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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Strategic CSR - The Pope

In the aftermath of the publication last year of the Pope's encyclical 'Laudato Si' (Praise Be To You), the majority of the media coverage I saw focused on the Pope's support for the science of climate change. The media took particular delight in noting what a bind this puts those Catholics who deny this science (read right-wing Republicans). Not much of the coverage discussed the implications of the Pope's message in the context of his wider critique of capitalism. The article in the url below, by David Brooks of the NYT, on the other hand, took a different perspective:
"Pope Francis is one of the world's most inspiring figures. There are passages in his new encyclical on the environment that beautifully place human beings within the seamless garment of life. And yet over all the encyclical is surprisingly disappointing."
Brooks suggests that the Pope's criticism of climate change deniers is really an extension of his critique of capitalism that he expressed in more depth in his earlier encyclical 'Evangelii Gaudium' (The Joy of the Gospel) published in 2013:
"Hardest to accept … is the moral premise implied throughout the encyclical: that the only legitimate human relationships are based on compassion, harmony and love, and that arrangements based on self-interest and competition are inherently destructive."
In particular:
"He is relentlessly negative … when describing institutions in which people compete for political power or economic gain. At one point he links self-interest with violence. He comes out against technological advances that will improve productivity by replacing human work. He specifically condemns market-based mechanisms to solve environmental problems, even though these cap-and-trade programs are up and running in places like California."
In contrast, Brooks offers a more honest, and I think inspiring, view of the power of capitalism to deliver social progress:
"You would never know from the encyclical that we are living through the greatest reduction in poverty in human history. A raw and rugged capitalism in Asia has led, ironically, to a great expansion of the middle class and great gains in human dignity. You would never know that in many parts of the world, like the United States, the rivers and skies are getting cleaner. The race for riches, ironically, produces the wealth that can be used to clean the environment."
The solution, at least as outlined in Strategic CSR, is to harness the creative energy of capitalism and shape it via stakeholder action to produce the behavior from companies that optimizes value creation broadly across society. While the Pope is quick to denounce the failings of capitalism, he is slow to understand the potential upside. Even more important, he misses the opportunity to promote the calling of all stakeholders, which should be to bring their individual values to bear in order to build entrepreneurial and innovative societies that embrace the outcomes the Pope seeks.
Take care
David Chandler & Bill Werther
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Fracking and the Franciscans
By David Brooks
June 23, 2015
The New York Times
Late Edition – Final