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European SPES Annual Conference in Leuven

The European SPES Annual Conference entitled “The Will to Serve – Inspiring Models of Servant Leadership & Social Entrepreneurship” was held in May 24-26, 2018 in Leuven, Belgium.

Members of the Business Ethics Center gave several presentations in the conference.

In his keynote lecture entitled “Serving Future Generations” Laszlo Zsolnai discussed the questions “Who are future generations?”, “What kind of obligations do we have to future generations?” and “How can we serve the interest of future generations?”. He argued that living a frugal lifestyle, restoring natural ecosystems, preserving the cultural heritage of humankind and inventing life saving knowledge are the best means to serve future generations. Zsolnai concluded that serving the interest of not yet born people is the most altruistic act of all. But, paradoxically, this serves our best interest because improving the prospects of future generations enhances the future of our own generations too.

Laszlo Zsolnai also gave a joint presentation with Kenneth J. Barnes (Gordon-Conwell Teological Seminary, USA) on “Love in Business: Sentimentality or the Ultimate Virtue?” Tey insisted that on the basis of calculative self-interest business will not regain trust from the public and cannot get deep support from its stakeholders. For re-establishing trust and getting deep support business should show that it loves and serves its all stakeholders. Zsolnai and Barnes argued that the virtue ethics literature in business focuses mainly on the cardinal virtues and disregards the role of the theological virtues. But without the foundational role of the virtue of love, the cardinal virtues have a limited role in transforming businesses into high purpose organizations.

In his presentation “Reinterpreting Fashion Retail: The Case of Mr. Sale” Gabor Kovacs analyzed the case of spiritual driven entrepreneurship and spiritual leadership in practice that introduces Mr. Sale, a Hungarian fashion retail company. The meditation practice of the owner determines the credo of the company and influences the scope of business activities and the way these activities are accomplished. Furthermore, the meditation practice of the owner enables various spiritual values to appear in business, which are compassion, genuine care, responsibility, well-being, moderation, wisdom and creativity. The case suggests that spiritual practice and spiritual value commitment can contribute to the creation of innovative business practices and social responsibility is not in odds with profitability. Genuine ethics may pay as it can enhance profitability.

In his presentation “New Models of Ecologically Conscious Business” Andras Ocsai discussed the problematic of ecological consciousness and business ethics in the practice of sustainable economy and business management. He analyzed leading ecologically conscious and ethical businesses throughout the world to show that ecological consciousness and business ethics provide value systems that are much need in the transition toward global sustainability. The value background and motivation of the studied businesses are rooted in the founders’ and/or managers’ value commitments which serve as internal drivers. At the root of theses ecologically conscious practices are deep respect for nature, God or the source of life, or the selfless service of the common good. It appears as common characteristics that their success criteria are multidimensional. They work not only for financial profit but for the well-being of all of their stakeholders. Financial profit is only a means for long-term economic sustainability of the companies.