Can construction be redemptive? Can your for-profit function with nonprofit values, such as “care for the poor” or “historical preservation”?
The answer is “yes” to both questions if you are Andrew Gustafson, Ph.D., associate professor of business ethics and society.
Dr. Gustafson recently joined Economy of Communion (EOC), an organization in Sao Paulo, Brazil that seeks to unite people through economic activity and enterprise. The EOC was founded in 1991, but Dr. Gustafson first heard of it when he attended a 2015 conference in the Philippines. That conference inspired Dr. Gustafson to create the Business, Faith and the Common Good Institute, the MBA/undergrad course Business, Faith and the Common Good and the subsequent symposium of the same name. It also aligned perfectly with his real estate business, Communion Properties, but more on that later.
On February 4, Dr. Gustafson and fellow EOC members had a chance to be an audience for Pope Francis in Rome at the Vatican. The Holy Father challenged EOC members to see business as a vehicle not to simply make money but to radically alter society for the better. It’s a different system of thinking, the idea that making money while simultaneously helping the poor and marginalized is more sustainable than making money and then giving a portion of the excess to philanthropy. Pope Francis challenged those in the audience to be “seed, salt and leaven” for the world, to keep pushing, to do more. It’s a Jesuit call for Magis, the more, and to live the greater glory of God on earth.
This call to action is in precise alignment with the work that Dr. Gustafson is doing through Communion Properties, his real estate buying, rehabbing, and management business located in the Gifford Park neighborhood of Omaha. Dr. Gustafson moved to the Gifford Park area 12 year ago when he came to Creighton, wishing to live in walking distance to campus and to lead an integrated life. Invested in the community as a resident, he then began to purchase run-down homes with the intent of rehabbing them through the employment of homeless and semi-homeless “locals.” “I believe that every function of business – from marketing to finance – has the power to transform culture and society,” says Dr. Gustafson.
Gustafson sees his role in Communion Properties as equal parts renovator and social worker. “I enjoy hanging out with these semi-homeless guys more that I do most people, honestly,” he admits. “They are friends of mine, not just workers.”
Gustafson hopes to inspire more entrepreneurs and business owners to adapt the EOC values. “If business wasn’t about more than merely making a profit, I personally would find it pretty boring,” he acknowledges.
Striving for more, and in the process glorifying God, “is a task we always have set before us,” Dr. Gustafson states, “and that is what gets me up most mornings,” which typically include coffee with his “neighborhood locals.”
To read more about Dr. Gustafson’s trip to Rome and corresponding insights from Pope Francis, visit the Business Faith and the Common Good Institute blog.