The power of timeless articles: published in 2000, most relevant today! The role of business in enhancing the prosperity of humankind. (Part 1 of 4)

5 min readDec 19, 2023


How would you describe the coincidence of bumping into someone, one of over 100,000 people atending #COP28 in Dubai? Of all people, I somehow bumped into Jane Nelson there and shortly after, as I was browsing for articles and inspiration for an ebbf annual conference titled “how can we elevate business and the economy to serve humanity” I came across an original ebbf publication, written back in 2000 by recently passed away ebbf founder and soul George Starcher featuring … Jane Nelson.

I therefore decided that to satisfy fate and serendipity, ebbf should re-publish a 23 year old publication and I think that you too will be surprised by how advanced ebbf’s thinking was back then and how relevant it is to this key question today.

Here the first of the four part publication.
(here the 2nd part of this series of articles for you to explore further the theme of ebbf’s 2024 annual conference )

George Starcher’s intro:

“An increasing number of thoughtful people question whether or not the seemingly universal drive for more growth, lower production costs, higher living standards, and more material wealth alone can lead us toward the kind of progress and prosperity they would like for their children and grandchildren. They and others are equally concerned about the deteriorating environment, global warming, growing inequalities, social exclusion, demographic trends, and human rights abuse.

What do we mean by “prosperity of humankind”? What is the role of business in enhancing prosperity and in contributing to the solution of social problems and environmental degradation? What can we do as individuals to make the world a better place for our grandchildren?

These four articles attempt to address these questions and seek to encourage a dialogue on them by offering edited versions of three recent presentations by members of EBBF.
The first two of them were given on 23 September 2000 at the ebbf annual conference. The third was given in a workshop organized by ebbf at the Geneva 2000 Forum. These presentations offer valuable insights into the meaning of prosperity. They show us that prosperity is not only a question of material wealth but rather embraces both material and spiritual wealth.

Might it not be in the dynamic coherence of these two realities that we find the key to an understanding of true prosperity? Does it not demonstrate the fundamental importance of the individual in finding meaningful ways to contribute to the betterment of society and in seeking a harmonious balance in his or her personal life.

The first paper is by William Walker, Managing Director of DuPont Luxembourg, who writes about “The Role of Business in Enhancing the Prosperity of Humankind”. He reviews a selection of quotations taken from the Bahá’i International Community statement, The Prosperity of Humankind, . He underscores the important role that individuals can play. He gives numerous examples from his own career at DuPont about individual contributions and those of the corporation in responding to humanity’s real needs. He emphasized the need for a behavioral shift from short term, profit-driven focus to long term, sustainable, developmental actions to serve society’s true needs. As examples, he highlights moving from an adversarial to a consultative approach in decision making and from conflictual to cooperative actions. He quotes Tolstoy: “The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity.” He also discusses the “DuPont Business Conduct Guide” which prescribes responsible and ethical behavior for all employees worldwide. Considerable emphasis is placed on environmentally friendly practices and sustainability, on collaboration, equal opportunity for women and men, and on achieving a better balance between work and private life.

Jane Nelson, who was at the tiem Director of Business Leadership and Strategy at the Prince of Wales Business Leaders Forum in the United Kingdom, is the author of the second paper which is on “Building Partnerships”. Her article is divided into three parts.

First, she offers a number of reflections on the previous presentation by William Walker. Second, she describes her own organization and what it is doing in this area. Finally, she gives examples of how partnerships between business, government, and civil society can produce real benefits for communities and offer effective solutions to many social problems. She underscores the importance of the role of the individual in the prosperity of both individuals and communities.

At the same time, as business has become such an important institution in society, its responsibility to contribute to resolving societal problems has also increased. Although many people remain skeptical about business, Jane Nelson calls upon us all to make its many positive contributions better known. She also calls upon businesses to offer managers greater recognition for their contributions to communities and society and to sustainability.

The third paper, “Toward a New Concept of Prosperity,” is by Matthew Weinberg, who was then Director of the Institute for Studies in Global Prosperity, an agency of the Baha’i International Community. It was given at one of the seven workshops organized by ebbf at the Geneva 2000 Forum in June 2000. To advance the prospects of peace and to enhance human well-being, the author emphasizes the need for new understandings of the role and purpose of economic and business activity. Economic systems and policies based solely on a materialistic worldview reflect a basic error of conception about human nature itself. He calls for developing a new concept of prosperity whose goal is not just efficiency but also the promotion of equity, service to others, justice, social harmony and cohesion, and the creation and preservation of beauty. This provides the basis for a new vision for private enterprise as a positive social actor and partner in the transformation of our economic systems. Rather than shareholder value we find service to society, cooperation, and open consultative decision making as core principles for economic activity.

The final section offers a selection of quotations relevant to business prepared by William Walker. They are excerpts from the Bahá’i International Community statement, The Prosperity of Humankind. Among these extracts are the following:

“…unless the development of society finds a purpose beyond the mere amelioration of material conditions, it will fail of attaining even these goals.”

“… the governance of human affairs can be conducted along lines that serve humanity’s real needs.”

“.. there is increasing recognition that the world is in urgent need of a new ‘work ethic’.”

(here the 2nd part of this series of articles for you to explore further the theme of ebbf’s 2024 annual conference )




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