The Spirituality of Shareholder Advocacy
St. Ignatius of Loyola bequeathed to Jesuits a distinctive spiritual vision, a way of seeing the world that affects all we do. Inspired by this Ignatian vision, Jesuits and those who share their spirituality find themselves engaged in numerous types of social involvements to serve humanity and to give glory to God.
We should not be surprised that the practice of socially responsible investing entails taking unpopular political stances. We are called to undertake economic initiatives, such as shareholder actions pertaining to corporate responsibility on the part of multinational corporations.
Inspired by the care Ignatius showed to the poor and lowly of his time, Jesuits in all lands seek out opportunities to identify themselves more closely with the lives of the poor. We seek to work with the poor, using whatever expertise and influence we can muster to improve the life chances of those who are marginalized in any way. Among the distinctive contributions we can make is to enter the corridors of corporate power in order to advocate for business policies to make the world more humane.
For more than a century, Catholic social teaching has called believers to advance the common good through actions and policies that support not only charity but social justice. A consistent theme of this teaching is the imperative to distribute resources necessary for survival to where they will do the most good. This principle, sometimes referred to as the “universal destination of material goods,” justifies occasional departures from purely market procedures, mechanisms and distributions when these do not fully serve human life and progress. Those who control capital, particularly large corporations, have an obligation to employ their productive power in ways that serve the common good, beyond narrow self-interest.
In recent years, Pope John Paul II has been an especially bold voice for corporate social responsibility. In this message to the Jubilee 2000 Debt Campaign he addressed these issues when he wrote:
“The Church has consistently taught that there is a social mortgage on all private property.”
The teachings about the just use of corporate power are ultimately an application of Ignatian spiritual principles writ large. While legitimate differences will persist regarding the extent and precise shape of these obligations to the poor of the world, shareholder advocacy advances the Ignatian vision that includes a fervent desire “to be of help to souls” and “to find God in all things.” In a world sharply divided between great affluence and desperate poverty, followers of Ignatius can do no less.
– Excerpt from In All Things, Fall/Winter, 2002