With the holiday season upon us, it makes good sense for us to reflect on how fortunate many of us are in regards to our occupations, families, friends and loved ones. In this spirit, I thought it prudent to observe that as business professionals, we have a unique ability to transform these virtuous feelings into meaningful contributions that benefit those less fortunate in our local communities.
The late Robert Solomon, a philosopher and long-time writer on business ethics, understood that a businessperson is part of two communities at once: the individual's "corporate community" and the larger "global community." In his paper "Corporate Roles, Personal Virtues," Solomon situates the individual -- who may exhibit characteristics of honesty, sincerity, benevolence, resourcefulness and hospitality -- within a broader corporate setting. Solomon argued, "While business life has its specific goals and distinctive practices and people in business their particular concerns, loyalties, roles and responsibilities, there is no 'business world' apart from the people who work in business."
While the business press often provides examples of greed and avarice underlying corporate decisions, it's important for us to recognize (and demonstrate) that these behaviors are not indicative of the business community as a whole. A corporation driven solely by greed and avarice will ultimately alienate its key stakeholders, including its customers, employees and local communities.
As Solomon contended in his article, "Business with Virtue," "Free enterprise carries with it all of the responsibilities of freedom, the obligation to be the best that one can be, the obligation to care about others who are also free but perhaps not so fortunate, the obligation to look beyond one's immediate goals to a larger and inevitably shared global future." During the holiday season, the opportunities for us to meet some of those obligations are abundant.