Approximately 500 Christian professors and others from around the world recently converged on Nashville, Tennessee, for the 41st annual Christian Scholars Conference. This year’s theme was dedicated to “A Livable World: Partnership in Creation, Justice, Wellness, and Economy.” As an interdisciplinary conference, it was a wonderful opportunity to learn about creation care from colleagues in the business and economics discipline as well as from professors and scholars representing the arts, health sciences, law and policy, and theology.
Today, more than ever, society is concerned about issues of global warming, the eradication of entire species of wildlife, and other harsh realities of the not-too-distant future. Increasingly, Christians have the opportunity (and responsibility) to begin taking actions to become better stewards of this magnificent yet fragile planet of ours. Thinking of God as creator and gardener, his garden has been entrusted to us as his caretakers to do less harm and more good to it. It’s a new contract for eco-aware Christians worth upholding for present and future generations.
In my presentation, entitled “Force for Good: The Changing Landscape of Corporate Social Responsibility,” I was able to share with colleagues how we as Christians are especially called to be caretakers of the earth, living more earth-careful lives. Whether we like it or not, humanity must assume responsibility for the welfare of the earth and all the noble creatures that share it. The scale of human civilization, the volume of our economic activity, and the power of science and technology have made us shapers of much of the earth. The power to shape leads inevitably to a responsibility to wield this power wisely and carefully.
Today, even Corporate America is evolving as it adjusts business practices to embrace conservation. Once, nothing more than a commodity to be bought and sold, we now appreciate the sacred treasure that God has entrusted to us. The ultimate law of ecology (with variations found in all religious traditions, including Christianity) is that everything is connected to all other things. This law will ultimately become universally accepted – and we may now be close to that universal acceptance.
Business and industry’s choices about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives say something about their values, perceived status, and aspirations. The best practices and causes advocated and practiced by the corporate world’s high-impact organizations toward a “livable world” are important – and matter. Admittedly, not all business activities have significant environmental impacts; however, every company can take measures to benefit the environment through energy efficiency, waste reduction, and/or improving the design of their products and services. In the long run, companies that consciously work to protect the environment may become more competitive and enjoy better relationships with their environmentally conscious constituents. It’s hard to change the world without changing business. The corporate sector has substantial resources and wields enormous power. Business and industry can become a valued allies, rather than a nemesis, toward creating a “livable world.”
As Christians, and with God’s support, confidence should prevail in our ability to restore and renew the natural world. We should take seriously our demanding role as 21st-century environmental stewards and role models. It’s our obligation and our opportunity. “Forces for good.” May we each be so moved by love and gratitude that we bear witness to the great, good news of the gospel. In so doing, we will with our lives proclaim the hope that lies within us – the hope of God’s great, good future.