Charles Handy posed this question as a litmus test for judging a business’ intrinsic value to society in an essay he wrote for the Harvard Business Review in 2002. For a company to pass the test, the answer would have to be,
“Only if it could do something better or more useful than anyone else.”
This question and answer is intuitive on a gut level. It reminds us of a business’s purpose to create value for others through its product or service. Notice the intuitive answer to the question was not, “Only if it can make money.”
At Eventide, we further define what is better and more valuable by examining the roles of businesses as extensions and tools for us. We believe that the Bible teaches, through the narrative of creation, that we are designed to develop, sustain, and restore God’s creation. So, as we look at what businesses are doing, we ask, “Are they helping us develop, sustain, and restore creation?”
An ongoing challenge that humanity will continue to face is the mere fact that more and more humans are being created every day. Since human life has worth, dignity and value, we see this increase in population not as a problem but as a blessing. This blessing gives us the innate purpose to develop–extend, grow, create–new ways to harness our resources and meet the demands of society.
Another challenge humanity faces is that we cannot “create out of nothing”. We are inherently limited by the resources that currently exist. Even though we have proven to be extraordinarily creative in extending these resources, we also have the task of sustaining–preserving, keeping, protecting–resources so that they can continue to regenerate and provide for future generations.
Finally, we recognize that on our journey to continually develop and sustain, we have an ongoing battle against things that have gone wrong. Some of these things are a direct result of our initiatives to develop and sustain, some of these are problems embedded in our DNA. As we recognize these problems, we take on the initiative to restore–make right, fix, heal–what is wrong.
These categories provide us with a helpful framework that anchors our approach to investing in businesses within our firm convictions formed by a biblical worldview.