What Does Stewardship Mean Today For businesses?

What does stewardship mean today for business?  Active stewardship in a firm is key to its success. Since the Great Recession, executives are more aware of their trust roles. These days, new rules offer greater shareholders’ protection; still, effective stewardship is scarce in business.

What Does Stewardship in Business Mean Today

Stewardship in business is essential? Stewardship means you accepting your responsibilities
Stewardship in business is essential? Stewardship means you accepting your responsibilities

What is stewardship? Acting as a steward. Who is a steward? A person who gets responsibility and authority from an owner to look after his or her property in the owner’s best interest. A steward is a manager.

What does stewardship mean today for business? The answer will vary from firm to firm. Today, boards of directors and executives follow better accountability policies because governments passed strict laws to protect consumers. Even without these laws, leaders realize the cost of poor stewardship is huge. Their firms had losses, and brand image damage because of the wanton waste in the good years. Greed filled leaders in the years leading up to the Great Recession. During that time, many decisions harmed their firms. And only now is the full cost of this ineptness visible.

Stewardship in Business isn’t Discussed

Stewardship is a term Christians use often. But, one not popular in business. Since the Great Recession, several firms accept that stewardship is more than keeping clean books. Business leaders realize stewardship is more than looking after the environment. That’s why each decision must consider the firm’s values, ethics, and sound business practices. Good managers learn costs must never drive business decisions;  they must follow what’s right every time. As Christians, we carry out good stewardship only by God’s grace.

Stewardship in Business is Walking the Talk

Recent reports about Whole Foods cheating in New York show poor stewardship. This is too bad! A key member of the Conscious Capitalism project, Whole Foods has not walked the talk. How could this happen? It was not a one-off event. It continued for a long time. Whole Foods did not operate in the best interest of its shareholders. It damaged its brand. Its share price fell sharply. Now, it must deal with class action suits. And this was not the first time officials caught Whole Foods cheating.

There is a lesson here for each of us. A firm’s mission and values mean nothing on paper. The real values are in what it does. How its managers act! The way it uses shareholders’ funds. How it treats employees. It shows up in its health, safety, compensation, and environmental practices. It’s not its policies, but its practices that matter.

Effective Stewardship in Business Means Integrity

What does stewardship mean today for business? It means honest leaders must run firms. To get firms to practice good stewardship, leaders must act long term in owners’ best interests. Society must force business leaders and Wall Street to move away from quarterly financial results’ focus. Continued short-term focus leads executives to sacrifice integrity for short-term gains.

© 2015, Michel A. Bell

Michel A. Bell

Michel A. Bell is a former senior business executive, author of six books (including Business Simplified released in 2018), speaker, and adjunct professor of business administration at Briercrest College and Seminary. Michel is a Fellow of the Chartered Certified Accountants (UK), holds a Masters of Science in management degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Doctor of Business Administration honoris causa from Briercrest College and Seminary. He is founder and president of Managing God's Money.

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