Ethics in Action for Sustainable and Integral Development


Sustainable development seeks a holistic approach to well-being based on poverty reduction, social inclusion, and care for the earth, while integral development adds the concern for full human flourishing across all dimensions of life. The Ethics in Action initiative starts from the position that the challenges related to sustainable and integral development are profoundly moral, requiring not only technical solutions but the actualization of universal ethical principles such as human dignity, social justice, the common good, and shared well-being.

Such challenges include forms of violence and coercion (war, violent religious and ethnic extremism, gender violence, modern slavery, drug trafficking), environmental threats (climate change, species and habitat destruction), and social exclusion (poverty, inequality, deprivation, gender discrimination, and the marginalization of indigenous peoples and minorities). Individuals and communities on all levels have genuine capacities to respond to these challenges and thus, have related moral obligations to do so.

Ethics in Action seeks to advance the moral efforts essential to grappling with the challenges to sustainable and integral development. The moral dimension focuses on the human capacity to achieve sustainable and integral development and the corresponding moral obligations to actuate that capacity. Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’, offers the foundational text for this effort.  The encyclical, as Pope Francis wrote, addresses “every person living on this planet. … In this Encyclical, I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home.” Ethics in Action will also be guided in a significant fashion by the Sustainable Development Goals, which offer a compelling global framework for action and cooperation on behalf of our common home and its people.

Accordingly, Ethics in Action will bring together a select group of religious leaders, theologians, academics, business and labor leaders, development practitioners, and activists to identify the values and ethics needed to advance concrete actions in response to these challenges. It will not aim for technical or policy solutions, but will instead seek to draw out the underling ethical values and principles needed to inform a shared moral vision of human flourishing—including the development of a multi-religious moral consensus that can be communicated widely across diverse religious communities and other stakeholders to equip them with the moral agency essential to overcoming these challenges.  

Ethics in Action will convene eight separate meetings over the next two years, on the following topics (unless otherwise indicated, all meetings will take place in Casina Pio IV, in the Vatican Gardens):

Each meeting will have the following goals: (i) build and give expression to a multi-religious ethical consensus on the moral obligation to address these challenges; (ii) develop strong global partnerships in religious communities and throughout society who will collaborate to foster this consensus and set about its implementation; (iii) mobilize religious communities themselves for robust advocacy in pursuit of activating the consensus for local-to-global problem solving.

Ethics in Action will be hosted and managed by Monsignor Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academies headquartered in the Casina Pio IV. It will be supported by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Religions for Peace, and the University of Notre Dame. The founders of Ethics in Action include the Blue Chip Foundation, the Fetzer Institute, Christina Lee Brown, and Jacqueline Corbelli. It will be guided by core team of global participants across many sectors, including theologians, religious leaders, academic scholars, business leaders, politicians, and civil society actors. In addition, specialists will be called upon to participate on specific topics and themes. 

For each meeting, a set of reading materials will be shared in advance with the participants. In turn, participants will be requested to submit written commentaries and recommendations in advance of the meeting. Based on the written submissions and the discussion at the meeting, a provisional statement will be prepared in order to summarize the discussion, propose a provisional consensus on ethics in action, and recommend key implementing measures as appropriate. Once comments of all participants have been incorporated, this document will be posted online. A more detailed document will be produced and circulated after this.

The final outputs of the project will include a final volume of the proceedings, pedagogical tools, and training programs.