On June 26, 2023 gave a presentation on Gift Giving in Business at the Management & Gift workshop of The Economy of Francesco program. He focused on two questions: (1) What should a leader be like and what decisions does the leader take to make a company generative? and (2) What is the spirituality that enables dialogue between poverty and management?
Zsolnai’s presentation emphasized that a business leader should be genuinely altruistic, i.e. giving without expecting any return and with a deep care of the wellbeing of the receivers. Opportunistic giving does not work. It is perceived as manipulation and corruption by the stakeholders, and they will act accordingly. Many CSR activities of mainstream business fail for this reason.
What can a company give as a gift? Any positive value that is beyond what economic rationality and market considerations demand. (It is called “supererogatory action”.) It can be extra job opportunities, extra attention and care, extra payment, extra service (e.g. food).
To be gift generative the companies should develop some new business models which make gift giving a foundational aspect of their functioning, not just an add-on element. (Leket Israel, Westmalle Brewery, Budapest Byke Maffia, Organic India, and Patagonia)
Zsolnai also unerlined that spiritual tradition of humanity require helping the poor and exercise some form of frugality, voluntary simplicity, or spiritual poverty. This is the opposite of the “greed is good” and “enrich yourself” mentality of today’s mainstream business.
For true gift giving non-materialistic value orientation (i.e. less emphasis on money, wealth, status, and recognition) and higher spiritual purpose is needed. Corporate philanthropy is not real if it is just “buying moral satisfaction”.