Applying effective stewardship in business is key to its success. What does stewardship mean today for businesses? Since the Great Recession, executives are more aware of their trust roles. These days, there is greater protection for shareholders. But we have a long way to go before effective stewardship is widespread in businesses.
What Does Stewardship in Business Mean Today
What is stewardship? Stewardship is acting as a steward. Who is a steward? A steward is someone who gets responsibility and authority from an owner to look after the owner’s property in the owner’s best interest.
What does stewardship mean today for businesses? This will vary from firm to firm. These days, many boards of directors and executives see the need to be more accountable. They see this partly because of new government rules. However, executives know the cost of poor stewardship is huge. It hurts their brands. Greed filled executives in good years leading up to the Great Recession. During this time, many managers made decisions that caused major damage to their firms.
Stewardship in Business isn’t Discussed
Stewardship is a term Christians use often. However, it isn’t popular in business. Since the Great Recession, several firms accept that stewardship is more than keeping clean books. As well, business leaders know stewardship is more than looking after the environment. They realize that for each decision, they must keep in mind, values, ethics, and sound business practices. They know costs must never drive business decisions. They know they must do what’s right every time. And as Christians, we know people will apply good stewardship regularly 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? Indeed, it was not a one-off event. It continued for a long time. Clearly, 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 Whole Foods was caught 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. How 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 businesses? It means the firm must be run by honest executives. To get firms to practice effective stewardship routinely, executives must look long-term. They must work in the best interest of all stakeholders. At the same time, society must encourage Wall Street analysts to move away from their focus on quarterly financial results. Continued short-term focus has led too many executives to sacrifice integrity to show short-term gains.
© 2015, Michel A. Bell