What if ethical isn’t the best we can do?

Until a few years ago, I always thought of companies as falling into one of two categories: either you’re exploitative (of the environment, employees, or customers) or you’re ethical. As a consumer I’d tried to support ethical companies, and as a consultant, I’d offered counsel that helped companies move toward more ethical operations. But a few years ago, I became aware of a third way to work, thanks to the influence of Praxis Labs, a New York City-based organization committed to “advancing redemptive entrepreneurship.” 

This idea captivated me, so I started talking about it. A lot. My simple sketches of this redemptive model adorned diner placemats and stacks of single-ply napkins. One thing quickly became clear: People had no idea what I was talking about. Maybe my explanations and artistic renderings didn’t do justice to Praxis’s ideas, but I think the more likely problem is that we have long held “ethical” as the highest standard to which a business or nonprofit should aspire. To think of working not just ethically but redemptively: mind blown!

In case my words are the problem, here’s how Praxis explains it: “Wherever there is loss, brokenness, unfairness, injustice, waste, or harm—and someone willingly enters into the situation by bearing a cost or taking a risk to help the person, resource, or system to be restored or repaired—that’s redemptive action…Every organization, like every person, contains a mixture of all three approaches—exploitative blind spots, ethical strengths, points of redemptive light. But every exploitative (or redemptive) decision makes the next exploitative (or redemptive) decision more likely, setting a dominant trajectory or approach for the venture.”

If you’re a founder, funder/investor, or an innovator motivated by your faith to address the major issues of our time, do yourself a favor and check out Praxis. They offer a wealth of free or low-cost resources here. At Rising Sun, we LOVE Praxis.

We’ve been applying these principles to our own operations for some time, and now we’re taking it a step further to help other organizations set their own redemptive trajectories. Helping leaders refine their thinking and practice around the integration of faith and work is one of our deepest passions at Rising Sun, and we’d love to help you effectively engage with these ideas and move toward implementation. Please reach out to us if we can help.

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