Shining Light Companies
By: Kimberly Jenkins & Tim Conrad
This weekend the night sky will be filled with fireworks as we celebrate America’s Independence. Those fireworks, while theoretically the same in many ways, are each unique. There are so many colors and patterns, and numerous factors play a role in what we see for those few seconds before the sparks fizzle and all that’s left is the smoke. Something similar can be said of companies. While alike in the sense that they exist to make a profit while competitively meeting some consumer need, each company is unique – not just in terms of the product or service offering, but in its day-to-day operations, leadership style, corporate culture, core values, etc. When asked what it means for a company to be a “Shining Light,” what comes to mind? Is it exceptional profit margins or investment returns? Inclusion among the Fortune 500? Largest market share? Awards? While those things are great, they do not necessarily mean a particular company meets the qualifications for what we like to call a “Shining Light Company.” It goes much deeper than that to the heart of the organization and has nothing to do with whether their stock is traded on a public exchange or the number of zeros at the bottom of the balance sheet.
So What Makes a Shining Light Company?
Most importantly, a Shining Light Company is a company that not only excels in the business world, but in moral integrity. Simply put, they follow the Golden Rule. They lead by example and are not afraid to take the road less traveled. They put forth every effort to avoid even the appearance of questionable behavior and have taken measures to ensure accountability and compliance with such ethics policies. They pursue excellence and place a high priority on innovation and customer service. They provide products or services that create real value for their customers rather than simply a means of exploiting them for a profit. There is more to the picture than the bottom line, and these companies get that.
Taking care of employees demonstrates good leadership and stewardship principles and is essential to being a Shining Light Company. Employees are the backbone of a company and deserve to be treated fairly (see 1 Timothy 5:18). This includes making sure they are well compensated for their contribution, supporting work/life balance, and providing opportunities to help secure their financial future by offering retirement plans and other forms of profit-sharing or performance-based compensation. Particularly for larger corporations, things like benefits, educational assistance, and training and development opportunities within the company also come into play – not just as a practical means of attracting and retaining great talent, but simply because it is the right thing to do to take care of and support those employees who have given so much to the company. As we all know, monetary compensation is not the only thing that makes a company a good one to work for; it is largely also about the work environment. Creating a friendly atmosphere and having some sort of open-door policy are typically practices of those companies seeking to be a light in their industry.
The next area is that of giving back. Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Also, from Luke 12:48: “…to whom much is given, much will be required.” A company that has the resources to help their community and does so is showing the world that they care about others and that they want to use their influence to be a blessing to their neighbors. Environmental stewardship is another factor taken into consideration. Although taking measures to make sure the environment stays clean may sometimes be more costly, it is important that companies do what they can to keep God’s creation beautiful for future generations.
Why Should We Care?
It is a constant theme in the Bible that those who strive to do right are rewarded and blessed. On the other hand, those who do not typically find themselves experiencing the natural consequences somewhere down the road. Just look at the number of companies in the news in recent years who have filed for bankruptcy or faced serious legal and/or financial difficulties due to things that could (and should) have been avoided. Over a decade later, we’re still pointing to ENRON as the poster child of corporate greed and corruption. The companies that are striving to do the right things along with exercising smart business practices are companies that we believe will have the best long-term success. When purchasing a stock, even indirectly through a mutual fund, you become a fractional owner helping the company grow and do more of what they’re already doing. That involves not only their business operations, but their good works as well. Together, we can make a big difference.