What is Laudato Si'?
Laudato Si’ is Pope Francis’ second encyclical that was published on June 18th, 2015. Pope Francis criticizes modern society’s obsession with materialism and a newly prevalent “throwaway culture” in which there is overconsumption and excessive production of disposable items rather than durable goods that can be repaired. Pope Francis also talks about his distress over how humans have been treating the environment and warns of global warming and rapid climate change. He calls on society to take “swift and unified global action” in order to save our planet. It might be hard to see how accounting and Laudato Si’ go hand in hand, however accountants can use Laudato Si’ and catholic social teaching as a whole to contribute to the common good of society.
Accountants and Laudato Si'
Accountants can also put many principles from Laudato Si’ into practice as well. This is especially true for how to treat the environment. It might be hard to connect accounting with caring for the planet, but there is a strong relation there. Big businesses have the biggest impact on the environment, and accountants can help drive the business they work for to thoughtfully consider the effects their decisions will have on the globe. In paragraph 190 of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis urges “Once more, we need to reject a magical conception of the market, which would suggest that problems can be solved simply by an increase in profits of companies or individuals.” There is a mislead mindset today that profit is more important than everything. Big companies will abuse nature and other people in order to make a little more profit. In paragraph 195 of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis warns that companies have little concern for resources for the future or the health of the environment. He goes on to say, “No one calculates the losses entailed in the desertification of the land, the harm done to biodiversity or the increased pollution. In a word, businesses profit by calculating and paying only a fraction of the costs involved.” People are becoming blind to serious issues because of greed. Businesses say that they are progressing society and making everyone’s lives better and easier. However, by ruining the planet they are dwindling resources and worsening the quality of life thus creating a regression in the world. Big businesses also do not always treat people with the dignity they deserve as well. A good example of this recently is the Dakota Access Pipeline. The pipeline would go very close to native American lands and many natives protested. They were worried the pipeline would ruin sacred burial grounds and would threaten their water supply. Protests occurred for almost a year and garnered national attention. Hundreds of people were injured and arrested during the protests. However, the oil companies mostly ignored them and the pipeline became operational on June 1, 2017. The oil companies responsible did not care about the people and land they were ruining. They were only concerned about making a profit and they were supported by the government which is sad to see.
Accountants need to do everything within their power to sway the businesses they work for into being more responsible and considerate of the people, places, and animals they are harming. A great way companies can become eco-friendlier is by using renewable resources and treating animals with more dignity. Many meat companies never let their livestock even move before they are killed. They are forced to lay down in a cramped pen and never see the light of day. Many companies are inhumane in the treatment of animals. They cut the beaks off of chickens and pack thousands of animals into the same cramped, unnatural pen. These practices are disgusting and cruel, and are only used to make a little bit of a bigger profit. As an accountant, I could try to push the company that I work for to treat nature and people with more respect. Society as a whole can also incentivize companies to do this. If customers see that a company is being eco-friendlier than another they should choose that brand, even if it might cost a little more. This way companies are more willing to increase costs because they know it will increase sales. Everyone can do their part in order to help the environment, and accountants need to do all they can to help save the planet and our common citizens of the earth.
Big Businesses and Catholic Social Teaching
In today’s society, many people see all businesses as corrupt and a looming problem. However, businesses are key contributors to society and can serve a very beneficial, positive role. According to Dr. Anthony Zordan’s article “Integrating Catholic Social Teaching in the Accounting Curriculum” published on franciscancollegesuniversities.org, businesses have three main goals. These are to create wealth, provide good jobs, and to offer products and services that serve a genuine human need. The most basic purpose of a business is a community of persons that look to satisfy a basic need and form a particular group in order to do so. While creating wealth can be considered a businesses’ main goal, businesses shouldn’t be considered good or bad based on how profitable they are. For example, just because a cocaine distribution business is profitable does not mean it is a good business (Zordan). This is because it does not provide a common good for society. Providing good jobs is one of the most important things that businesses do. Notice how “good” is specified. Jobs that do not treat workers with dignity and fairness are not what a business should provide. These jobs hurt society rather than help it. Jobs are not only important because they provide compensation, but because the work itself is fulfilling. Pope John Paul II put it best when he said, “Work is a good thing for people – a good thing for their humanity – because through work people not only transform nature, adapting it to their own needs, but they also achieve fulfillment as a human being and indeed in a sense become “more a human being.” (Laborem Exercens, 1981, Sec. 9). So, businesses provision of jobs to society helps people have more meaning in their life. It might sound nice to never have to go to work, but after a while it could get lonely, sad, and one might not feel a part of society or even fully human. The final and most important value that businesses provide is offering products and services that serve a genuine human need. It might be hard to admit, but we rely heavily on big businesses. Our lives would be so much harder without places like grocery stores, or products like iPhones. However, businesses need to make sure they are charging consumers fairly for their products and services. For example, Martin Shkreli raised the price of a drug that combats the AIDS virus from $13.50 a pill to $750 after acquiring the rights to the drug. Humans deserve to have their basic physical needs met, so it would be wrong for companies to overcharge customers. Businesses are extremely important parts of society and serve an important role, however they need to stick to the guideline of catholic moral teaching and Laudato Si’ in order to truly contribute towards the common good of society.
The Value of Labor
Catholic social teaching and Laudato Si’ also touches on the value of laboring in an honest and moral matter. Sadly, in the world today there are many stories of corrupt business practices being used that cost innocent people millions of dollars. Things like Ponzi schemes and big executives stealing from the companies their charged with running. The most infamous example being Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. He tricked investors, and stole billions of dollars. He ruined multiple people’s lives because he was dishonest and had no morals. Accountants are the backbone of the business world. The economy relies on them in order to operate normally. That’s why it is so important to work in an honest way in order to contribute to the common good of society. If everyone does their job in the right way then society will definitely benefit from that. It is also vital to be willing to expose other people that you know are not working with honesty and morality. Whistleblowers have a stigma in todays’ society. However, their brave acts to come forward to expose hidden corruption really benefits all of society. They should be revered. It is wrong to stand back and watch illegal corrupt business practices even if you are not involved in them. It is the right thing to try and stop it in order to protect people’s livelihoods.
Everyone can learn how to be a better person and better member of society from Laudato Si’ and catholic social teaching as a whole. Whether it’s taking care of the environment or taking care of each other, we all have a lot to learn. We are all human beings sharing this amazing earth. In order to keep society healthy and beneficial for everyone, we need to recognize the dignity in all living things, and be honest and morally righteous to everyone. This can be applied to all aspects of society. Even in the business world, catholic social teaching can be put to excellent work and benefit so many people’s lives.