A few weeks ago the Vatican published the Pope’s latest “encyclical”, which is sort of a policy statement on whatever the reigning Pope thinks is important. This time Pope Francis has caused a bit of a stir in the media by producing a strongly worded document about climate change. The document is called “Care for our Common Hope” (or officially “Laudato si”), and if you care to read all 40,000+ words of it, you can do so here:
What the encyclical essentially is is an excellent thesis on sustainable development. Although the Pope has the final say, it was written by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, led by Cardinal Turkson, a Ghanian cardinal. Like Turkson, Pope Francis is from the developing world (Argentina), and as a number of commentators have pointed out, he is the first pope from the developing world. This is likely why they have some really interesting stuff to say about how multinational companies operate in developing countries. For example, here’s an extract from the section in the encyclical about the “ecological debt” between “North and South”:
“The warming caused by huge consumption on the part of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the world, especially Africa, where a rise in temperature, together with drought, has proved devastating for farming. There is also the damage caused by the export of solid waste and toxic liquids to developing countries, and by the pollution produced by companies which operate in less developed countries in ways they could never do at home, in the countries in which they raise their capital: “We note that often the businesses which operate this way are multinationals. They do here what they would never do in developed countries or the so-called first world. Generally, after ceasing their activity and withdrawing, they leave behind great human and environmental liabilities such as unemployment, abandoned towns, the depletion of natural reserves, deforestation, the impoverishment of agriculture and local stock breeding, open pits, riven hills, polluted rivers and a handful of social works which are no longer sustainable””
And here’s another extract about markets and maximising profits:
“Once more, we need to reject a magical conception of the market, which would suggest that problems can be solved simply by an increase in the profits of companies or individuals. Is it realistic to hope that those who are obsessed with maximizing profits will stop to reflect on the environmental damage which they will leave behind for future generations?”
There’s some relatively radical discourse in there and all the talk in the media is how the encyclical might influence COP21, the annual global climate change negotiations to be held this year in Paris in December. Not surprisingly, given the critical comments about business, the encyclical has been getting businesspeople talking too. Here’s a really interesting debate between a number of academics and practitioners about the possible impact the Pope’s declarations might have on COP21 and business in general:
Almost finally, The Guardian has some good coverage on the encyclical and here’s a particularly useful article which highlights the main points of the document:
And finally finally.. on a lighter note!