Tagle: Finding purpose in business lies in enabling the poor to recover their dignity

January 11, 2018 - 6:56 AM
Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle (InterAksyon file by Bernard Testa)

MANILA, Philippines — The implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion is expected to lead to price increases to be borne by consumers, prompting government to allocate P24.5 billion this year alone for cash grants of P200 per month to the poorest 10 million Filipino families.

The Catholic Church, through Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, has also urged the business sector to do its part.

“This is not just about TRAIN, but let’s say as a global approach to the world of finance and the economy … we’re always thinking about how to generate wealth. But not to forget that the first wealth of any society are the people. And, of course, the majority of them are poor,” Tagle said at a press conference Wednesday to announce the Servant Leadership in Business Conference to be held on January 31 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Grand Ballroom of the Makati Shangri-La.

“This is why corporate social responsibility should be integrated into the way of doing business,” he said.

“Corporate social responsibility is not just an appendix for when you have savings, or have something set aside, we will use it for corporate social responsibility,” the Cardinal said. “The appeal is, from the very beginning of conceiving a business, could that business be already socially responsible so that the poor will recover their dignity and experience that they are the wealth being served by any form of economy?”

Tagle recalled being invited to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in 2014. He ignored it at first, wondering why the gathering of business and political leaders would invite a bishop. But the organizers followed up repeatedly, which was when he verified that the invitation was truly meant for him.

He the n asked why he was chosen to be a participant. Their reply was that the WEF wanted to “strengthen the global agenda on faith and human development.” Businesses could benefit from the wisdom of different traditions of faith. Alongside two other cardinals from the Vatican and Africa, there were also Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, and other religious leaders as well.

“It is very clear that the spiritual and the social teachings of the Church could benefit business. They don’t have to clash. It is possible that business could find its true vocation if it works for human development, and not just generation of wealth for the sake of wealth generation. But it is wealth for the common good,” Tagle said.

It was a workshop on authenticity that left a mark on the Manila Archbishop.

There, a chef exposed inauthenticity in food, an art curator revealed inauthenticity in exhibitions, and another speaker discussed inauthenticity in products. A representative of a reputable company confidently asked the third speaker if they had checked the authenticity of their products. The speaker then replied that they had, but they could not give the products their full endorsement because the company had not revealed their labor practices. Were they paying their employees the right wages? Were they using new forms of slavery?

Authenticity, said Tagle, involved the most important “ingredient” in the product: “the human person who helped in the production.”

Lawyer Cirilio Noel, formerly the chairman of SGV & Co. and one of the speakers to tackle servant leadership in business on January 31, said helping their employees become world-class professionals was one of the ways he was able to contribute to this “authenticity,” as the Cardinal put it.

“Our people is our contribution to the country,” Noel said.

Aurelio Montinola III, formerly president of BPI, echoed Noel’s sentiments, adding that being a servant leader in business means caring for the community in whatever one does.

Edgar Chua, formerly country chairman of Shell and current chair of the Makati Business Club, acknowledged that the business sector has one of the lowest trust ratings from the public, who think it only exists to make money for its shareholders and employees. But, he stressed, the “honesty, integrity, and commitment” that Pope Francis called for in political leaders when he visited the Philippines are also values that the business sector subscribes to.

“Part of our responsibility … is to ensure that as our employees join the company, that the employees are instilled in the same values. And that apart from those values, that the company nurtures these people so that they become good citizens, not just good professional employees … who would contribute to the community and the country in general,” Chua said.

Tagle was also glad to note that in informal discussions with some people in business, “that is also what they are thinking about. How the provisions (in TRAIN) that are meant to help the poor should be closely monitored and implemented. And they’re also looking at … maybe there are provisions in the law that will not place a burden on the consumers.”

The Servant Leadership in Business Conference is the third of its kind, following the first servant leadership conference for Church leaders, and the second for public servants. It is spearheaded by Catholic organization Serviam, which was formed by then Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin and church lay leader Antonio De Los Reyes 15 years ago.

For this conference, Serviam is partnering with the Makati Business Club, the Management Association of the Philippines, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Employers Confederation of the Philippines.

The past few decades saw the rise of social evils such as climate change, poverty, and hunger, said Serviam spiritual director Fr. Anton Pascual, who is also the executive director of Caritas Manila. The business sector has a crucial role in responding to these social ills.

Sharing the spirit of servant leadership to other businesspersons will create a “social impact in our business activities and plans,” he said.

Tagle invited the public to attend the event. Interested participants can contact Serviam through 722-7691, 0927-152-7938, or [email protected].

He will be speaking about “Authenticity in Business: How can one be real in a virtual world?”. He will be followed by Noel, social entrepreneur Pacita Juan, and Happee Toothpaste owner Dr. Cecilio Pedro on the triple bottom line – profit, the poor, and the environment.

Phinma Group president and CEO Ramon del Rosario, Jr. will also talk about business ethics. In a panel, Montinola, Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato dela Peña, and Professor Solita Monsod will discuss their expectations of servant leadership from the lens of civil society, government, and the academe.

Musician Jose Mari Chan will cap off the event with some learnings and a song or two.