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A discernment checklist for business leaders


bbernard | Shutterstock

Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 09/06/21

Do we let the light of our faith shine on our work decisions?

A document titled “Vocation of the Business Leader: A Reflection,” produced by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, offers a helpful examen for business leaders. Many of the questions are useful for anyone in the business world.

  • Do I see work as a gift from God?
  • Is my work as a “co-creator” truly a participation in God’s original and continuing creative act?
  • Do I promote a culture of life through my work?
  • Do I suspend “doing” from time to time in order to find renewed strength by “contemplating” God’s creation?
  • Am I living an integrated life or is it divided, separating Gospel principles from my work?
  • Am I receiving the sacraments regularly and with attention to how they support and inform my business practices? Do I reflect honestly and humbly on those practices with the help of the Sacrament of Reconciliation?
  • Am I reading the Scriptures and praying with the will to avoid the risk of a divided life?
  • Am I sharing my spiritual path with other Christian business practitioners (my peers)?
  • Am I seeking to nourish my business life by learning more about the Church’s social teaching?
  • Do I respect the dignity of persons and their integral development in all of creation, our common home?

Meeting the needs of the world

  • Am I creating wealth, or am I engaging in rent-seeking behavior?
  • Do I truly accept the competitive market economy or am I engaging in anti- competitive practices?
  • Does my business support and comply with intelligent regulations that benefit the world, or does it try to avoid or undermine legitimate regulations for its own selfish reasons?
  • Is my company making every reasonable effort to take responsibility for externalities and unintended consequences of its activities (such as environmental damage or other negative effects on suppliers, local communities, and even competitors)?
  • Do I recognize the importance of strong and lively “indirect employers” to ensure the right levels of labour protection and community dialogue?
  • Do I assign technological and financial considerations their proper place in business planning, or do these considerations overwhelm attention to the common good?
  • Do I regularly assess the degree to which my company provides products or services that address genuine human needs and foster responsible consumption?
  • Do my corporate decisions take into consideration the dignity of the human person and respect for God’s creation (thus promoting integral human development within business)?
  • Do I refuse to make corporate decisions that treat people and nature merely as things to be used?

Organizing good and productive work

  • Do I provide working conditions that allow my employees appropriate autonomy at each level? In other words, when I organize human resources, am I mindful of the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity in my company management system?
  • Are jobs and responsibilities in my company designed to draw upon the full talents and skills of those doing the jobs?
  • Have employees been selected and trained to be able to meet their responsibilities fully?
  • Have these responsibilities and their scope been clearly defined?
  • Am I making sure that the company provides safe working conditions, living wages, training, and the opportunity for employees to organize themselves?
  • Have I defined the company’s ethical principles and embedded them into the performance measurement process? Am I honest with my employees about their performance?
  • In all countries where my company is engaged, is it honoring the dignity of employees and of those indirectly employed? Is it contributing to the development of the communities hosting these operations? (Do I follow the same standard of morality in all geographic locations?)
  • Do I place the dignity of all workers and respect for nature above profit?
  • Does my business take a sufficiently long-term view of costs and profits in order to consider environmental and social effects appropriately?

Creating sustainable wealth and distributing it justly

  • As a business leader, am I seeking ways to deliver fair returns to investors, fair wages to employees, fair prices to customers and suppliers, and fair taxes to local communities? Does my company provide rewards to all the participants and stakeholders who contribute to its success, not just to the owners?
  • Does my company honor all its fiduciary obligations to investors and to local communities with regular and truthful financial reporting?
  • In anticipation of economic difficulties, is my company taking care that employees remain employable through appropriate training and variety in their work experiences?
  • When economic difficulties demand layoffs, is my company giving adequate notification, employee transition assistance, and severance pay?
  • Does my company make every effort to reduce or eliminate waste in its operations, and in general to honor its responsibility for the natural environment?
  • Do I seek ways to improve the lives of others by how my company purchases its supplies?

In summary:

• As a Christian business leader, am I promoting human dignity and the common good in my sphere of influence?

• Am I supporting the culture of life; justice; international regulations; transparency; civic, environmental, and labour standards; and the fight against corruption?

• Am I promoting the integral development of the person and respect of nature in my company and its sphere of influence?

• Do I accept the challenge of conversion to ever greater goodness and holiness in my personal life, my business role, and the communities where I am involved and have influence?

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