We are at a time when corporations are working with theologians.
One of Fordham’s newest business faculty research centers, the Center for Humanistic Management, recently organized a conference in Tübingen, Germany, that brought together those two groups and others, showing that their interests are not as far apart as one might think.
Titled “Integrity in Business: The Key to Enduring Success,” the conference fostered a conversation among academics, policymakers and working executives.
The questions on the table were:
- How can we transform the whole model of doing business to be kinder to individuals and society?
- How can businesses be conducted for a higher purpose than pure profit?
- How can humanistic management be the primary lever for business?
Humanistic management might be an unfamiliar term, but Fordham students are familiar with the closely related Jesuit principles of cura personalis, meaning “care for the whole person,” and magis, meaning never-ending improvement.
Professor Michael Pirson, director of the Center for Humanistic Management, explained its mission: “Business, the way it is currently conceptualized, is putting ourselves at risk,” he said. “Humanistic management prioritizes protection of human dignity and promotion of sustainable human well-being.” Organizing conferences to promote this idea is a significant part of his Fordham faculty role; he also was involved in two “Well-Being at Work” conferences in London and Switzerland.
A central theme at the most recent conference was the search for common ground and the appreciation of the global ethos. Speakers included renowned theologian Hans Kueng and Theo Waigel, a former German finance minister who is often called the “Father of the Euro” and who is now a compliance monitor for Siemens.
Keung spoke about having a shared basic golden rule of honesty, as crucial in the business world as in life in general. Representatives of corporations explained how they are trying to use the power of business to benefit society: For example, KPMG’s legal practice advises clients to be conscious of regulations, McKinsey is designing training programs to mold leaders of higher integrity, and German Railways is striving to turn good practices into a cultural norm. Also involved in conference discussions were staff members from the United Nations’ Principles of Responsible Management Education initiative, the OECD Corporate Governance Secretariat and various European governments.
Ultimately, The Center for Humanistic Management’s coordination of such conferences thrusts Fordham to the forefront of the worldwide conversation about ethical business conduct. For Fordham, this is just the beginning. The research center aims to hold a yearly conference that serves as a forum to enable collaboration.
“The center is shaping the discourse on the role of business in society globally and at Fordham, by invoking the role of humanistic values and ignatian principles,” Professor Pirson said. “It has been long overdue.”
Photos of the Tübingen conference courtesy of GNNSJ Images.