For a group of speakers who will be present in UNIAPAC World Congress in Lisbon, it means, to all of them, to contribute in a legitimate way for the common good. But, due to their geographic, academic and professional diversity, each participant in the event elects some supreme aspects in disadvantage of others. VER gathered testimonies from eight entrepreneurial leaders or non- profit organizations which share their leadership ideals – to place the human being in the centre of any business strategy. They fight everyday so that it can happen.

“Each human being’s dignity and common good are matters that should structure all economic policy, but sometimes they just look like external added appendixes to complete a political speech without perspectives (…).

How many words have become molesting for this system! It molests that one talks about ethics, it molests that one talks about world solidarity, it molests that one talks about goods distribution, it molests that one talks about defending work posts, it molests that one talks about the weak ones’dignity, it molests that one talks about a God who demands a commitment in favour of justice.

Other times it happens that these words become object of an opportunistic manipulation that dishonours them. The comfortable indifference facing these matters empties our life and our words from their meaning. An entrepreneur’s vocation is a noble task, as far as he allows to be questioned by a wider meaning of life; this allows him to truly serve the common good with his effort in multiplying and making this world goods more accessible to everybody.”

Pope Francisco, Evangelli Gaudium (203)

The World Congress of International Union of Entrepreneurs and Christian Managers (UNIAPAC) has, surprisingly, a strong inspiration in Francisco’s words, having chosen as theme of its event the idea that an entrepreneur’s vocation is a noble task. Or, at least, it should be. And it is around this principle that the debate will flow. It will gather businesses leaders from the four corners of the world with much diverse academic backgrounds, and the same happening with their professional and personal lives.

No doubt diversity is one of the characteristics of this world congress and, although there are many common points that unite its speakers, they do not always have the same perception of what to face business as a noble vocation really means. After interviewing its various Keynote Speakers, VER, as a media partner of this event, co-organized by ACEGE, gathered an amount of testimonies from several speakers that will be present in the congress, inviting them to express their vision on the main theme and the possible ways to put it into practice.

The following testimonies – many of them summarized, because of their extension – do not obey any criteria or order of importance; rather they portrait the previously mentioned diversity that will make this world event, taking place in Lisbon, a space of experiences exchange and wide reflection.

“As time goes by, I feel more prepared to face the economic crisis and the crisis that affect businesses, learning with my mistakes and successes.” – Sérgio Cavalieri

Sérgio Cavalieri, who has already been the president of Latin America UNIAPAC, belongs to the third generation of a businessmen’s family – more precisely the founders of the Asamar Group in Brazil with 90 years of existence – occupying the function of president in the administration council. For this manager and civil engineer, post-graduated in Finances and management by INSEAD, “to lead, orientate, inspire and take decisions in today’s entrepreneurial world is an enormous challenge”, due to the fact that, as he comments, “the decisions and actions taken nowadays will be judged tomorrow”, and according to the principles and regulations which are in a continuous process of change and “we don’t know, yet”. So, and in this context, “to be a businessman, an entrepreneur or an entrepreneurial leader is a difficult and noble vocation, as it involves risks and uncertainties”, being “a task in which the possibility of existence of mistakes and gaps is very high”, as he stresses. However, as he also refers, “it is highly worthy to assume this responsibility.”

“And why not change our perception of poverty, facing it not as a problem, but rather a challenge?” – Martin Burt

The question is formulated by Martin Burt, the founder of Fundación Paraguaya, an ONG devoted to the development of solutions to eliminate poverty, responsible for the tool Poverty Stoplight, an evaluation methodology that helps families to diagnose their multidimensional level of poverty, as if they drew a map, allowing afterwards the development and creation of a plan to overcome it and in charge of a mentor from the same ONG in Paraguay. For the also member of the Board of Directors from Schwab Foundation for the Social Entrepreneurship, belonging to the World Economic Forum, the idea of an entrepreneurial activity as a noble vacation is based on two main characteristics that any modern business should have in order to serve the community and get “the social license” to operate in the current system: “a high capacity to mobilize resources and innovation power:” As he declares, “if the income generation is connected to the improvement of employees and clients’quality of life, that will have a significant impact on the community. And according to the importance of businesses in our communities, this approach can widely contribute to common good direction and to the act of helping to change the world”.

If, according to Sérgio Cavalieri, the best way for a business leader to reinforce his chances of success and contribute for the common good is “to decide and act based on the christian values, while permanent and universal, and always placing the human being on their centre, for Martin Burt – who dreams of a labour force of “zero poverty” – the entrepreneurial leaders’ contribution should be done under the social cooperative responsibility or through programs of shared value, which should be incorporated in “core business”. In turn, Cavalieri alerts that leaders need to understand that profit is only one part of the business equation and that society is, nowadays, the enterprises biggest stakeholder.
So, and as he gives as an example, “the more time leaders dedicate to people, the bigger the possibilities of success, longevity, reputation are, and, consequently higher profits will be a reality for the business.”. Both the two speakers defend that, more than ever, the evaluation of the social impact is absolutely crucial, not only for the different stakeholders, but also for the enterprises themselves.

“To change the world begins with a little drop of water that will agitate the waves and will have positive effects on the whole ocean.” – Chiara Condi

“When an entrepreneurial activity is considered a noble vocation it is so because there is an ecosystem where everybody benefits”, says Chiara Condi, the foundress of the non -profit organization LED BY HER – dedicated to the defence of women’s rights and to programs of entrepreneurship and innovation development [in the feminine] – and also a consultant in diversity issues, considered one of the “Most Influent Women in France” (although born in USA). She believes that this “noble vocation” exists to create value where it didn’t exist before through the organization of the existent resources in a specific business. “Which brings value to persons who have access to new services and products, but also to society as a whole where enterprises employ people and create richness in order to be possible to create that same value”, she stresses. Chiara Condi also affirms that in order that an enterprise may contribute in an authentic way to the common good it shouldn’t invest only a part of its income in the support to social causes, “but have the social values which define it correctly ‘embodied’ in its own DNA and in such a way it conducts its business everyday”. Which means that when leading its organization bearing in mind these values, from the way it obtains its resources to the way it deals with its employees or the way it offers its products and services to the client – and in order that the enterprises may truly change for better – it is crucial to adopt this philosophy at all levels of their activity, which should also be suitably incorporated in all workers.

“The inclusion in the enterprises is one of the ways to ‘actualize’ a person’s dignity, who is created in image and resemblance to God, as we know: that is, our capacity to love and be loved.” – Alejandro Pellico Villar

Mexican Alejandro Pellico Villar, founder and director of Solidarium, has a more transcendental opinion. Solidarium is a consulting enterprise dedicated to the institutional strengthening through the strategic management with a transcendental purpose, and follows the management model ‘centred in people’ as its main objective. According to the speaker, used to expose his ideas about social businesses practice in national and international stages – he is also the President of the Social Union of Mexico Entrepreneurs – , the noble vocation in debate consists “in the unparalleled opportunity for owners and leaders of businesses to place the person in the centre of the entrepreneurial activity (…), considering and managing the enterprise as a community of people who share and contribute to a specific common good, without excluding the creation of economic value, but rather including and distributing it in an adequate way, and when the purposes and the means are placed in the right order.”

On the inclusion issue –that will be one of the big themes also in debate in the congress – Chiara Condi believes that its more crucial aspect consists on the aknowledgement of the reason why it is so important to have people different from ourselves in our enterprises. “If people don’t believe, first of all, that diversity is important they will never reach it for the right motives, neither will they ever make the necessary resources available to do it”, she affirms. “But inclusion is truly important because it gives us new forms of approaching the challenges of businesses, as well as new solutions. To be inclusive isn’t just to do what is right, but to give business a true competitive advantage.”

As for Alejandro Villar, and bearing in mind that human beings interact through the various dimensions which constitute his being – physical, intellectual, social/familiar, emotional and spiritual – which can be different, but not separated, “each interaction encloses all people’s dimensions, but with a particular emphasis on one or some of them. Inclusion in the enterprises and, just as an example, will emphasize the people’s physical dimension when it integrates someone with incapacity, or the intellectual one when it includes in its workforce someone with cognitive problems (…)”, he explains. And, going back to his management model, Villar stresses that the Management Centred on the Person allows a systematic revision, as well as a management of the interactions inside the enterprise or any other human institution, to assure the desired effects (feeling ourselves loved- ‘actualization of the personal dignity’) are always considered through a concrete intervention form (to love the other – solidarity, subsidiarity”. Or, and he finishes, “the inclusion in the enterprise (…) will be attained when it approaches the people in cause in a solidary and subsidiary way, trying deliberately and actively to make them feel loved (…)”

“The most important is to preserve the human dignity” – Paul Dembinsky

The Polish Paul Dembinsky is an economist and a political scientist who leads the International Association for Christian Teaching and the Plateformé Dignité et Développement, in Switzerland. According to him, to have a business is to produce useful goods and services at accessible prices, but, and above all, to promote decent work posts. “Profit only comes – and not always – last place”, he declares. In order that the enterprises may do the necessary transition to contribute to the common good, and considering that “there are many challenges”, the most important is “to preserve the consumers, workers and managers’ human dignity in a world exposed to a growing temptation towards fragmentation and complexity.”

“If the enterprise follows ethical principles, so it is easy to define what a noble vocation is” – Michal Hrabovec

Slovak Michael Hrabovec is much more optimistic. He is the president and co-founder of the software enterprise Anasoft – rewarded with the prize of Enterprise of the Year in Slovakia and recognized by several other prizes connected with its activities of social responsibility. For Michael, and bearing in mind that humans are endowed with creativity, “in businesses that means one has to be creative on the way people are served”. Giving the example of the technological segment in which his enterprise is included, the young entrepreneur recalls how important technology is nowadays for “new diagnosis in medicine, a better education, the construction of autonomous cars that will be useful in diminishing the high number of accidents on the roads, for the “no paper” solutions that already exist to save our trees, the so called green energy or the means that already exist to diminish the dangers of the high levels of pollution.” Or, in other words, stresses Michael Hrabovec, “entrepreneurship hand in hand with technology may create a new value and richness for all mankind.”

“To take the right decision, to risk and keep on working” are the compulsory steps that, according to Michael, are useful so that enterprises which show they have a noble vocation may contribute to the common good. And, together with these, “and considering that authenticity is a result of individual integrity, it is always necessary to think and act in harmony with these qualities”, he assures, also saying that this way of acting should be coincident both in professional and personal life, in order that “we may be able to explain our decisions to our partners, employees and family”. Michael also believes that any business should ask itself “what is either useful or not for humanity” and that all of us have to stand up, be creative and work hardly.

“Change yourself into the Best you can Be!” – Richard Higginson

That’s what reverend Richard Higginson thinks all businesses leaders should do, affirming that the entrepreneurial activity is a noble vocation, because “it is our privilege as human beings to accomplish our destiny offered by God (…)”. For the man who devoted a great part of his life to the project Faith in Business – an unique resource that links Christian faith to the business world and integrates the area of faith, values and leadership – being now, after his retirement in August this year, its President – Higginson also believes that in order that the enterprises may contribute in a legitimate way to the common good, they must have “discipline and dedication when providing goods and high quality products” and refuse to be the “2nd better”. Additionally, they will have to “care for all relationships with the stakeholders, maintaining an intelligent balance, without giving priority to shareholders/investors” and “grab all the opportunities that may defend the hope that exists inside us-(…) or ‘being always prepared to answer anyone who questions you in what concerns your inner hope’” [Pedro 3:15]. The reverend also declares that “everybody is important”, referring to all stakeholders.

“To conduct an enterprise with a social mission is not a luxury for a few, but rather a challenge for the many who are now compromised on searching a better world” – Roberto M. Laviña

Roberto M. Laviña studied in Manila Ateneo, an university led by Jewish in Philippines, and later he completed a master in Management in the Asean Institute of Management. He participated in the Management Development Program in the prestigious Harvard University. A pure “businessman”, he is CEO of the Phinma Group as well as an active member of the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals (BCBP), a catholic organization compromised on including the Christian values in the businesses environment. According to him, the entrepreneurial activity becomes a noble vocation “when profit is just a means that allows the enterprise to improve the lives of our fellow men, particularly the lives of the helpless and disadvantaged”. And all this process begins by “a decision taken by the leader aiming to place the talents given to him by God in the mission that consists in helping the poor in such a way that they may have access of what is essential for a better life”. Moreover, this same Christian leader – who, as to me, will have to go through a personal transformation integrating the Christian values inside himself and involving other leaders in this commitment – will have to “invest in businesses that support this mission and lead it in a way that sustains the values of integrity and compassion.”

As initially mentioned in this same article, the geographic, professional and academic diversity of the speakers who will participate in the UNIAPAC World Congress is unquestionable, and this is just a small sample of what will be soon debated in Lisbon from the 22nd November forward.