Reciprocity: the way to an economy of virtue and prosperity
By Eleonora Bonacossa
Business rests on reciprocity
Creating human communities
Building a business is building a "human community" of entrepreneurs, managers, employees, suppliers, vendors and consumers with the mission to serve the needs of another greater community made up of human persons.
Creating a business is not an isolated event because it involves participation by other subjects; as business rests on the principle of reciprocity it can activate virtuous attitudes.
The vocation of an entrepreneur should begin with the fundamental decision to always put the human person at the center of all activity, as the Gospel asks the entrepreneur to do "by serving the common good and doing his part to give opportunity for labor, labor with dignity" as Pope Frances told us.
The main idea here is simply "treating humans as ends and not as means". If a company acts with integrity and honesty, pays its employees a decent wage and treats them with dignity, that company will foster authentically human social relationships of friendship, solidarity and reciprocity. It will inevitably come from the top down and not the bottom up, meaning the Head of the company will instill the values that will create the company atmosphere and attitude.
A new role for stakeholders: inclusion and participation
The challenge the entrepreneurs are now faced with, is to broaden their perspective on how to conduct business activity and to be able to see wider aspects of it, i.e. transcend their own self-interest and involve all the stakeolders.This process needs a paradigm shift in thinking who are the stakeholders down the line, not just the shareholders (entrepreneurs, managers and lenders): this process will also positively influence the governance providing for more participation, transparency and fairness.
Entrepreurs themselves have to bring that "sea change" into their management style. It is not so hard as it seems, but they have to want to change first. Once they have not only accepted but also internalized these new ethical practices, they will quickly spill over onto their employees and their overall business practices.