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News Item 22

Do Companies have Souls ?

BHP examines itself ...

The Advertiser, July 1, 1997

On p. 17 we find a drastic re-appraisal on the part of our premier magnitude company, BHP. It is true that one Australian earlier tried to buy it, but it still goes on as a company that runs itself. "We want," says one leader in it, "to be the world's best resource company."
The best ? how does a company become one of those ?

Best ? The superlative of "good". But what is good for a company ? Some seem to think that because they are a company of many persons, with different values, religious and other, that therefore there is only one hard-headed, modern commercial mammoth course: get the most you can for the least outlay. "Yes," say some," best for everybody really, that way, and for us in particular." Why ?

Well, if we get the most, there is the most, so that there is more for all, is the line. But what if you get the larger share ? We earned it. Did you ? And do any earn less because of your methods ? Further: is your amassing the best development for all or any ? Is wealth the ultimate, whether in private or public hands ? Is all to be 'sold' for it ? is purchasing power the end and being of all life ? is means of life the main purpose of life ? is living a denaturised product which has no force, point or purpose - except continuance ? Nothing else is like that. Milk must not be bad. Air must be unpolluted. Beauty must reach its acme. Silver is polished. Why is money so different ? Does it not then have a place ? If not, then this is mammon, money worship, which like golf worship, is a disease that sees no place but itself, and seeing too little, spoils all.

BHP, we read, is to look at potential, product, interest and return: all is to be brought to the 11% or so line in due course. Re-structuring is on; many old things are off.

Now whatever BHP does is its affair. The principles however are grist for the mill of us all.

Does a company have a soul ?

Of course not, but is there no ethos, set of principles, selection of objectives, choice of purposes once people act together in a commercial enterprise! Is PROFIT the only and the greatest commandment ? Obviously not. MANY people, and some who become associated in firms, have principles of equity, earth preservation (it is hard to profit from a spent earth anyway), either for humanistic self-preservation or sense of responsibility before God, or a realisation that we cannot make it, so we had better look after it, or ... other. Such priniciples operate with some - indeed, with many.

There are those, like the famed Le Tourneau of earth-moving equipment fame, who have a creative genius which scorns profit and MUST secure the results, the adventurous and remarkable results that lift performance, achieve wonder and contribute to human development. Money in returns is PURELY INCIDENTAL, though obviously helpful, if it comes.

EFFICIENCY is entirely another matter: is there any need to wasteful in this world of work, in securing a good objective ? Competition is another feature again: is there any reason why others should be kept out of one's preserve (short of patent which is a form of prevention of stealing), and that one should not respond to, marvel at and seek to advance with other minds ? In this universe, it is an observable fact that self is not the centre, and any effort, personal or company, to make it seek so is markedly irrational.

Le Tourneau can engage us further. HE made such a concern about employes that you would think they were human - that is, had point and purpose in this life, other than being useful for companies, public or private. Charles Dickens obviously thought that had, and his evocative novels helped to change the dangerously depersonalising trend in British industry.

Employes, however, or employers (and some governments seem to treat these so badly that it would seem they want them to become an endangered species, which is worse than foolish):

WHAT, said Christ,


(Matthew 16:26); or


Will he offer its captor something in order to secure its release ? If, filled with earthly cares, he loses all sense of value, and lives only to possess, becoming a sort of complicated cash register, so losing his powers of choice and the choice purposes he might have held: is this gain ? or can he regain his soul by offering some inducement to whatever now holds it a captive ?

What do you give when you have lost yourself ? The people of Hong Kong in many cases, appear to feel relatively content with the advent of the Communist giant next door; some with riches. But what is the power of riches, if your own body is in the possession of materialists who show their pity at Tiananmen ? Have they repented ? Not heard of...

Now then, a company can have principles, priorities and purposes, like any other operative being concerned with people, and to fail tor realise this is merely a tribute to a lost conscience, or soul, or life. Agreement to unprincipled action (in the literal sense of having no principles) is subservience, voluntary slavery. Having principles ONLY if they help profit in no way differs, except in method.

A company might elect the following principles, just for example:

1) Terrestrial - no ruin of the earth. Restoration of what is ruined if at all possible. Choice of the least ruinous methods.

2) Human - care for the lungs, bodies and minds of those concerned in operations or suffering as a result of them.

3) Moral - determination not to break appropriate moral laws: to be honest, honourable, reliable, faithful, to use talents with restraint and responsibility.

4) Developmental - desire to co-operate where possible in such a way that net gain is registered on all sides, not self-centred but contributing high quality with circumspection and sound knowledge.

5) Personal - decision to value workers not for their exploitation-potential, or their legal dangers if they go to court, but as people with whom one is working. Desire to encourage co-operative attitudes, without duress.

6) National - desire to avoid what will prejudice one's own country, without losing sight of one's quality contribution. Thus a nation needs certain industries for its defence stability, certain trades, lest international neighbours become 'tough' and hold one to ransom, as the Middle East oil cartel did with the U.S.A., helping in about one decade to bring that nation from being the world's biggest creditor to the world's hugest debtor.

While the USA's productive potential makes the loss less than fatal, in the long run it may be compromised heavily, especially if it does not acquire the resolve to pay back that debt, and so remains vulnerable to financial market blackmail, and so forth, by international lenders. This in turn could reduce its moral potential on the international scene, as it might be menaced and succumb to 'directions' of a subtle kind. Stranger things have certainly happened.

7) International - this might be either

a) security: if you put a couple of billion into China, and they nationalise ... was it your intention to bolster up their new economy, and is it this to which your vision directs you ?

b) stability - can you contribute to international stability in your enterprises, for the world is very flammable.

8) Imaginative and visionary - does a company KNOW what it is DOING ? CARE where it is going ? have purposes that, allied with production, contribute this way or that to mankind ? HOW does it contribute ? WHY does it contribute ? Is the contribution a vacuum which is always in the end, filled ... with something ? Is an empty head worse than an empty heart ?

Thus, yes, there are principles.

A company does NOT have a soul, but it projects something rather like one. If it CHOOSES to be unprincipled, to make profit the first and only object, to pretend that it owes it to its shareholders or other fantasies, this is only to say that it is spineless. Profit is a good gauge of efficiency GIVEN one knows what one is doing.

One can be efficient in going to hell; hardly commendable, though it does have a sort of latent merit. Biting a boxer's ear may be efficient - for limited objectives. Nothing however removes this question: WHAT ARE YOU AFTER ?

YOU CANNOT, repeat, CANNOT, be the world's best resources company until you are first GOOD. If you mean, the world's biggest getter of profit, best to say so. Nor can you yourself as an individual, or a small company member, evacuate your potential. ALL of life is before you: your principles indicate where you are, even suggest what you are. Is this what you want to be ? IF so, it is auto-classification, not necessity.

If you have not thought it out, best to do it. There is choice on all sides, and pretences that choices have been made for one are often the merely supine substitute for spiritual energy.

Said Jesus Christ, the coherence and beauty of whose life of power, authority and service are befitting for God's only begotten Son:

Whoever will save his life, will lose it:


whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it (Matthew 16:25).