Have you thought about the people affected by your work who you may never meet? Learn more in this excerpt from the e-book "The Call to Commerce: 6 Ways to Love Your Neighbor Through Business." Catch the first and last posts here on the blog as well.
Months ago, I had a moving conversation with Tim Dearborn, a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary and former vice president at World Vision International1. He shared the story of visiting a church built on slave forts in Ghana. As he sat in the cathedral, he could almost hear the cries of 19th century slaves echoing below.
I asked him, “What do you think are the modern ‘churches built on slave forts’ today?” That is, what are the systemic injustices that Christians have knowingly – or unknowingly – supported in the modern world?
He replied with two simple words: “Supply chains.”
Rarely do we think about the labor conditions of those who sew our shirts or make components for our iPhones. But even more rarely do we think about the long-term profitability of underpaying laborers or oppressing those in faraway lands. Good business means thinking through where we source our materials, and the conditions for laborers of those we do business with.
William Haughey, 35, is leading the way in “loving your supply chain.” After having been an investment banker at Goldman Sachs for four years, he started Tegu, a toy company that makes simple, magnetic wooden blocks2. The name is derived from a part of their supply chain, located in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Their mission is to responsibly harvest wood from Honduran cooperatives, and to “pay our employees a living wage and prioritize long-term career growth and development rather than simple task-based jobs.” Their goal is to bring world-class employment standards to Central America.
Thinking this through as a consumer can be a stressful affair. Staring at clothes on a department store rack and wondering if sweatshop labor produced my new dress shirt can by paralyzing. Nonetheless, if we have the choice between two suppliers – and one has demonstrably better ratings on glassdoor.com, or, on the other side, has an obviously bad reputation in the industry – let’s choose the former. Even supply chains are made up of people that God so loves (John 3:16).
Though we won’t solve all global issues, we can, and should, follow the advice of American priest Ken Untener when considering who we do business with:
“We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of
liberation in realizing this.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's
grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the
difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not
messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.”3
Verse to post on your desk: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Listen! The Lord is calling to the city — and to fear your name is wisdom…‘Am I still to forget your ill gotten treasures, you wicked house, and the short ephah, which is accursed? Shall I acquit someone with dishonest scales, with a bag of false weights?” –Micah 6:8-11
Karla Nugent has found that caring for the community gives her company an advantage4. As the Chief Business Development Officer of Weifield Group Electrical Contracting, Nugent has built an industry-leading electrical contracting firm in Denver. Her company has built edifices like the Net Zero, a LEED-Platinum research facility at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, and has been recognized by the Denver Business Journal for its community impact.5
Weifield Group has four main philanthropic areas: Head of Household, Women & Children, Health/The Less Fortunate, and the U.S. Military6. Not only do they give out of corporate profits to local nonprofits serving people in these categories, but the 350 plus employees also volunteer at these organizations on the clock.
Seems expensive – and unprofitable – right? That’s what I thought, too. But dig down, and the culture at Weifield of contributing to the good of communities has significantly impacted their employee retention numbers. Keeping their best employees – who want to be at a company that cares about more than profit – has made Weifield one of Denver’s Top Places to Work7. Which means in hot economy starving for middle and high skilled labor, Weifiled is coming out on top on the war for talent – and has been profitable every single year since their founding 15 years ago.
In fact, Harvard Business School research found that companies with more corporate social responsibility practices and programs significantly outperform their competitors, both in terms of their balance sheet and stock price.8
As it turns out, loving your community is also loving yourself.
Verse to post on your desk: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” -Galatians 6:9-10
This is the second of three excerpts that we’ve shared on our blog from the e-book "The Call to Commerce: 6 Ways to Love Your Neighbor Through Business." Miss the first one? Grab your copy of the full e-book.
Jeff Haanen is a writer and entrepreneur. He founded Denver Institute for Faith & Work, a community of conveners, teachers and learners offering experiences and educational resources on the gospel, work, and community renewal. He is the author of An Uncommon Guide to Retirement: Finding God’s Purpose for the Next Season of Life and an upcoming two-book series on spiritual formation, vocation, and the working class for Intervarsity Press. He lives with his wife and four daughters in Denver and attends Wellspring Church in Englewood, Colorado.