Concerns regarding the role of business in society have long existed
(Flanders, 1945), but have been voiced with increased urgency in recent
years following numerous business scandals, the global financial crisis,
and an increasingly unsustainable focus on market growth. Central to
these concerns is the notion that a business has responsibilities to society
beyond maximizing profit (Shum & Yam, 2011), including responsibilities
for controlling the company’s environmental impact, contributing
in a positive manner to societal and economic development, and considering
the various stakeholders’ needs in the decision-making process
(Dahlsrud, 2008). Handy (2002) emphasized that “[t]he purpose of a
business is to make a profit so that the business can do something more
or better,” describing this obligation as “a moral issue” (51). These concerns
are echoed in recent management education initiatives, including
the Principles for Responsible Management Education (Principles for Responsible
Management Education, n.d.), and special issues on the role of
sustainability in management education (Rusinko & Sama, 2009; Starik,
Rands, Marcus, & Clark, 2010).
Recommendations for incorporating sustainability in management
education include both curricular and co-curricular activities, and single
discipline and cross-disciplinary approaches (Rusinko, 2010). According
to Shrivastava (2010), most of these approaches rely on the traditional
analytical tools that are part of a business school’s curriculum rather
than on a change in students’ behavior. He advocates for an integrative
pedagogical approach that engages students emotionally and spiritually
so they begin to develop a passion for sustainability. How we define
sustainability is also important. By defining global sustainability as
“achieving environmental conservation, social justice, poverty eradication,
social entrepreneurship, desirable production and consumption
patterns, species preservation, and spiritually rich lives,” Stoner (2013:
1) emphasizes the connection between our physical and spiritual experiences.
To be true to this point of view, our pedagogical approaches to
sustainability in management education should help students develop a
mindset where they are able to make the connections between spirituality
and sustainable practices.
This article introduces the Economy of Communion (EoC) as a practical
and spirituality-grounded approach to business that provides a “real
world” example for addressing sustainability. First, we briefly examine
how sustainability is commonly addressed in management education.
Second, we review the relationship between spirituality and leadership
and its relevance for integrating sustainability in management education
curricula. We then introduce the EoC model, the Catholic social teaching
principles on which it is founded, and its spirituality-based approach
to sustainability. In the final section, we review the contribution of EoC
principles for developing pedagogy in management education that integrates
spiritual leadership, sustainability, and social justice.
Sustainability and Management Education
The role of business schools in developing ethical future business
leaders has come under increased scrutiny in recent years. Critics cite a
pedagogical overemphasis on the scientific approach and on analytical
skills at the expense of integration, holistic thinking, and norms of ethics
(e.g., Bennis & O’Toole, 2005; Hawawini, 2005; Mintzberg & Gosling,
2002; Pfeffer & Fong, 2002).
A concern with traditional pedagogy is the tendency to overly emphasize
analytical skills when addressing ethical situations, leading to
a legalistic approach to ethical decision making. Cheffers and Pakaluk
(2011) observed that the problem with legalism (i.e., a strict adherence to
the letter of the law) is that rules are not sufficient because they are incomplete.
In unanticipated circumstances, they may allow a business to act
unethically while ascribing to the letter of the law. Ultimately, the content
of business curricula has important implications for developing future
business leaders and managers who are aware of how their actions either
help or hinder sustainability. As Brennan, a finance scholar, noted,
... if we go on hammering into our students the mistaken notion that rationality
is identical with self-interest, we shall gradually make our agency
models come true, but at the cost of producing a society that will not function.
(Brennan, 1994: 39, cited in Donaldson, 2002).
Ghoshal (2005) lamented that “by propagating ideologically inspired
amoral theories, business schools have actively freed their students
from any sense of moral responsibility” and connects the pedagogy to
improper corporate practices (76). The failure to question concepts based
on classical economic liberalism, such as self-interest, market growth,
and wealth maximization, affects how business managers, students, and
educators address sustainability. For example, the teaching of agency
theory in management courses can result in selfish actions by future
managers (Donaldson, 2002; Ghoshal, 2005). Because these types of
actions are short-term oriented, they discourage an analysis of the long
term implications not just for a business but also for the society in which
that business operates.
More importantly, these theories and pedagogical approaches can
also lead to excluding discussions on issues of social justice and the
common good (Cima & Schubeck, 2001) that are essential for global
sustainability as defined by Stoner (2013). Globalization makes these
concerns even more pressing, because the strategic actions of multinational
companies are typically based on a profit and shareholder wealth
maximization model. Although these entities contribute to the economic
growth of the developing countries in which they operate, the social
and economic consequences for these countries are mixed (Fosu, 2011;
Lenagala & Ram, 2010; Huang, Teng, & Tsai, 2010). Moreover, the corporate
emphasis on profit and wealth maximization in a global economy
exacerbates the problems of the poor in developing countries that lack
adequate legal and governance structures to protect the most vulnerable
(Bardy, Drew, & Kennedy, 2012; Chakraborty et al., 2004). Indeed,
although studies show that trade and income growth generally improve
environmental quality in developed countries, the effect is the opposite
in developing countries (Baek, Cho, & Koo, 2009). Thus, the role that
businesses play in shaping local communities accentuates the need for
a more integrative approach toward how these issues are addressed in
According to Waddock and McIntosh (2009: 298), the social contract
between business and society is “badly broken” and calls for management
education that “goes beyond the usual recipes for corporate (social)
responsibility.” They emphasize that “a mind, body, heart, and soul
approach is key to developing leaders who are whole people and who
respond to leadership situations with their whole person rather than as
homo economis or just with an analytic frame” (316). Reflecting on the
inadequacy of addressing sustainability from an economic perspective
alone, while drawing on their Christian beliefs, Sandelands and Hoffman
(2008: 136–137) remind us that
[a]gainst the bend of modern thinking, which catastrophically sunders the
natural from the spiritual and the secular from the sacred, the idea of sustainability
confronts us with the presence of God in the world. Economic
calls to sustainability fail because they do not speak to that part of our being
that is fully human, to that part of us beyond nature, to that part of us that
hungers for meaning, and for the transcendent absolute.
Taking this point of view when addressing sustainability in management
education requires a more holistic perspective—one that includes
spirituality and its relationship to leadership.
Spirituality and Spirituality-based Leadership
Interest in scholarly articles on spirituality in the workplace has increased
significantly, particularly since the turn of the century (Oswick,
2009). Although scholars vary in their definitions of spirituality, they
usually recognize both secular and sacred values as a source for spirituality
(Delbecq, 2009; Epstein, 2002; Harlos, 2000). In reviewing the
conceptualization of spirituality in different professional fields, Rovers
and Kocum (2010) emphasize three facets of spirituality: faith (acknowledgment
of a higher power), hope (a search for meaning in one’s life),
and love (a relationship with God, others, community, and nature). All
three facets of spirituality are important in the development of future
business leaders who are able to transcend a focus on self-interest and a
narrow view of business goals.
Rejecting agency theory because it ignores a transcendent view of
human beings and places shareholders at a higher level than other
stakeholders, Daniels, Franz, and Wong (2000: 543) call for a focus on
transcendence in defining business goals so that leaders “serve broader
goals than mere profit.” They seek to offer students a transcendent
perspective where “the core purpose of commercial activity is to serve
people, not vice versa” (Daniels, Franz, & Wong, 2000: 543). Importantly,
Smith and Rayment (2008) regard spirituality as essential for fostering a
sense of connection with others in response to urgent global issues, so
that business may take part in offering a solution to global challenges
rather than exacerbating them. Spirituality, then, can inform how leaders
envision their role and their impact on others.
While several leadership models—including authentic leadership,
servant leadership, and spiritual leadership—address the moral dimensions
of leadership (Reed, Vidaver-Cohen, & Colwell, 2011: 415), the
spiritual leadership model explicitly links spiritual values, the needs of
others, and organizational outcomes (Fry, 2003; Fry & Slocum, 2008; Fry,
Matherly, & Quimet, 2010). Recognizing the importance of spirituality
in the workplace, Fry (2003) notes the need for leaders who can respond
to the spiritual well being of their followers and who are attuned to the
universal spiritual values of humility, charity, and veracity. His spiritual
leadership model focuses on developing leaders who are intrinsically
motivated to create a vision for the organization where members feel
that their lives have meaning. It also fosters an organizational culture
founded on altruistic love, that is, “a sense of wholeness, harmony, and
well-being produced through care, concern, and appreciation for both
self and others” (Fry, 2003: 912). Fry (2003) sees hope (an expectation
of fulfillment) and faith (a trust that what is desired and expected will
happen) as providing the foundation for an organizational culture based
on altruistic love.
Because altruistic love is the basis for overcoming fear, Fry (2003)
sees it as a key component for developing a sense of well-being among
an organization’s members. This helps create an environment of trust.
As a result, organizational members “experience meaning in their lives,
have a sense of making a difference, and feel understood and appreciated”
(Fry, Vitucci, & Cedillo, 2005: 836), and this, in turn, can have
direct implications for positive organizational outcomes. The spiritual
leadership model, therefore, can provide a path that leads to the triple
bottom line of “People, Planet, and Profit” (a term coined by Elkington,
1997) which advocates treating the ecological and social dimensions of
a business on equal footing with its economic dimension.
The EoC model exemplifies the spiritual foundation of this leadership
model and its emphasis on positive organizational goals that address
the long-term needs of communities. In the next section, we review the
EoC model, its spirituality-based approach to leadership, and its commitment
to sustainable practices with a focus on the common good, social
justice and poverty eradication.
The Economy of Communion (EoC) Model
Chiara Lubich, the founder of the ecumenical, inter-religious Focolare
Movement (Gallagher, 1997; Zambonini, 1991), initiated the EoC
project in 1991 after witnessing abject poverty in Brazil (Gold, 2004).
Lubich (1991: 9) cited various papal encyclicals as inspiration for extending
the Catholic Church’s teachings into the realm of the EoC businesses.
Fundamental to these teachings are the “social” encyclicals, beginning
with Rerum Novarum (Leo XIII, 1891) which addressed the role of work
and the worker in response to the effects of the Industrial Revolution
on both individuals and communities. During the Great Depression,
the issuance of Quadragesimo Anno (Pius XI, 1931) commemorated the
fortieth anniversary of Rerum Novarum and called for relationships between
capital and labor to be characterized by cooperation. The notion
of subsidiarity, the network of relationships and the participation of
the worker in decision-making, was introduced in this encyclical, and
would become a fundamental element of the Church’s social doctrine.
From 1961 to 1981, the social encyclicals addressed issues ranging from
decolonization (John XXIII, 1961) to relationships between peoples and
governments (John XXIII, 1963) and the plight of those seeking to escape
poverty (Paul VI, 1967).
In 1981, however, the Church’s social doctrine was sharply focused
upon the spirituality and ethic of human work with Laborem Exercens
( John Paul II, 1981), and its emphasis on work as a place of dignity
where a person may find the fulfillment of a vocation. John Paul II’s
later encyclical, Centesimus Annus (1991), marked the centennial of Re-
rum Novarum, and addressed the dignity and rights of workers and the
purpose of material goods. While emphasizing the right to and use
of private property, the encyclical advocates its use in an economy of
service to mankind and examines the proper role of profits. Expressing
an appreciation for a free economy, it offers the vision of a business enterprise
as a community of solidarity—a “society of persons,” not just
of capital—which must contribute to the common good ( John Paul II,
1991). The fundamentals of Catholic social doctrine, as found in the
various encyclicals, include notions of human dignity, concern for the
common good, subsidiarity (participation in decision making), justice
in distribution of goods, stewardship of resources, and solidarity with
the poor. These fundamentals and their linkage with EoC principles will
be discussed in a later portion of this article and illustrated in Table 2;
however, it is from these convictions that the EoC was formed, with its
emphasis on private property ownership as a fundamental human right
and a means to acquire goods so that “all people and all nations have
their share of the world’s goods” (Araujo, 1991: 16).
This focus on the common good, while respecting the right to private
property, has attracted scrutiny as well as acknowledgment of the
EoC model’s conformity with Catholic social teaching. Zamagni (2007),
whose work emphasizes the role of values in the economic sphere (with
particular focus on the common good), participated on the task force
that assisted Benedict XVI with the formulation of the most recent social
encyclical on business and economics, an encyclical that recognizes the
contribution made by the EoC model (Benedict XVI, 2009).
Benedict XVI noted in Caritas in Veritate that the “economic sphere
is neither ethically neutral, nor inherently inhuman and opposed to
society” and stated that “[s]pace also needs to be created within the
market for economic activity carried out by subjects who freely choose
to act according to principles other than those of pure profit, without
sacrificing the production of economic value in the process” (Benedict
XVI, 2009). He describes “[t]oday’s international economic scene, marked
by grave deviations and failures,” as requiring “a profoundly new way of
understanding business enterprise,” and goes on to cite the EoC model as
“a broad new composite reality embracing the private and public spheres,
one which does not exclude profit, but instead considers it a means for
achieving human and social ends” (par. 46).
The EoC project currently reflects the diversity and unity of the lay
movement from which it emerged, which includes not only members
from various Christian denominations but also Buddhists, Jews, Muslims,
and others who have no particular religious conviction but share a desire
for unity and dialogue with others (Gold, 1996). The EoC principles are
very similar to the key components of hope/faith, vision, and altruistic
love in Fry’s spiritual leadership model and its link to intrinsic motivation
(Fry, 2003). The EoC model reflects not only the hope that persons in
need may be helped through the formation of businesses, but rejects the
idea that the individual exists in isolation from others, embracing the idea
that human beings are “persons in community” (Gold, 2010: 57). The influence
of the EoC’s culture may be found in a closer examination of the
principles, practices, and challenges of the approximately 800 EoC businesses
and other organizations that have chosen to adopt EoC principles
and practices. For purposes of simplicity, the composite of EoC principles
and practices will henceforth be referred to as the “EoC model.”
The EoC model focuses on promoting communion and reciprocity
among the various stakeholders (management, employees, customers,
competitors, and the broader community), placing value on relationships
and the happiness of others (Bruni & Uelmen, 2006). Ferrucci (1998: 27)
describes this as “a capital of relationships” within and among the EoC
businesses “which cannot be measured in dollars and cents.” The guiding
principles of the EoC model are summarized in Table 1.
Table 1. EoC Principles (adapted from New Humanity, Inc., 2004)
These principles reflect the mission and vision of EoC businesses
which developed from a lived spirituality. Their genesis is congruent
with the element of the spiritual leadership model that describes those
who “embody a vision for their own lives that has meaning, makes a
difference, and that incorporates the values and attitudes of altruistic
love in social interaction with others to ‘do what it takes’ to get the job
done” (Fry, 2003: 720). The concern for all stakeholders and the sharing
of power by those in authority, evident in EoC principles, are congruent
with the spiritual leadership model (Fry, 2003). EoC principles conform
with Catholic social teaching, with its focus on human dignity, the
common good, subsidiarity, justice, stewardship, and solidarity with the
poor—elements that have been identified as critical to “any organization
claiming to be authentically human” (John A. Ryan Institute for Catholic
Social Thought, 2008) and that resonate with a view of sustainability that
addresses social justice, poverty eradication, and spiritually rich lives.
Table 2 summarizes the key elements of spiritual leadership and Catholic
social teaching, and describes how they relate to the EoC project.
Table 2. Spiritual Leadership, Catholic Social Teaching
and EoC Business Principles
The EoC model is novel in that it includes a voluntary sharing of
profits beyond the corporate entity, so that the profits are “shared not
only within the company but also outside of it … between companies
and, even more importantly, with those in need” (Sorgi, 1991: 12). One
critical component of a company’s profits is reserved for reinvestment
in the business to provide for sustainability and continued growth. A
second allocation is made for the support of educational programs.
Concern for those in need results in a third allocation of profits to help
with such basic necessities as food, clothing, medicine, and jobs. This
third allocation is viewed not as a charitable endeavor but as an aspect
of the relationships of the many stakeholders of the business—placing
the human person at the center of the business, with the beneficiary
also assuming the role of benefactor (Gold, 2010: 89). The voluntary
distribution of profits does not contemplate a literal division into equal
amounts allocated to each need, but is a “reference point that has to be
adapted to the concrete economic situations in which the businesses find
themselves” (Molteni, 2002: 94).
EoC businesses “compete freely with non-EoC business on equal
terms, and so have to be as profitable as any other business” (Gold, 1996:
15). However, EoC businesses are concerned not only with the production
of wealth, but also with its distribution (Molteni, 2002: 91). As the
EoC model developed during its first twenty years, EoC management
principles were adopted by business leaders who are able to share profits
(Mundell & Associates, n.d.) as well as by business leaders who are engaged
in leadership positions in non-EoC businesses (Netuitive, n.d.) and
are unable to share profits, but are otherwise committed to their ultimate
goal of building relationships that transform the “business space” (Gold,
2010: 135–160). By engaging in business practices that lead to sustain-
ability and address the common good, EoC businesses (and EoC-inspired
businesses) operate within the social contract between business and
society that Waddock and McIntosh (2009) viewed as broken.
The accountability of EoC business leaders comes from their sense of
“calling” which provides an intrinsic motivation and from the reciprocal
nature of their relationships with other EoC business leaders and stakeholders.
Ultimately, EoC business leaders are “convinced that it is necessary
to let the values [they] believe in shape every aspect of social life, and
therefore also economic life, so that it too can become a field of human
and spiritual development” (Lubich, 2007 : 276). In this regard, the
EoC model conforms with the elements described by Fry (2003: 719) as
essential to a model of spiritual leadership—the encouragement of hope/
faith, the establishment of a standard of excellence, and the sense of
“calling” that ultimately benefits people and planet as well as profits. Ultimately,
the primary benefit of introducing the EoC model in management
education is that its principles reflect a business model where sustainability
and spiritual leadership are integral components of a business.
Contributions to Pedagogy in Management Education
As noted earlier, the technical orientation and economic assumptions
of courses can create barriers to a holistic consideration of sustainability.
In a background paper for an international conference on mission-driven
Catholic business schools, Naughton, et al. (2008) addressed this challenge
by suggesting four distinct yet overlapping integrating dimensions
viewed as critical for developing a distinctive Catholic vision of business
education: integration of 1) virtue and technique, 2) faith and reason, 3)
faith and work, and 4) business and the needs of the poor. The introduction
of the spiritual leadership model with the EoC project as part of
a management curriculum offers one approach for further integrating
these dimensions with the principles of sustainability in a Catholic business
school, and can also be applied to other programs.
Integration of virtue and technique focuses on “the integration of moral
ends with the proper means of the business” (Naughton, Bausch, Fontana,
& Pierucci, 2008: 8). This type of integration goes beyond learning
business techniques to learning how to recognize the goals (including
sustainability) that are worth pursuing and the best means for achieving
those goals. Fry (2003: 696) notes that “leaders must get in touch with
their core values, and communicate them to followers through vision,
values, and personal actions.” The EoC approach to business is useful
for providing students with examples of business leaders who integrate
both economic and spiritual reasoning in their decisions and actions—
ranging from capital decision making to support for the community and
its sustainable development.
Integration of faith and reason reflects the Catholic tradition of viewing
business education as an extension of the liberal arts. From this perspective,
the concern is not just with the “instrumental rationality of how to
get things done,” but, more importantly, with the habits of the mind that
lead students to “questions of ultimacy and of faith” (Naughton et al.,
2008: 10). The integration of faith and reason engages business students
in fundamental philosophical questions, such as questions regarding the
meaning of the human person within the context of business (Naughton
et al., 2008). With its goal of “transform[ing] from within [the] usual
business structures … establishing all relationships inside and outside
the business in the light of a lifestyle of communion” (Lubich, 2007
: 276), the EoC model offers opportunities to integrate faith and
reason, particularly with respect to issues involving people and planet
as well as profits.
Integration of faith and work addresses the “divided life.” Naughton,
et al. (2008: 13) believe that “[w]e live in an age where our categories
are no longer distinctions but separations or walls: public/private, faith/
work, church/state, spirituality/religion, reason/revelation.” The recent
questionable behaviors of some business executives reflect this compartmentalization.
A core element of the spiritual leadership model is having
“a clear, compelling vision [that] produces a sense of calling … a sense
of making a difference and therefore that one’s life has meaning” (Fry,
2003: 714). EoC business persons strive “to make this [business] aspect
of their life consistent with everything else they do,” that their values
“shape every aspect of social life, and therefore also economic life, so that
it too can become a field of human and spiritual development” (Lubich,
2007 : 276). This emphasis upon holistic thinking and behavior
can help students to integrate sustainability principles and practices
with their personal and future business decisions, potentially making a
positive contribution toward global sustainability.
Integration of business and the needs of the poor reflects the view that
“[b]usiness is an inherently social enterprise constantly impacting families,
communities, nations and the global community” (Naughton
et al., 2008: 15). Although the main goal of businesses is not to solve
social problems, businesses contribute to the common good by providing
important services to society and should consider their impact on
both internal and external stakeholders. The responsibility of business
programs includes forming students in a way so that they can “see the
‘expanding chain of solidarity’ in which business operates …. Not to take
this ‘expanding chain of solidarity’ into consideration can have devastating
consequences, especially for the poor” (Naughton et al., 2008: 15).
A fundamental value of the spiritual leadership model is the concept
of altruistic love. With its genesis in the slums of Brazil and its goal of
forming reciprocal relationships between those in need and those with
means of assistance, the EoC provides a model of solidarity between businesses
and all stakeholders—within the business, outside the business,
and within the broader community. Students introduced to the notion
of solidarity through the EoC model have a concrete example of how it
can be accomplished and of the contribution that can be made even by
small entrepreneurships toward the goal of global sustainability.
Because the EoC model reflects the centrality of the human person
and promotes the notion of business not as an end in itself but as a
means for the eradication of poverty and the promotion of sustainable
development, its usefulness need not be limited to mission-driven
Catholic business programs. It is also compatible with the UN Bruntland
Commission’s focus on “sustainable development” which includes social,
economic, and environmental aspects. The Bruntland Report ultimately
concluded that “[i]n its broadest sense, the strategy for sustainable development
aims to promote harmony among human beings and between
humanity and nature” (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1991).
This call for action reflects many of the same concerns
that find resonance in contributions from the principles of spiritual
leadership and the EoC model. Hence, Burckart (2002) has put forth the
EoC model as one that is responsive to the Bruntland Report, and has
generated a useful comparison between “sustainable development” and
the “culture of giving” proposed by the EoC model (78).
One important element in the introduction of new curricula or
pedagogy is the availability of teaching materials. There are a number
of EoC resources available that can be combined with the extant literature
on spiritual leadership to develop a transcendent view of the role of
business. These resources include descriptive, case-based, and technical
articles (Buckeye, Gallagher, & Garlow, 2011; Bruni & Uelmen, 2006;
Linard, 2003; Ruggiu, 2008), and other resources available online (http://
www.edc-online.org/uk/testi.htm). Additional resources include over
one hundred masters’ theses and doctoral dissertations, and a number
of other publications (Bruni, 2002; Gold, 2004; Gold, 2010). A more
in-depth study of the EoC businesses themselves would also provide a
living laboratory for examination of the EoC model in the context of its
potential contribution toward global sustainability.
The EoC model offers management education an example of a “real
world” business model that promotes sustainability through its incorporation
of spiritual leadership principles and Catholic social teaching.
Its emphasis on conservation of resources, job creation, and sustainable
profitability as a means for individual and community development
has the potential to take it beyond the imbalances promoted by agency
theory and the single-minded focus on shareholder value, to a consideration
of “people, planet, and profit.”
It would be naïve to suggest that only the EoC model provides an
answer to the challenges facing both educators and society; nonetheless,
it does offer a fresh perspective. It is also a model that has emerged and
flourished in a time of global economic upheaval. It is in this context
that it is offered as a resource reflecting a greater openness to the role of
spirituality in the development of sustainable business practices and in
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ABOUT THE AUTHORS|
Katherine J. Lopez is at St. Edwards University, Austin, Texas, U.S.A. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Zaida L. Martinez is at St. Mary’s University, San Antonio, Texas, U.S.A. Email: email@example.com
Linda B. Specht is at Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas, U.S.A. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org