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Ethical enterprises that benefit the world

Chiu-Nan Lai, Ph.D.

Thirty years ago, Dr. Mtichell May escaped death in a traffic accident. He became a medical miracle when he recovered from an injury that broke his legs in 40 places. Now, he is able to walk at ease. In 1992, Dr. May established The Synergy Company in order to supply his personally-formulated super-nutritious blend of food and herbs to patients and doctors. Outwardly, it appears that he has left his healing but in actual fact, he has expanded the scope of his healing work to include business world and the entire planet.

Dr. May resisted entering the business world at first, because he observed that it had very little goodwill. To achieve personal gains, businessmen have no qualms about destroying the environment, harming people’s health, and exploiting employees. Neither do they care that their actions can lead to significant suffering and social unrest. Dr. May did not want to be part of this, as did many others who disdained from entering the business world. Yet, the business world especially needed people who respected life in order for it to change for the better. Businesses should contribute to life, not harm it. Everyday, Dr. May could see people’s greed and deception in the business world, just as he could see people’s suffering when he was going in and out of the hospitals. He could not be indifferent to this, but respond with compassion. He had learned healing skills from his teacher, Jack Gray; how could he exclude the business world from healing? Whether the business world creates benefits or harm has tremendous impact on the world. Hence, he finally decided to jump into the fire pit of business. Little did he know that it would be so hot!

After operating for ten years, The Synergy Company’s contribution to environmental protection was recognized by the state of Utah. In 2003, the company was awarded Excellence in Manufacturing for Environmental Consciousness. Even the town of Moab where Synergy operates has also turned “green”, the town government, and many of Synergy’s employees have switched to Blue Sky wind energy for electricity.

Right from the beginning, in designing the production plant, Synergy company considered the environment and sustainability. It arranged for the National Parks department to transplant wild trees from the site for park restoration projects. Its production plant uses environmental-friendly facilities, and drought-resistant plants and trees for the grounds. It uses water-efficient toilets, and energy-efficient machinery. Even the lightings use motion-sensitive lights. In addition, only 100% environmental-friendly cleaning agents are used to protect the water supply. Recycled paper and boxes are used, and printing use water-soluble colours derived from soya beans. Organic cotton wool is used to pack Synergy’s products. Even the fillers used for boxes are made from bio-degradable corn. Still, the production process inevitably damages the environment, and the company tries to minimize this damage. Hence, 100% of the electricity supply comes from wind power, and this avoids generating 140 tons of carbon dioxide every year. Although wind-generated electricity costs 50% more than normal, this is an investment for the next generation. To compensate for the carbon dioxide that would be generated from using paper, boxes, and transportation, Synergy plants an additional 25% trees annually. In collaboration with Plant-it 2020 (a tree-planting foundation established by the late singer John Denver), Synergy plants indigenous trees within the U.S. and Mexico. In 2003, they planted 2000 trees, and more trees will be planted in the future as the business grows. In addition, Synergy buys the wild Camu Camu grown along Brazil’s Amazon River in an effort to help the local residents preserve their rainforests.

Below, Dr. May shares his thoughts in running a company:

I do business with ethics as the foundation. I define ethics as responsibility towards all forms of life without limit, and it is the principle I use in making every business decision. Other companies see making money as their primary objective. For my company, profits come from appropriate decisions that respect life. Many people consider life to be restricted to humans and not other life forms. This is very narrow, and will lead to the destruction of other life forms. I consider running a business as my spiritual practice. Of course, other people need not do this, but everyone should have morality, honesty, and goodwill. This does not mean we do not use our common sense and judgment, or the fruits of our spiritual practices – loving kindness and a calm mind. All these attributes should be used in business. Doing business is not about being taken advantage of. If companies that are our business partners are not honest, I will stop dealing with them. This is because we want honesty of our counterparts, and we deal with them with honesty. If we don’t want others to pollute the water supply, we must also not pollute the water supply. Goodwill in business comes from being able to see the perfect nature of everyone. Although the other party is not performing to expectations, we have the responsibility to see their perfect nature. Otherwise, it will be difficult to continue a friendly attitude once we encounter negativities in their speech or actions. We do not need to criticize them. Many enterprises do not have goodwill with each other because they care only about making money and gaining power. They will get money and power, but they will not get merit, love, health, and peace, which are all inner treasures.

Developing a morally-responsible enterprise is relatively difficult because we need to consider all aspects. Working hours are long and tiring. I have thirty employees, and I need to care for their welfare and concerns such as family, children, sickness or financial difficulties. I also need to provide their health insurance, and a fair salary for their living expenses. We are not an enterprise that relies on volunteers, although we donate to charitable activities. This is the company’s choice. We respect everyone’s value, and respect the natural resources provided by the earth, including resources used in shipping, packaging, and building the production plant. We very much treasure earth’s gifts to us.

Our employees are very committed because their jobs have meaning and reflect their aspirations. They feel badly when the occasional mistake occurs. They want to contribute to mankind and to the earth. They feel happy even after a hard day’s work because they know that they are helping to support small organic farms, protect the rainforests in South America, and support wind energy. When a person constantly feels the inherent goodness inside them, their spirituality will naturally be raised.

At the moment, large corporations control the entire food production and marketing. Being unwilling to share resources with those more unfortunate than us is unthinkable. It is hard to understand why people do not help others alleviate their sufferings when they have the ability to do so. Morally-responsible enterprises have potential, and can make money. Our company’s growth is higher than the industry average, even though we donate a high proportion of our profits, and our cost of organic or natural ingredients is 2 to 5 times the average (generally, the cost of organic ingredients is only 25% more). We use the best natural ingredients as if they were for the consumption of our own families. We only use wind-generated electricity, and this leads to a 50% increase in our electricity costs. This is an investment for our next generation. I will not enjoy the benefits. If we consider the environmental damage caused by electricity generated from nuclear power plants and petroleum, wind energy system is indeed the least expensive option. Our ancestors planted trees for their children to enjoy the fruits. Modern people only want to extract fruits within a few years. If businesses only think of their own benefits, they are like parasites – in the end, both host and parasite will die. Friendly bacteria consume food inside the human’s intestines, but they also secrete substances that help its host ward off harmful bacteria. This symbiotic relation is more ideal. Fortunately, some people have begun to realize this, and businesses have begun to consider environmental and social impacts of their actions. These “green” enterprises think more holistically, and it is a good start. However, do not do so only on the surface. If I only take leisurely strolls, I cannot say I exercise everyday. If I listen to music periodically, I cannot say I practice meditation everyday. How do consumers discern true “green” enterprises? Real products? True moral responsibility?

Knowing an enterprise is like knowing a person. You need time. You can phone the company to find out about their activities, such as support for organic farms, recycling, energy conservation, or awards won. Nowadays, some organizations give recognition to socially-responsible companies that do not sell cigarettes or alcohol, manufacture toxic chemicals or pesticides, and those that provide health insurance for their employees. Some religious organizations do not invest in companies that manufacture weapons.

More and more people want to support morally-responsible enterprises. If there are two similar products, they would rather pay a little more to support these enterprises so that their money can be used to benefit the world, and not destroy it. Thus, when you buy our products that contain Camu Camu, you are also helping Brazilian people to support their rainforests. I can only do things this way because this comes from my spiritual consciousness. It is an arduous task, but anything that has value requires hard work. My rewards are blessings and joy.

The temptations in business are large, and this issue itself is a deep philosophical practice. Management must hire people with love and morality to work for them, and it is best to have a teacher close by to remind them. The CEO’s job is to be vigilant, and when hiring people, observe whether they have an honest job record, and whether they have a sense of responsibility and take pride in their own work. This is the foundation of spiritual life. Many people say that they have a faith or spiritual life, but tell lies when they face crises. What a person does is more important. Does he/she learn from experience? Some employees have their own spiritual practices, but I cannot insist that everyone has. If they unintentionally make mistakes, I forgive them. But if they intentionally cheat, I will ask them to leave.

At the end of a hard day’s work, I know with a clean conscience that I have benefited this world. How many people can say this? Our wealth comes from other people, and we must share this with others. When we share with others, our wealth will grow even more. Based on my experience, true giving has miraculous powers, and quiet giving has even greater powers.

References for morally-responsible enterprises:


Extracted from Lapis Lazuli Light Magazine 2004 Feb Issue
Translated by Lapis Lazuli Light Singapore