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As one trained at Princeton Seminary, with a first career in parish ministry, I feel very good about the kind of work in which I have been recently engaged—as an advocate for principled business leadership throughout the world. My positions working with CEOs and senior business leaders in corporations such as 3M, Honeywell, and Sprint have given me substantial opportunities to improve the lives of citizens with corporate dollars, volunteers, expertise, and leadership.

Businesses and their leaders have a critical role to play in our interconnected, global society and economy. Even more, they have both an obligation and a responsibility to act as ethical members of this world community. Many irresponsible business actions are reported daily; however, that is not the whole story.

Twenty years ago, a group of enlightened CEOs including those at Pillsbury and the Dayton Hudson Corporation (which was founded by an old Presbyterian family who brought the ethos of tithing into the business) decided to preserve a remarkable Minnesota business tradition of exemplary corporate citizenship and founded the Minnesota Center for Corporate Responsibility.

Today, the Center’s priorities are business ethics, a major initiative on work/life (work/family) issues, and equipping the next generation of global business leaders. The Center promotes constructive employee practices, such as flex time, that lead to more productive organizations.

Believing that the world business community requires one standard of ethical behavior applied across cultures, members of the Center initiated and developed the Principles for Business. These principles include seven precepts, the first of which states that business is not solely about making money; businesses also have a role to play in improving the lives of all of their customers, employees, suppliers, and shareholders.

Because corporations can be such powerful agents for positive social change, the authors of the Principles stressed the necessity of integrating moral values into business decision making. For example, the second principle states that businesses should contribute to the human rights, education, welfare, and vitalization of the countries in which they operate.

This perspective goes back to, among other sources, the world’s most quoted guru of the free market system, Adam Smith. His book The Wealth of Nations is a classic. But Smith also wrote an earlier and more important,

though lesser known, book titled A Theory of Moral Sentiments in which he states the case that a free market system is designed to work on a moral foundation. This theory needs to be taught in business circles around the globe.The remaining principles spell out additional moral guidelines to which businesses should adhere and include behaving in a spirit of trust, respecting rules, supporting multilateral trade, respecting the environment, and avoiding illicit operations. In collaboration with the Caux Round Table, a Swiss-based, presidential-level business leadership group with representatives from Asia, Europe, and the Americas, the Center has distributed the Principles for Business throughout the world. Published in twelve languages and accessible on two web sites (www.stthomas.edu/mccr and www.cauxroundtable.org), they have become the most broadly distributed and widely used code of business ethics in the world; they are included in major textbooks and taught in business schools globally.As I come closer to winding up this "second career" in ministry, I assist the United Nations on global projects and spend extended vacations volunteering with the International Executive Services Corps. This group has sent me to South Africa, Mauritius, Egypt, Lebanon, and the Red Lake Reservation, the largest American Indian reservation in Minnesota, to share my professional experience and to address important business problems among those in distress, often with the goal of creating needed jobs to improve their quality of life. I am grateful to be in a leadership role in society’s most influential sector that can bring tangible solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems, including the growing and unsustainable gap between the rich and the poor, corrupt business practices that preclude economic and social development, and both physical and social environmental issues. This second career has given me substantial opportunity to apply Christ’s call to service in practical ways and to help bring justice and liberty to those in need. z

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Robert W. MacGregor (’57B) is president of the Minnesota Center for Corporate Responsibility, which is affiliated with the Graduate School of Business at the University of St. Thomas.


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