The Quest For An Economy That Serves The Soul As Well As The Wallet

Economic models rarely include a lengthy consideration of moral values. But this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos experienced at least one session that involved more soul-searching than profit maximization.

At an intimate roundtable, Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, spelled out a direct challenge to business and civic leaders: how we can build an economy that serves the human soul as well as the wallet?

Under Pope Francis and his encyclical Laudato Si, the Vatican has been evolving community development and social impact: first convening co-religious leaders in private, then global executives at the Vatican to discuss climate change. The Davos session represented the Vatican now reaching out to a broader audience of stakeholders.

The roundtable discussion followed up on the message published first in 2014 in Laudato Si: that economics is not an engine for making money but represents a set of resources put at the disposal of God’s creations.

The Cardinal’s challenge stood out for its simplicity and earnestness. He emphasized that humans are relational beings, making the question of inclusion one that is at the center of any relationship, among a community or within an economy. An inclusive economy is what the Church aspires to build with all its partners, governments, private sector, and co-religionists.

This message from the Church was followed by another frank moment of recognition from Scott Minerd, Global CIO of Guggenheim Partners. Mr. Minerd put it starkly: the Western economy has not done its utmost to include the rest of the world in its prosperity. As a co-founder of a company that now manages sizable assets, he said his mission was one of purpose – to be a responsible caretaker of the kind of world we wish to pass down to the next generation.

Helmut Fluhrer, an entrepreneur who won the Ladauto Si challenge for creating a solution with the most potential to solve a global problem compared the Vatican to entrepreneurs – both dependent on cooperation and coordination to influence change. His invention is a simple and zero emissions method to increase natural rainfall through cloud formation.

The conversation was not confined to business leaders. Mahamudu Bawumia, the vice-president of Ghana, said his party’s focus on inclusion policy was the only sustainable political policy. These policies are broad-based: from increasing access to secondary education, rural infrastructure development, national identification programs, and the linking of mobile and bank accounts to bank the unbanked.

John Studzinksi, Managing Director and Vice Chairman of PIMCO, said that the American-China trade conflict was forcing executives to take a new focus on their supply chains. He said this involved more than just trade risk but supply chain transparency as a whole, moving from the theoretical to the practical.

Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild spoke of the necessity of morality in business. In this sense, Pope Francis’ call for an inclusive economy is our generation’s continuation of moral leadership, carrying the torch from Adam Smith to Ghandi to Pope Francis.