When I give lectures on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) my students and I inevitably have lively discussions on the triple bottom line for modern business: profit, people, and planet.
Today, businesses not only purpose to make a profit, but also to treat people (employees, suppliers, and customers) and the planet with dignity and respect. But recently, I was reflecting on a section of the New Testament where Jesus taught his disciples to pray: "Give us today our daily bread" (Matthew 6:11). It occurred to me that perhaps there is a fourth bottom line for business. Let me explain.
It seems to me that Jesus understood that God would normally answer our prayers for bread (and many other needs) through human agents, through normal people doing normal work on behalf of the common good.
In other words, Jesus probably didn’t want us to expect that our bread would supernaturally descend from heaven each day. Rather, it seems more reasonable to assume that Jesus knew that God planned to use people such as farmers, millers, bakers, transporters, store clerks and others in the supply chain to answer our prayers for bread and other needs.
Supply chains are amazing but not particularly supernatural.
Many supply chains today have thousands (even tens of thousands) of people working interdependently to provide us with the goods and services we need and want. These include supplies and services for housing, food, security, health, clothing, education, travel, communications and much more. In Jesus' time, supply chains were undoubtedly smaller, but their existence is well documented. It seems to me that when Jesus was teaching his disciples to pray in Matthew 6, he already knew that God planned to use people as the normal means by which he would answer our daily prayers for bread and other needs.
That being the case, it gives extra dignity and significance to everyone (Christians and non-Christians) in the supply chains who are supplying products and services (knowingly or unknowingly) for the common good. Consequently, I will be more patient and respectful with the next trucker who forgets to dim the high beams on a dark night... especially if it is a bakery truck!
If God is actively working in and through people in their daily jobs to help supply our food, health, shelter, clothing, security, etc… WOW! Lord help me be more appreciative of educators, police, healthcare workers, administrators, construction workers, etc. etc.
So, could there be a quadruple bottom line in addition to: 1) profit, 2) people, and 3) planet? Could that fourth bottom line be a strong “yes” to the question, “Does my business or work supply goods or services that could be an answer to someone's prayer ”… give us today our daily bread (i.e. daily needs).”
In other words, does my work contribute to the common good of my family, community, nation, or world? And if it is true that God is using thousands of people from all walks of life to meet my needs and answer my prayers, how can I better demonstrate gratefulness, respect, and love towards everyone in the supply chains that help keep me fed, healthy, safe, educated, sheltered, etc.
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Global Contributor Dr. Scott Breslin – Management Consultant and Leadership Coach