Lisbon –and Portugal in general—has been the start of impactful long-range journeys to every corner of this Earth, many of which have transformed the world into what we know it today. Hosting our XXVI World Congress I do expect that Lisbon will also be the start of our personal journey into the quest of transforming our businesses into a noble vocation… a quest which is as appealing, challenging and compelling than many of the journeys that started here… but much more urgent given the current challenges we are facing and what is in front of us in this XXI century.
As the Polish poet Ciprian Norwid wrote in the 19th century, “to be what is called happy, one should have (1) something to live on; (2) something to live for; and (3) something to die for. The lack of only one of these elements results in drama. The lack of two results in tragedy”. We truly hope that the content of this congress testifies the wisdom of those words.
On the basis of the Christian anthropology –a relational anthropology—no profit is legitimate when it falls short of the objective of the integral promotion of the human person, the universal destination of goods, and the preferential option for the poor. Is this utopia or is it challenging but achievable? How could our role as business leaders –typically understood as profit maximizers—be reconciled with these requirements? What a challenge… What a journey!
Frequently many considerations for an ethical discernment regarding some aspects of the present economic system focus their attention mainly on a sound critique of it and in propositional changes to its structural factors. Nonetheless, the individual characteristics of the main actors and decision makers in the system –namely financial and economic business leaders and market participants—do play a significant role as catalysts of a new social behavior and the way they interact with the existing structures and how they will react to new ones become critical in shaping actions to the search for the common good and to the establishment of these actions on the sound principles of solidarity and subsidiarity.
By analyzing the key underlying concepts of the noble vocation of business, UNIAPAC´s XXVI World Congress aims to provide such a supplementary emphasis by expanding on the requirement for a personal transformation by all those engaged in the business. In a very dynamic economic-financial system, with an extremely rapid pace of change brought by innovation, creativity and instant communications, adequate regulations will tend to lag no matter how quickly they adapt to new circumstances or how rapidly abuses or surpasses become known. Self-regulations based on a principled business performance are of paramount importance in these cases and the ethical conduct of the business leader is key to ensure an unconditional respect of the human dignity.
Consequently, current and future business leaders are required to be exposed to a broader understanding of the economy and finance in light of a vision of the totality of the human person which avoids its reduction to only some of his or her dimensions or, in our context, to just an homo oeconomicus.
Consistent with the foregoing considerations, UNIAPAC aspires to be recognized worldwide by its distinct promotion of business as a noble vocation. The underpinning insights of this vision are based on the conviction that business is a vocation, and a noble vocation, provided that those engaged in it see themselves challenged by a greater meaning in life; this will enable them truly to serve the common good by striving to increase the goods of this world and to make them more accessible to all.
In light of this conviction, three key requirements can be distinguished in this quest for the transformation of business into a noble vocation: (1) the personal transformation of the business leader; (2) building more humane organizational cultures; and (3) businesses serving the common good. These three requirements are the keystones on which the agenda of this UNIAPAC´s XXVI World Congress has been built.
We, as business leaders, as any other human being, flourish when we not only meet our needs of sustaining and reproducing our bodies, but when we also meet two higher-level needs: our need to belong, and our need for significance, for meaning, for noble purpose… And we truly believe that not only in our families, in our communities, in our churches, etc. we can find a source of flourishment but also in our daily business endeavors if pursued as a noble vocation.