creates a healthier and more engaged populace, and ultimately creates new markets,” states Gregory.
“Many companies today overlook the tremendous value added to their bottom-line when they are not willing or able to do what is necessary to structure and maintain what might be termed best-practice work cultures,” states Jim Lee, director of Central Oregon Resources for Independent Living (CORIL). The focus is on more than just financial success for anyone looking to incorporate spirituality in business. The focus should be on doing the right thing for your employees, customers, and clients as well as our beautiful community.
Spiritual Capitalism should also be incorporated regarding how we work with our employees. Many employees have unfortunately experienced employers who have the mindset that their employees are fortunate to even have any employment at all in Central Oregon. These employers offer what many consider to be very low wages with little or no benefits. Even though we have been walking in the shadow of a serious recession, others believe embracing values like compassion and sincere care for employees is a smart business move. A happier employee is a more productive employee! I believe any employer who contributes to the prosperity of his or her staff will prosper in turn.
Ben & Jerry’s, the famous ice cream company from Vermont with a location in Bend’s Old Mill District, was founded on and is dedicated to a sustainable corporate concept of linked prosperity with a focus on its employees, the community and its consumers. The company’s mission consists of three interrelated parts: Product Mission, Economic Mission, and Social Mission. Central to the mission of Ben & Jerry’s is the belief all three parts must thrive equally in a manner which commands deep respect for individuals in and outside the company and supports the communities of which they are a part. The company’s social mission focuses on operating the organization in a way that actively recognizes the central role business plays in society by initiating innovative ways to improve the quality of life locally, nationally, and internationally. Ben & Jerry’s foundation gives millions of dollars annually to charitable causes which support the founding values of the company. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield are successful capitalists who measure their success by more than just corporate profits.
In the investment world there are some mutual fund companies that demonstrate how their company’s spiritual culture can not only make a very positive impact on our world, but also give it a competitive advantage. These companies offer socially responsible mutual funds that exclude tobacco, alcohol, firearms, and other socially harmful products from its investment portfolios. Today, they have expanded their focus to not only eliminating companies which are harmful, but also searching for companies that go out of their way to do good.
This has certainly been an area where money and spirit meet. Earl Nightingale, author of one of my favorite books, The Strangest Secret, stated “We are at our very best, and we are happiest, when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy on the journey toward the goal we’ve established for ourselves. It gives meaning to our time off and comfort to our sleep. It makes everything else in life so wonderful, so worthwhile.” By focusing on doing the right things for others and our community we can all flourish and keep Spiritual Capitalism alive here in Central Oregon.
David Rosell is president of the Rosell Financial Group in Bend. He is the past chair of the Bend Chamber of Commerce and the incoming president of the City Club of Central Oregon. David can be reached at 541-385-8831 or www.RosellFinancialGroup.com
Investment advisory services offered through Rosell Financial Group, a State Registered Investment Advisor. Securities offered through ValMark Securities, Inc. Member FINRA, SIPC 130 Springside Drive, Ste 300 Akron, Ohio 44333-2431. 800 765-5201. Rosell Financial Group is a separate entity from ValMark Securities.