My Idea of Humanistic Capitalism

Humanistic capitalism has been the guideline for my conduct as an entrepreneur from the very beginning, and I have imagined and come up with this definition for my enterprise.

Some events in my youth have shaped my personality; the one that most left its mark in me was seeing my father unjustly offended at the workplace, and also the often unfriendly pranks played on my weakest schoolmates. Moreover, I could not understand the attitude of my city schoolmates towards me and my brothers, who came from the countryside. I have told this story in The Dream of Solomeo (My life and the idea of humanistic capitalism), the book on my life published by Feltrinelli in 2018. However, what I want to highlight here is that in fact it was precisely my life in a farming family that taught me the values of defending life, respecting and helping others, and adopting a spiritual attitude towards nature.

Il Sogno di Solomeo

Cover of the book "The dream of Solomeo. My life and the idea of humanistic capitalism", by Brunello Cucinelli. Courtesy of the Italian publisher Feltrinelli, 2018

Il Sogno di Solomeo

The local cafe, where I hung out later on during my youth, was also important; there I came across very diverse human beings, all of them very poignant and amiable: it became a sort of university of the soul for me. My origins, my personality and my experiences started relating to each other.

As to the real university, which I attended as a student of Engineering with low achievement, I was fascinated by its social dimension of meeting other students and discussing different topics - or the same topics but dealt with in a different manner - from those debated at the local cafe, but they all strengthened the idea in me that respect for people and Creation had to take centre-stage.

On these foundations I built my humanistic capitalism, which includes social aspects, the clear notion of the primary value attached to human beings that should be granted moral and economic dignity.

1998 Platinum

In business too, some experiences at the very beginning convinced me that humanity is the true soul of contemporary humanistic capitalism, namely when some entrepreneurs granted a loan to me, an inexperienced nobody, just because they held me in high regard as a person, a loan that was secured with a simple hand-shake!

I find it charming that as long ago as in the first century a. D., a great wise man like Pliny the elder thought that: «Everything was better a while ago, when there were less resources available. Today material values come before spiritual ones».

As we have seen, part of my life - with the experience until university, with my father's humiliation, with my life hanging out at the local cafe - made me understand all this. I couldn't get my head around humiliation, that's how I came across my idea of humanistic capitalism.

1996 Settimanale dell'Umbria
1999 Il Sole 24 Ore

But what is humanistic capitalism in practice? We have had some great teachers educating us, our role models now and then, and they told us something magical: to live in harmony and without harming Creation. A just idea, a contemporary idea that they have helped shape.

Well, what I mean by humanistic capitalism is precisely this idea, this concept of “fairness”. A fair profit, a profit harmonised with giving back, and here comes the first main theme: striking a balance between profit and giving back; donating to the world as guardians of creation, leaving to those coming after us not the very same world we found, but a more amiable one.

Secondly: making profit with ethics, dignity and morals. I don't know if I have succeeded, but this was my goal: not harming mankind in the process, or as little as possible.

In contemporary times, because of Internet, you must be credible. Entrepreneurs must be true to themselves, because today everything you say and do is there for all to see. And one slip is enough to lose credibility.

Benedetto Cotrugli

Book cover of "Della mercatura et del mercante perfecto" by Benedetto Cotrugli, 1602. Photo: from the collection of the Mansutti Foundation, Milan

Targa Socrate

«A life without research is not worth living.» (Socrates)

Another fascinating topic for human dignity is the quality of the workplace, which should heighten dignity: an amiable workplace that enables workers to look up at the sky and the landscape, perhaps spotting the home they are going back to after work, to their family. Jean Jacques Rousseau often mentioned the balance of creation, hence the responsibility to build without harming it. Another great theme of humanistic capitalism. Carefully choosing a location for one's premises; working to disseminate a great corporate culture; that's what capitalism is all about.

A further issue, not less important than the other discussed so far, is fair working hours. Outside the working hours one should never be online for business reasons: Saint Benedict often reminded his monks that there is a time for work and a time for the soul. Fair work never steals people's souls and its great value should be acknowledged. This way results will be better; therefore, showing esteem and appreciation for someone's work is important, because it increases responsibility and creativity.

I envisage humanistic capitalism as a great harmony within which profit, giving back, guardianship, human dignity and the ethics of truth coexist and enrich each other.

Brunello's office

Brunello Cucinelli, FW 1995 campaign

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