Monday, March 5, 2012

Economy of Communion: New Way of Running a Company

"Based on an economy of sharing, the vicious circle of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer can be broken." This is the headline to an article in the Peace Weekly on the "Economy of Communion," a movement of entrepreneurs, workers, managers, consumers, and financial operators. It was launched by Chiara Lubich, the founder of the Focolare Movement, in 1991, in Sao Paolo, Brazil, to demonstrate a possible social reality, following the example of the first Christian community in Jerusalem, that "no one of them was in need."

Repeatedly,  we hear that the middle class, and those even further down on the economic ladder, are finding their lives financially more  difficult, and at the same time we hear that the financial conglomerates are invading the world of small business, and putting many of them out of business. This criticism is also coming into focus in the political world, with the elections planned for this year. There is a growing desire for policies that will change the way the government deals with big business.

The article gives us an example of a bakery that is transparent in its running, honest in paying its  taxes, and is following the principals of the Economy of Communion. They return one third of their profits to the company and return the rest to the workers and the poor. Each month they give to the poor from 20 to 30 thousand dollars a month. The bakery employs 160 workers and is the largest, in one location, in the country. They have as their motto: "Do what we all consider the right thing to do." They seek to have a  family atmosphere and even have their own newspaper. All the workers have a voice in setting the goals of the company, and how the bakery functions on a daily basis is a joint decision, certainly something quite out of the ordinary in today's business climate.

Another example is from Brazil where the movement began. Femaq, with 60 full-time employees, makes automotive parts. Two brothers decided, in 1991, to share the running of the company and the profits with their workers, and also to contribute funds to helping the poor. Following this change, their profits increased; the new approach to running a company and treating their workers was vindicated. The firm, in 1994,  had a gross revenue of $8,200,200, making  it one of the leading firms of its kind, not only in Brazil but in South America.

The Economy of Communion has shown more interest in people than money and company growth. The economic achievements naturally come, not surprisingly, according to the principles of the movement, when a significant portion of the income goes into growing the company, helping the poor and benefiting the  workers. The problem with big business today, says the Korean  leader of the Economy of Communion, is that the bigger the company becomes the more it wants to continue growing, often at the expense of the poorer sectors of the society. The aim of the movement is to change this culture, he said.  It is not merely to help the poor but to have those who have been helped in a better position to help others.

The article concludes with the words of the one responsible for the Economy of Communion. "The conglomerates are getting into the commercial street markets   because there is money to be made." He hopes for a change: "More than income and money, there should be in any business enterprise an interest in people and relationships. This alternative proposal will be a solution to our present problems."