Friends consider future for business
From the Friend newspaper 1 May 2009 edition
Quakers should have the courage of their convictions and conduct business in accordance with their values, a gathering of Friends has heard.
At the spring gathering of Quakers & Business (Q&B), participants were told that the global recession could make the unthinkable thinkable and provide an opportunity for different business models to flourish. Shari’a banking (banking in accordance with Islamic teachings) shows that religion can play a central role in business, while many early Quaker enterprises succeeded because of the personal links and the trust they built up.
‘We Friends tend too often to hold highly spiritualised notions about ourselves. We must recognise that our spiritual lives develop in conversation with the socio-economic world in which we live’, said Tim Phillips, clerk of Q&B, quoting American Quaker Douglas Gwyn.
The global economic crisis was likened by one speaker to a ‘slow train crash’, in which each carriage pulls the next one off the rails. The banking crisis, economic slowdown and growing unemployment could be followed by another ‘carriage’, possibly a natural disaster or sea level rise.
Many Friends at the conference felt that business would have to change. Eoin McCarthy explained that elements of our present economy, such as mineral extraction, are inherently unsustainable, while Tim Phillips referred to Godric Bader’s concept of ‘the birth pangs of the new age’, moving from the ‘absolutism and selfish greed’ of the present system to one of feeling responsible for the Earth and its inhabitants. We need to look at the bigger picture rather than just particular sectors of the economy, it was argued, particularly in such an interlinked and globalised world.
‘Some people were almost excited about the change and the possibilities it was bringing’, said Jo Poole, one of the participants. However, she continued, ‘there was also a lot of concern over the hardships that will be coming and facing people’. But overall the message was positive: ‘We must act. We must be called to action as Quakers in business.’