Benevolence Can Change the World, Scholars Assert

12 Jul 2021

Cynicism may be widespread, but there are more fruitful ways of framing issues, assert participants in STI’s “Can Benevolence Change the World” Experts Meeting.

Benevolence, understood as the disposition to help or to do good unto others, is often overlooked as the motivation to behave selflessly - and nowhere more so than in the business environment, where benefit seeking is expected.

Yet understanding and practicing benevolence is to the benefit of everyone, individuals, groups and societal structures such as business. STI put together this Experts Meeting to gather thinkers from the fields of philosophy, sociology, psychology and management to reflect on the concept in four areas: Benevolence, human flourishing and social development; Integrating benevolence into economics and management; Benevolence, business activity and leadership; and Benevolence across cultures.

At the individual level, benevolence serves to present a leadership style characterized by a variety of kindness-based behaviors. Among these are: adopting a humane approach; fairness and equity; accommodating personal issues; treating others with respect; caring and being responsive; communicating with a personal touch; sharing information in a transparent way; explaining logically; listening intently and valuing the views of others; counseling and mentoring; and being inclusive as a leader.

At the organizational level, benevolence can inform reflection on the very purpose of business activity, placing the person at its center. At the social level, it can clarify the motives behind corporate social responsibility programs. Beyond self-interest, benevolence provides more altruistic motivations oriented towards the contribution of the company to the common good of society.

Discussion of the first two areas was held online on July 1, with the other two areas of debate left for a later date. The published volume will include all the papers, with an introductory chapter by the project’s academic leader, Joan Fontrodona.