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Bishops, businessmen for inclusive growth

Last July 13, the Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference for Human Development, or BBC for short, held its 39th general assembly and annual meeting with the theme “Inclusive Growth Through Human Development and Social Justice.”

No less than His Eminence, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, delivered the keynote speech, apologizing to the private-sector representatives for repeating much of what he had shared on the topic of inclusive growth when he spoke on various occasions to members of Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines and Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), among others. I listened to him at the MBC and MAP meetings and again at last Monday’s BBC assembly, and I have certainly not tired of his remarks on inclusive growth and his calls to the business community to do more.

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Cardinal Tagle reiterated Pope Francis’ recent statement that “an economy that excludes kills.” Hence, the cardinal has been challenging corporations to include the poor in their vision and mission statements, as part of their strategic plans, in deciding what good to produce and services to provide, and in considering models of development. He is encouraging leaders and decision-makers in the private sector to go beyond theories by meeting the poor in their difficult realities. Such encounters are essential so that a truly integrated approach may be developed by these companies that drive the country’s growth engines.

The cardinal’s message reminds me of the AIM RVR Center’s call for strategic and embedded corporate social responsibility (CSR)—a model ensuring that CSR is part of a company’s DNA and, therefore, is never subject to cost-cutting in hard times.

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Cardinal Tagle speaks always about the critical foundations for inclusive growth: an ethics-inspired view of reality, the reentry of providence, stewardship rather than ownership, brotherhood and sisterhood, and promotion of the common good. Can our captains of industry and entrepreneurs take on this extremely challenging shift of perspective?

Social enterprises, for example, are being built by individuals and groups to ensure that the fruits of the successful enterprise flow back to families and communities where goods are produced. The CEOs of these enterprises get paid much less and forego the usual executive benefits and privileges so that more profits get plowed back to the poor communities that form the backbone of each enterprise’s production. Members of the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals have been trying to change the face of business by helping promote such foundations for inclusive growth in their own companies and businesses. Last I heard, they were coming from various parts of the country, 15,000-strong and growing.

First established in the 1970s, the BBC has been pursuing its mission “to bring about the uplift of the quality of life of the Filipino through the promotion of social justice and through the increase of the nation’s wealth that is equitably distributed in total rejection of poverty in the country.” Its mission further states that it “will catalyze the participation of various sectors of society—rich and poor, powerful and powerless—in solidarity for total human development.”

To continue this mission, the recent assembly elected the following members of the BBC Executive Committee: Bishops Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon, Jose Colin Bagaforo of Cotabato, Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro, Roberto Mallari of Nueva Ecija, Broderick Pabillo of Manila, Ruperto Santos of Bataan, Antonio Tobias of Novaliches and Crispin Varquez of Samar; and business persons Roberto Ansaldo, Meneleo “Ito” Carlos, Jose Concepcion Jr., Alejandro Teves Escano, Victoria Garchitorena, Luvinia Lapid, Christian Monsod and Mediatrix Villanueva.

With Cardinal Tagle’s inclusive-growth challenge, what can this year’s BBC ExCom focus on? Allow me to offer some opportunities for action.

Most major corporations have ongoing CSR projects and programs. Many earmark a percentage of income to support these projects and programs; they also become part of business associations engaging in various activities and pursuing advocacies for inclusive growth. If corporate Philippines is expected to do more, the BBC must propose the next level of automatic income allocation to help expand existing programs and create new ones for inclusive growth.

In the PBSP, for example, the challenge to member-companies is to donate one-half of 1 percent of net income before taxes to programs for education, health, and poverty alleviation. Can the BBC make specific the inclusive-growth challenge by proposing that companies allocate a higher percentage of their income for programs that can help address poverty?

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This leads us to the next possible focus of action. Can the BBC identify the programs that should be scaled up so that the companies can contribute to proven interventions? Can the BBC also be brave and bold and identify which interventions are not working and encourage companies to move away from these? Can the BBC help develop or identify other programs for these companies?

Finally, can the BBC lead in promoting constructive dialogue between the Church and business that will finally address some critical areas in which there is continuing disagreement? Can such a dialogue be more open and inclusive of various points of view? Specifically, is there a common way forward on the issues of mining, energy, labor contractualization, responsible parenthood and agrarian reform? That common way may also be the path to inclusive growth!

Peter Angelo V. Perfecto is executive director of the Makati Business Club.

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TAGS: Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference for Human Development, inclusive growth, luis Antonio tagle, Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines, Philippine Business for Social Progress
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