On February 24, 2022, the Acton Institute hosted Business Matters, its annual conference on business, work, ethics, and faith. The event brought together business leaders and industry experts and was streamed online to a global audience for the second year in a row. Acton’s president and co-founder, Kris Alan Mauren, hosted the conference. Mauren explained how the sessions would address the many challenges facing businesspeople and provide advice on how to “thrive” in the midst of these demanding times.
The first session featured Hannah Stolze, associate professor of supply chain management at Lipscomb University. Stolze addressed the complex challenges facing the global supply chain, explaining how dependent the United States has become on global manufacturing and global supply. Because of this reliance on foreign products, when the COVID pandemic forced companies to lock down, especially in China, product shortages resulted here at home. Stolze later discussed the climbing rates of inflation and then closed with a call to Christians in business to be “good stewards” of their resources.
Next, Sarina Sharp, commodities risk manager for Ag Business Solutions, and Collin Duff, head of operations at Stix Golf, an e-commerce golf company, shared how they successfully navigated the pandemic. Sharp explained how she studied the dairy, feed, and beef markets to help dairy producers use futures and options to hedge their price risk. She also noted how difficult it was to accurately make predictions during the pandemic but relied on her family and faith to persevere.
Later, Duff shared how he started Stix with several friends and then launched at the height of the pandemic. The founders were anxious, wondering what the public’s response would be, but they were “absolutely blown away,” said Duff. Stix’s inventory, which was supposed to last several months, sold out in two weeks. Duff then explained how affordability, aesthetics, and market research were essential to his company’s success. Duff also noted how Stix seeks to create a productive workplace by encouraging employees to pursue other interests and to refresh themselves by taking vacations.
The next session featured a panel discussion on the social responsibility of business. The panel was composed of Michael R. Strain of the American Enterprise Institute, Nathan Bond of the Rifle Paper Co., and Samuel Gregg of the Acton Institute. Anne Rathbone Bradley of The Fund for American Studies served as moderator. The panel focused the discussion on stakeholder capitalism and the major shift in thinking that has taken place among business leaders. Executives who were once primarily concerned with their stakeholders’ satisfaction are now aligning themselves with various social causes to gain the public’s admiration.
The event concluded with Eric Kohn, Acton’s director of marketing and communications, interviewing Mark Murray, former president of Meijer (a supercenter chain in the Midwest). Murray addressed business ethics, how to lead with integrity, and provided candid advice to young people entering the workforce.