What is the purpose of a commercial enterprise? Many people, faced with that question, will roll their eyes and say, “Well, to make money, of course!” Economist Milton Friedman says that the main purpose of a business is to maximize profits for its owners. And before Friedman, the founder of modern economics Adam Smith, in his book An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, wrote:

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.

Smith's reference to “own interest” is assumed by some to be another way of saying “maximum profits.”


But Profitability Is a Good Thing!


To be fair, those who applaud financial success are not wrong. A company that does not make a profit will not remain in business for very long. It's just, says marketing professor Brian Engelland, that profitability is not the primary measure by which a company is deemed “successful.” Serving others, he explains, is business's ultimate goal.

St. John Paul II acknowledged this in his encyclical Centisimus Annus, published in May 1991 on the hundredth anniversary of Pope Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum. He wrote:

...the purpose of business is not simply to make a profit, but rather to create a community of persons that produces something good to serve the needs of society.

Engelland, who teaches marketing at The Catholic University of America, has drawn from the wisdom of the two popes and others in a practical new handbook for business, Force for Good: The Catholic Guide to Business Integrity (Sophia Institute Press). Not a weighty academic tome, Force for Good is a compact and practical guide to doing business the right way: treating both employees and customers with respect; obeying laws and regulations; and making good business decisions which will improve society.


How Catholic Social Teaching Can Transform the Workplace

Professor Engelland draws on Natural Law, showing how business leaders can apply the four core principles of Catholic Social Teaching in their daily operations, while remaining competitive in the marketplace. At the same time, he exposes the weakness of competing theories: He rejects ethical egoism, which claims that the best moral choice is the one that maximizes benefit to self, while giving no consideration to the needs of others. He exposes the weakness of moral relativism, which claims that all viewpoints are equally valid and all truth is relative. He cites the case of Ford Motor Company's decision not to install a heat shield in its subcompact Pinto, even though a shield would have saved lives, as an example of unchecked utilitarianism.

And Engelland spotlights the strengths and weaknesses of other viewpoints, including duty ethics and virtue ethics. Instead, Engelland proposes an integrity-based perspective, and lists six things you must consider when making ethical conditions.

Engelland offers 10 steps to developing integrity in your business. He interjects personal success stories – case histories of businesses that have thrived by operating honestly and putting the customer's or the employee's needs first (i.e., “Integrity at Rosa's Fresh Pizza” and “San Diego Padre for Life: Team Continues Support for Disabled Former Pitcher”). He analyzes some notable failures, as well (i.e., “The 'Defeat Device' Scam at Volkswagen”), and he wraps up each chapter with a few Questions for Discussion, making the book an excellent selection for group study or personal reflection.

Force for Good has been met with acclaim by business leaders. Elizabeth Bryant, vice president of Southwest Airlines University, called the book “a persuasive, inspiring, timely message.”

“When integrity is placed in the center of everything,” she said, “businesses succeed and people flourish. This is a useful guide for all business leaders.”

And Timothy R. Busch, CEO of the Pacific Hospitality Group, said:

The integral approach to business ethics outlined in this book makes it an excellent guide for business leaders and business students alike. Even experienced businesspeople need continued guidance and education in order to make appropriate ethical decisions for their companies, their employees and their bottom line. Force for Good provides a thorough, integral approach to implementing ethical leadership in the workplace.

Force for Good: The Catholic Guide to Business Integrity will help business leaders to do the right thing, and to do it in the right way.