Why do we pay lip service to the well-being of our children, grandchildren and their offspring? Why are we only marginally aware of the state of our planet? We know that we cannot do without a healthy and diverse natural environment and yet we are doing everything we can to destroy it. Of course, when challenged by future generations, we listen. We affirm the importance of the issues they raise and we are committing to some pro forma changes. Basically, however, nothing is changing as the world slowly but gradually recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic. The challenges of the IPCC are put aside, biodiversity is rapidly declining, and human dignity and rights are ignored, all in the name of economic progress based on the will to power of ruling elites.
The call for change is not new. In 1972, the Club of Rome showed the limits of growth. The World Commission on Environment and Development followed suit in 1987 with Our Common Future, an agenda calling for the simultaneous pursuit of environmental, social and economic prosperity. More recently, the Sustainable Development Goals provide us with a clear agenda for change. These attempts have led and continue to lead to marginal change only because we do not fundamentally reconsider the basic tenets of our global society – now and in the future. It starts with respecting planetary boundaries but goes beyond the idea of preserving the planet. We should come to respect all life on earth as having value in itself instead of just treating it as an instrument to promote the interests of the lucky few.
But what are these principles that people all over the world are asking for attention to? Activity – whether economic, social, cultural or otherwise – must be organized to work for all, protect human dignity and promote development and well-being. The land does not belong to us. We are only stewards of what has been passed down from generation to generation. Our job as “good ancestors” is to leave behind a better and more sustainable world than the one we found when it was given to us. It requires us to create and amplify all possible forms of fulfillment – economic, social, psychological, spiritual and otherwise – while respecting and protecting life on earth. This means that we need to rethink and reform our current short-sighted economic approach. Business leaders and managers can exert influence by using their resources to:
* promote understanding of the consequences of current and future organizational decisions;
* protect humans and non-humans in a way that respects their intrinsic value and fundamental rights;
* preserve and promote the dignity of human beings;
* to prosper collectively in the common interest of society; and
* propel positive action in their networks to promote collaboration, mutual understanding and respect.
While actions speak louder than words, the attitude of leaders and managers also requires critical examination. The principles that guide their thinking and actions should not be inspired by the desire to create economic wealth but to create real prosperity. Accordingly, their actions should be guided by humanistic principles to:
* protect all species on earth;
* respect the intrinsic value of all beings;
* be open to pluralism: the diversity of points of view leads to better decision-making;
* collaboration through inclusive and interdisciplinary partnerships;
* be accountable, transparent and responsive to the stakeholders concerned;
* contribute pragmatically to solving the systemic challenges of our society and life on earth, and
* consciously and deliberately promote a better future for all.
It is only through open and interactive engagement and collaboration between government, business and civic organizations – representing current and future human and non-human interests – that a better future for our society and our planet can emerge.
These principles are endorsed and actively promoted by the International Humanistic Management Association. Maybe it’s time for you to join us?
Professor Dr. Harry Hummels is Professor of Ethics, Organizations and Society at Maastricht University and Professor of Social Entrepreneurship at Utrecht University, both in the Netherlands.