(Sri Sri addressed a group of business leaders and professionals at The International Leadership Symposium on Ethics in Business at Slovenia. The annual event brings together leaders from business, politics, academia, civil society and faith-based organizations to dialogue on new leadership styles that support inclusive and sustainable development and ensure profitability for businesses. It provides a platform for leading minds to share their experiences and expertise on the value of an ethics-based approach to deal with today's challenges in global markets.)
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen; His Excellency, the President of Slovenia; and members of the European Parliament, and the Ethics and Business Forum. I am so pleased to be here with you all on this beautiful day, in this beautiful spot.
Usually, young people say, ‘Look, someone did unethical practice, and he made millions. I am doing business ethically, I am unable to grow.’ I tell you, it is not worth the lack of peace and disturbance that he goes through. And one day, surely, he will reap the consequences of his action. It is better to be on the safer side. Do ethical business, have a good sleep and happy holidays with your family.
Have you noticed, when you walk around the graveyard, you find something written as, so and so, born on such and such a date, and died on such and such a date. They don’t indicate that they lived in between those two dates!
Life needs to be honored. Ethics is simply honoring that period between birth and death. This is the basic rule of ethics – What we don’t want others to do to us; we don’t do that to others.
Imagine you are running a business, and your employees don’t follow any ethics or discipline. Would you be able to run the business? The obvious answer is, ‘Certainly not!’ We expect people around us to be honest, integrated, responsible, and well-mannered. We expect banks to be honest, accountable, and reliable. However, when we do our business, if we don’t follow ethics, but expect others to be ethical, we are not setting a good example. This is exactly what needs to change – our expectation from others, and our own behavior.
Communism took almost ten years to come down, but it only took a few months for capitalism to collapse. Why? It is just the greed of a few people that made millions suffer around the world.
Without humanism, without compassion, without a sense of responsibility, no ism will work. Communism will not work, capitalism will not work, and every ism will fail if we don’t have humanism. Business with humanism is what I call Ethics in Business. We need to replace corruption with compassion. We need to re-establish commitment and trust. Trust is the backbone of business.
We expect others to keep our trust, but if we don’t keep it, then that is lack of ethics. So, just as we expect others to keep our trust; we should keep the trust of others. Then, there is enough for everybody on this planet.
Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘The planet Earth has enough to fulfill the need of everybody, but not the greed of everybody.’
Greed needs to be replaced by service, by a sense of social responsibility. It is not enough to produce things, we need to empower people to be able to buy these things. You produce wonderful television sets, but if people are poor, they cannot afford to buy them, then that slows you down also.
We live in an interrelated, interconnected world. Every move of ours affects every other individual in the society. Being conscious of this fact that what we contribute, affects the growth or decay of society; brings the responsibility that is so much needed in today’s business community.
I am happy that these days, people are becoming more aware; they have seen the consequences of unethical business. You can rise very high, but then sooner or later, you will land up in prison.
I spoke to a very honest businessman who said, ‘Gurudev, if I do unethical business, I lose sleep. I don’t want to lose my sleep, and my health. I do ethical business so that I can have a good night’s sleep, and good health.’
For one’s own personal benefit, to have good sleep and happy holidays with the family, one should be ethical. And it is worth it, otherwise what is the use of all the money that we earn if we have no happiness in life.
The purpose of business is comfort and happiness. If business does not bring you comfort and happiness, you may as well live in poverty. The purpose of money is to bring comfort. We miss the boat if we don’t understand this crucial, central focus of our existence. Business is not for business sake!
Usually, we spend half of our health to earn wealth, and try to spend half of our wealth, to gain back the health, which normally does not happen. I think that is bad economics.
Our health is important. To have vibrant health, our spirit, our mind is very important. To have that mind in the right place, ethical business is inevitable.
Let us look around. There are plenty of examples of people who are doing business ethically, and still making good profits.
Usually, young people say, ‘Look, someone did unethical practice, and he made millions. I am doing business ethically, I am unable to grow.’
I tell you, it is not worth the lack of peace and disturbance that he goes through. And one day, surely, he will reap the consequences of his action. It is better to be on the safer side. Do ethical business, have a good sleep and happy holidays with your family.
Ethics is simply honouring the period between birth and death. This is the basic rule of ethics –What we don’t want others to do to us; we don’t do that to others.
There are a number of examples of people who have been successful doing ethical business. It is not that one can make a lot of money by following unethical practices only. This is a myth. All those who have done that, have found their faults very quickly. You have heard about all the dot coms and the Wall Street crashes, and many such businesses, which have gone down the drain in no time. It is a wake-up call for our young people, to look within oneself, and see how we can progress following the precepts of ethics.
Compassion and commitment are the two essential ingredients in life. Without these, life has no charm. Nor will you have any sustained growth in your business or entrepreneurship, whatever you are undertaking.
Today, even the United Nations has acknowledged that it is not GDP (Gross Domestic Product) but GDH (Gross Domestic Happiness) which is more important. We cannot ignore this; happiness is an important factor.
A small country like Bhutan tops the index of happiness. You walk around the place, there are people with big smiles, and they are so happy, content, and yet moving towards prosperity. Slovenia also has such a possibility; a small country with 2 million people, I suppose it is easy to manage (since I come from a country with 1.2 billion people).
His Excellency may not agree with me. I am saying it is easy, from a different perspective; to educate people in ethics, it is easy to bring this awareness of happiness, to create a wave of happiness in this country. It is possible.
I would like to share something about Japan with you. It is a highly advanced country. However, every year, around 30,000 youth commit suicide. That is a huge number. So, last May, when I met the Prime Minister of Japan, he mentioned to me, ‘Gurudev, economically, we are well-off. The youth have two cars at home; whatever they need, we are ready to provide. However, there is something that money cannot provide. In spite of the abundance here, our youth are in depression. Around 2 million youth are in depression, of which 30,000 youth are committing suicide. We don’t have an answer for this. What is it that we can do?’
We took up a project there, creating waves of happiness, bringing people together. ‘Come, let us breathe together, sing together, and meditate together.’
Just a few minutes of calming the mind, and going deep within yourself; realizing that you have a space that is so beautiful deep within you, can create a big difference. It can save so many lives from the verge of committing suicide, and getting into depression.
In Germany, forty percent of the school teachers are depressed; this is alarming. Just imagine, a happy child goes to class to find a teacher that is so depressed; what do you expect of the child who will come out of school? This is unfortunate.
We need to remember that one of the signs of success is a big smile, with confidence. Confidence that we can face any challenge! This confidence and a smile, indicate success, to me. If you have a big bank balance, and your face is so dull, completely exhausted, and depressed, what good is that money for? People make a lot of money, put it in the bank, and die. It is like making the bed all night, and having no time to sleep. By the time you went to sleep, you are already gone. This is exactly what is happening today.
People work hard all their life to put money in the bank, and then die, and their children fight over the same money. In India and many other places, around 90 percent of the court cases are usually about inheritance. I don’t know about Slovenia.
You don’t have so many court cases over hard-earned money or one’s own money. It is only inheritance that people fight about. Is this the way of living? Is this what we mean by success in business? And if there is no success, what is the point of doing business?
Trust is the backbone of business. Success is the goal of business. If we lose these two, success and trust, then it is a lame business that is good for nothing, it brings you more sickness.
To summarize, business cannot run without a certain degree of integrity, commitment, loyalty, honesty or ethics. It is impossible. When we make a start from our side, we will set an example for people working around us, to follow the same.
Trust is essential. Today, people are losing faith even to put their money in the bank. Earlier, people were losing faith in businesses; slowly, it has crept into banks also. Such fear and uncertainty have taken over the society. If this continues, then crime and violence will creep up. Honesty and ethics in business can check crime and violence in society.
The purpose of business is comfort and happiness. If business does not bring you comfort and happiness, you may as well live in poverty. The purpose of money is to bring comfort. We miss the boat if we don’t understand this crucial, central focus of our existence.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) among businesses can enable one to bridge the gap between the haves and the have-nots, and thereby, also check violence and crime in society. Otherwise, one is sitting on an explosive. Anytime a section of the society can come to the streets and create havoc; wherein the business community will be the biggest sufferer of it. (We have seen this happening in Paris for days, maybe weeks. A section of society was on rampage, and all businesses were shut down; millions were lost in those two weeks in Paris.)
We are not living in an isolated society. We are part of a whole, wherein politicians, business and faith groups, NGOs, all of us have to come together. All of us have to work towards building a better society, a better country. For this, we all have to commit ourselves.
Our lives are so short on this planet. Look at the economics of your own life; suppose you live for 80 years, how do you spend those 80 years? Have you thought about this?
In a life of 80 years, you spend 40 years sleeping, in bed, nearly half the time. If you are sick, you can add a few more years.
Per day, you spend two hours on food – breakfast, lunch and dinner; you spend nearly eight years eating.
Similarly, eight years to ten years in the bathroom and toilet.
If you live in a big city like New York, or Frankfurt, you spend nearly 10 years to 15 years in traffic jams, and then, on work.
If you analyse how we spend our lives, you will find that we hardly spend two or three years of our lives happily. This is the time when we are really living our lives. The rest is just a preparation to live life.
The vibrancy in life comes with a commitment to service. We can give a portion of what we earn to help others, for Corporate Social Responsibility. We need to see how we can contribute to society, instead of wanting to get something from society.
If every business house, every entrepreneur thinks about how we can develop a harmonious society that has more smiles, then we will be able to move in to a new era of healthy and happy living.