Everyone Must Act Responsibly to Save Our World

Cardinal Peter Turkson recently gave a speech at The Future of the Corporation: From Best in the World to Best for the World. Here are some highlights of the speech:

  • Not only is there poverty and social exclusion in the midst of plenty; economic activity is also degrading the natural environment, even to the point of threatening future human life.
  • All decisions about the natural environment are ethical decisions.
  • Technology and commerce must be held to transcendental standards of the meaning of life and of the moral outlook. They must be defined by solidarity—both with all people alive today and with those not yet born—and be oriented toward the common good.
  • All human beings are affected, and everything in nature too, by climate change, misuse of natural resources, waste and pollution.
  • Everyone must act responsibly to save our world—from individuals recycling to enterprises reducing their ecological footprints to world leaders setting and enforcing ambitious carbon reduction targets.
  • Businesses contribute to the common good by producing goods that are truly good and services that truly serve.
  • This preoccupation with wants, often called “consumerism,” severs production and consumption from the common good and impedes the development of the person.
  • The production of goods and services must abide by truth instead of mere pleasure or utility.
  • New products and services—such as microenterprises, microcredit, social enterprises and impact investment—have played an important role insofar as they help the poor to address their own needs. These innovations will not only help people to lift themselves from extreme poverty but also spark their creativity and entrepreneurship and help launch a dynamic of inclusive development.
  • Work should be the setting for this rich personal growth, where many aspects of life enter into play: creativity, planning for the future, developing our talents, living out our values, relating to others, giving glory to God.
  • Business must always subordinate profits to generating employment — affirming, as he put it, the priority of labor over capital.
  • The business objective of ‘good wealth’ focuses on generating sustainable wealth and distributing it justly.
  • The logic of competition promotes short-termism, which leads to financial failure and devastation of the environment.
  • The Holy Father is not anti-business; he decries an obsession with profit and the deification of the market. But when it comes to the challenges of sustainable development, he calls upon business to lead by harnessing its creativity to solve pressing human needs.
  • If business is to lead, then let’s deploy the finance, re-organization, and technology needed to decarbonize the global economy.
  • Caring for our common home requires, as Pope Francis says, not just an economic and technological revolution, but also a cultural spiritual revolution—a profoundly different way of approaching the relationship between people and the environment, a new way of ordering the global economy. And this in turn, places a great responsibility on the shoulders of business leaders and also popular leaders. But I am confident that you are up to the task!