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The Link Between Spirituality and Good Business Practices

Business Development


September 10, 2020, 9:55 am

By Niranjan Gidwani, Independent Consultant Director and Former CEO Of Eros Group


More and more people today are finding that there’s more to life—and business—than profits alone.  Money as the single and only bottom line is increasingly becoming a thing of the past.

In a world of massive corporate frauds, values and ethics are an urgent concern. The hottest buzzword today is about a three-layered bottom-line, an honest and openly visible commitment to “people, planet, and through them, to profit.”  Employees and the environment are seen as important as economics.

What is spirituality in business?  As a rule, if the two are spoken about together, such people are likely to be seriously misunderstood.

There’s a wide range of important perspectives.  Some people say that it’s as simple as inculcating and implementing their personal values of honesty, integrity, and good quality work. Others say it’s treating their co-workers and employees and all other stakeholders in a responsible, caring way.  And for some, it’s making their business socially responsible in how it impacts the environment, serves the community or helps create a better world. My idea of spirituality is responsible, caring living in action. Real time.

Key spiritual values embraced in a business context include integrity, honesty, accountability, quality, cooperation, service, intuition, trustworthiness, respect, justice, and service. Just as the incidents of mega frauds are on the rise, there is also a slow but growing increase in the number of organisations who feel that they are morally obligated to help humanity solve problems. Humanity includes internal customers who are called employees, and external customers who are called: Customers.

Why Spirituality Is Important when the word itself is disliked by Businesses

Why the sudden interest in spirituality at work?  Researches point to several key factors. Corporate downsizing, an almost maniacal focus on growth and bottom line, and greater demands on remaining workers has left them too tired and stressed to be creative–at the same time that globalization of markets requires more creativity from employees. To survive into the 21st Century, organizations must offer a greater sense of meaning and purpose for their workforce.

The onset of the Coronavirus and long spells of lockdowns have compounded the problems of the Global economy in unimaginable ways.

In today’s highly competitive, highly uncertain environment, the best talent seeks out organizations that reflect their inner values and provide opportunities for personal development and community service, not just bigger salaries. Unlike the marketplace economy of 20 years ago, today’s information and services-dominated economy requires instantaneous decision-making and building better relationships with customers and employees.

Another factor in the popularity of spirituality at work is the fact that there are more women in the workplace today, and women generally tend to focus on spiritual values more often than men. The aging of the large baby boom generation is also a contributor, as boomers find materialism no longer satisfies them, and that it has not necessarily led to a higher level of contentment at the global level. On the contrary, mental and stress related health issues are hugely on the rise, probably more in the so called materially affluent nations, but with the developing world and the under developed nations of the world quickly catching up.

Visible Trends

Meditation classes are now held at many major corporations.

Apple Computer’s offices in California have a meditation room and employees are actually given a half hour a day on company time to meditate or pray, as they find it improves productivity and creativity.

Several companies appoint external coaches and trainers to guide and direct organisations into actually implementing ethical values and practices as opposed to just talking or writing about them. Incrementally more organisations are incentivising for better ethical and moral practices, though it is obvious that more needs to be done.

People Are the Most Important Resource

Increasing numbers of business people find that the key area for applying spirituality is in how employees are treated. Generosity with your time can be as important as generosity with money.

Anita Roddick, Founder of The Body Shop, with stores all over the world, purposely built a soap factory near Glasgow, Scotland because it was an area of high unemployment, urban decay, and demoralization. She made a moral decision to employ the unemployable and put 25 per cent of the net profits back into the community because she said this is what “keeps the soul of the company alive.”

10,000 Marriott International employees worldwide dedicate a day of service to their local communities each year in their “Spirit to Serve” program. Timberland, the popular New Hampshire based shoe company, pays employees for 40 hours of volunteer work annually.

Protecting the Environment for Future Generations

Many companies see their commitment to the environment as their spiritual mission.

Starbucks Coffee has partnered with Conservation International to work with its farmer/suppliers in Mexico to promote water and soil conservation and reduction of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

By reducing, reusing and recycling, Fetzer Wine has reduced its garbage by 97%, buys recycled paper, cans and glass for their products, switched from petroleum to biodiesel fuel, and farms its own grapes organically.

At Hewlett-Packard each product has a steward whose job is to minimize its ecological footprint by reducing packaging, reducing toxic materials in the product, increasing recycling, etc.

Mitsubishi Electric American specified that their suppliers could not provide them with paper or timber from old growth forests.  Once they set the example, almost 500 other companies followed their lead, and together they saved four million acres of forest.

Three signs demonstrate a company’s authentic conversion to more enlightened practices: 1) publicly announced specific goals and timetables; 2) buy-in at every level of the company and 3) transparent reporting.

Social Investment

A major effort to support good businesses is the Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) movement. More and more people want to invest in companies that embody values they care about—social, environmental, ethical– and this trend will grow exponentially in future years.

Future Directions

The sustainable business, social investment and spirituality in business movements are one of the hopeful signs that business, as the most powerful institution in world today, may be transforming from within. What is emerging is a new attitude towards the workplace as a place to fulfill one’s deeper purpose. Each day, more and more businesses are helping to create a better world by being more socially responsible in how they treat people and the environment.  They are proving that spirituality helps–rather than harms–the bottom line.

In short, the word Spirituality being directly linked to religion, and religion being the cause of a lot of the World’s ills, there is growing resentment to use it in the world of business. But, in reality, it could be defined as just plain simple living of one’s honest, ethical values written in all scriptures of the world.

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