Towards Metaprofit: an interview with the authors

Q – “Towards Metaprofit”: could you tell us something about the origin of this category, which seems like something new in the economic world?

A – By using the term ‘metaprofit’ we decided to travel a new yet old road. In fact, we wanted to highlight how profit – albeit a legitimate human goal – is not the sole driver of economic activity.  We therefore considered the prefix ‘meta’ in an entomological sense as “through” and “beyond” in order to underscore how profit is a tool, an instrument, and not the self standing end or aim of economic endeavour.

Q – Which sources inspired your idea?

A – We drew simultaneously from two sources: on one hand, international business economy literature, which revealed a certain degree of attention brought to bear over the last few decades on issues regarding corporate social responsibility, albeit not always in ways readily acceptable, and, on the other hand, the Social Doctrine of the Church. In particular, input of major innovation can be found in Benedict XVI’s latest encyclical letter, which proposes the plurality of forms of business enterprises as an innovative solution for economic development.

Q – In what sense does business economic literature tackle ethical issues in ways not always readily acceptable?

A – The study of corporate phenomena in no way eludes the spirit of our times. The approach to economic activity, also in ethical terms, is resolved from an individualistic point of view. We made an effort to highlight the limits of this approach, which eliminates the social element of an enterprise and degrades the phenomenon to unacceptable reductionism.

Q – Therefore, in the wake of Benedict XVI. . .

A – Certainly: we made an effort to highlight in business terms how the return to a community vision of economic activity, where there is a flourishing of multiform experiences alongside entrepreneurial endeavors as such, can become a fundamental innovation for study and business management. Reducing human activity within the all too narrow confines of utilitarianism – perhaps cloaking that in ethical terms – is an open slight to man himself and a serious scientific error.

Q – Is what you have in mind a slightly less ‘corporate’ corporation?

A – No, this is not something at the core of our line of reasoning: when an enterprise does its job properly it is already ‘social’ in an undeniable manner because it creates value and spreads it all around itself. Nonetheless, there are so many realities – cooperatives, foundations, etc. – that are becoming more and more fundamental for social and economic development, and where the economic rationale is tempered and driven by other aims. The rediscovery of new dimensions of corporate value exalt the economic element and in no way deny it.

Q – At the end of the book you propose  “ethical openness”: what do you mean by that?

A –Every science and all scientific argumentation have their hypotheses and confines. Business related disciplines are in a position to offer a great service with a view to developing  thinking and instruments useful for fostering the creation of economic value, as well as social, cultural and environmental value, etc. Nonetheless, they come face to face with a limitation, because theirs is a form of special knowledge from a certain point of view. For other horizons, however, it is necessary to draw on another form of scientific language, and that is ethical language. And constructive confrontation in these terms is of benefit to both economics and ethics.

Q – Why?

A – Because ‘economy’ needs ‘ethics’ in order to bring man (and God) back to the center of any and all public discourse. Then again, ‘ethics’ needs ‘economy’ in order to set objectives ‘incarnated’ in daily life for itself.

Q – One last question: what conditions need to be met in order to this ‘metaprofit’ to become reality?

A – First of all, ours is not a ‘dream’. It is a line of reasoning triggered by a reading of reality, just as in Caritas in Veritate Benedict XVI presents not an exhortation, but observations regarding the plurality of forms of enterprises. Manifold are the conditions for development  in both cultural – inside and outside company organization – and management terms: consider, for example, the recovery of knowledge as a value generating fact, or what is known as the ‘systems’ approach as a basic feature of company strategy with a view to surmounting a short term profit-for-the-sake-of-profit approach.