The prevailing view of business as being primarily motivated by profit is both harmful and inaccurate. It is harmful in that it skews public policy in favor of those whose sole concern is to make money. It is inaccurate in that the primary motive of any entrepreneur worthy of the name is to achieve an outcome of human worth. Profit will always be an essential measure of success in any business but, if it is the primary goal, it is more than likely to be exploitative of both customers and employees. The connection between entrepreneurship and human worth is more than a lofty ideal. It highlights the value of business in human society. No society owes anything to those whose only concern is to make money. The entrepreneur, by contrast, has an irreplaceable role to play in promoting the common good.
The purpose of this article is to show that the insights of Laudato Si’ (LS) can help change the self-understanding of business from the current profit-driven model to one which, with the right political supervision, can serve the needs of humanity and, in particular, can promote the care of our common home. Public policy has a key role to play in bringing about this change and when those charged with shaping policy see profit as an end in itself they are abdicating that role of supervision, without which responsible entrepreneurs are placed at a severe disadvantage and the common good undermined.
The primary role of business is to supply goods and services. It is also the major provider of employment and, through these two roles, it shapes everyday life in a pervasive manner. Leaders in the business world have an influence that goes far beyond their economic function; how they understand what they do has a profound influence on the rest of society. This explains why, in recent decades, talk by business leaders about the profit motive has had such a damaging effect.