As I write it is almost a year since I started my company Authegrity commencing a journey to fulfil what has become the purpose to which I will devote the balance of my life. That purpose is to advocate and act as an adviser in Sacred Commerce and Sacred Governance.
So one might ask, what are Sacred Commerce and Sacred Governance?
Let’s start by talking about the word sacred, which is not a word often enjoined with business words like ‘commerce’ and ‘governance’. Among the dictionary definitions for Sacred is ‘regarded with reverence’. For me the word ‘sacred’ also touches on the concepts of oneness and the need to apply an attitude of reverence for everyone and everything.
So ‘Sacred Commerce’ then is a way of doing business in the world, with reverence and an understanding of the connected nature of the universe, where everything affects everything else. Sacred Commerce applies this thinking to business models, pricing, product design, service, and all elements of engaging in business in the world.
‘Sacred Governance’ applies the same sacred or oneness thinking to how we manage the artificial entities we call corporations, how they set strategy, employ, plan, make decisions, and operate in a way that supports ‘Sacred Commerce’.
To understand how our world can move towards Sacred Commerce and Sacred Governance it may be helpful to understand what is missing in commerce and governance today. I put it down to two fundamental issues:
1) The first is that corporations grew out of a need to serve the community through the efforts of collectives whereby through specialisation and scale benefits could be delivered that would not be possible in a world gone by where craftspeople worked alone. Unfortunately the original objective to serve the community has been subverted by the demands of a capitalist system which brings us to the second point.
2) The fundamental problem with corporations and business is the ‘capital’ in ‘capitalism’. Capital has no conscience. With the exceptions of ‘Ethical Investment Funds’ and ‘Ethical Proprietor Capital’ which form a very small part of the global capital pool, capital is directed to enterprises making high returns, and is withdrawn from enterprises making low or negative returns. As organisations meet tough times, as every organisation will from time to time, capital is withdrawn until returns are improved. Unfortunately the result is that in these times boards and management are replaced with people with a very unidimensional focus on cost and financial returns, and over time these drivers have come to dominate our entire global commerce system.
Until our world can rise above the need for money, as is being explored by movements like the Zeitgeist movement and the Venus Project, profit or financial returns are an essential component of business.
The need however is to remember that fundamentally the purpose of corporations is to serve first and foremost, and to do so with reverence for people as employees, as customers, and as community and for our planet and its longevity. Profit is an essential outcome, but it should not be the primary objective. Organisations must keep revising business plans until the plan shows them a way to serve the community through Sacred Commerce and to be economically viable through doing so. They must govern through Sacred Governance producing profit but in ways that recognise everything we do has consequences and that when all of the organisations of the world put profit ahead of values the world becomes a place that the people the organisations of the world are supposed to serve can’t bear to live and work in.