Gary Reusche was one of the speakers during the II International conference «Social responsibility of business», which took place in Lviv. Dr Reusche is a dual national (USA-Netherlands) and for the last 15 years he is living in Ukraine. He is good businessman and religious person. With Gary Reusche we spoke about business, education initiatives and Baha’i principles.
I talked about the need for Ukrainians to develop a culture of integrity, a culture based on spiritual, or moral values. The legal changes that are taking place now in Ukraine are very important, and we need to remember that this is a process that will take years. On the other hand, the business community and all Ukrainians can live according to positive values today and work to establish these values in the community and the law. Lawyers will tell you that values and law belong to conceptually different worlds. But these two worlds interact and we see now that Ukrainian society is demanding positive change.
When a person says something and his words are not supported with actions, there is not integrity. Trust is lost. We have seen this too often in the past. But now there is a real opportunity to create a new culture based on values. Business and society can insist on a culture of integrity. This will have an impact.
By the way, we must speak about spiritual values in the business, because a lot of people make their money without any rules. How to bring these values in business? What do you think about this?
There is not a contradiction between successful business and spiritual values. Research has shown that companies with strong, positive values are more competitive, more innovative, and employees are more motivated. Training is the key to change culture and improve values.
For example, values-based leadership is an academic discipline, taught around the world. I teach such a course. Or, it can be demonstrated that transparent, honest communication improves the work of employees and teams. For me the reason is simple. Each of us has an inner conscience. We respond positively to spiritual values. We are happier, more productive.
So, a values based approach creates a positive culture in business. In my experience there is nearly unanimous agreement about moral or spiritual values. Values are consistent with religious belief. However even those that don’t believe in God will also agree that values like truth and honesty and integrity are correct. Values can form the basis for societal and legal development in Ukraine. When you are a good person, you will be a good businessman.
During your presentation you spoke about reform in Ukraine. You have said that creating new laws, without a change in culture, will not solve the problems of corruption in Ukraine. What advice can you give to young people that want to change their country, but they must to fight with another people who are indifferent people, or people who have other values?
In Lviv I had a meeting with business partners, we spoke about current affairs and the need for legal changes, and we discussed strategies about how to achieve success. In times of change, like today, the company must continue be successful. But at the same find time, the company must contribute to the community and the future. This was the theme of the conference (“Corporate Social Responsibility”). Even more important, the business must not contribute to the problem. When the company, and its employees, demonstrate positive values, this is working for the future. For example, it is important to comply with the law, and when there is corruption or bureaucratic problems, to find a way to work for change. The Lviv Chamber of Commerce can take a leadership position for all of its members, to provide education and improve the business environment in Lviv so that corruption is eliminated or at least reduced each year.
I think many people know about the corruption and the schemes but accept them as normal, and impossible to change. Ukraine is independent, but is still influenced, both legally and culturally, from its soviet past. Young people need to know that change is possible, and that Ukraine has a great potential. There are a lot of young people who want reforms in the country, and they work for it. Again, education can be provided in the schools and University to support the youth. And parents and teachers can encourage young people to work to develop a new culture.
Did the Maidan (“Revolution of Dignity”) create some changes in the business and cultural environment? How?
Yes, let me give two examples. There are many more. Two years ago there was the “Revolution of Dignity.” People were killed and a war in the east started. These two things make Maidan the point of no return and a significant event in Ukrainian history. These events created a more unified Ukraine, better than before. In the past issues were used to divide Ukrainians. For example, the language question. In my country – the Netherlands – we have three official languages and it is normal for people. It is right to love one’s native language, but we also need to have a common language to communicate.
Another irreversible trend since the Maidan concerns exports to Russia and the EU. Exports to Russia are much less than the past (perhaps less than 10% now), and more exports to the EU happen every day. Nowadays a lot of Ukrainian businessman are looking for new markets, like China or the Middle East, or Africa. So what we see is a complete orientation away from the past trading partners, and the creation of new trading partners. This is truly a revolutionary change and it will not be reversed. It will change Ukraine for the better.
During the conference you spoke about an initiative of your wife and you – to help children. Can you tell me more about this idea?
When I lived in Russia nearly 20 years ago, two friends of mine were teachers and we spoke about modern education practices. For example, schools emphasized traditional subjects of science and humanities, but not subjects that develop social skills and moral values. My friends published books to help teachers educate children on values and morals, based on stories and fairy tales. My wife and I decided to support this idea. We are both teachers and we decided to offer children and their parents a “vacation school” which would focus on social skills and values. So we established a school in the village where we live, and we have classes, and sport activities, and a lot of fun. Typically we have 35 children that live together during at least two weeks – and sometimes longer. They have duties and responsibilities, like to wash the dishes or to clean their room. In our camp children come from the village and also from Kyiv, and all live together to know more about life.
Our school is not teaching religion; we teach values, which are the goal of all religions and even people with no religion. All parents from whatever religion agree about the spiritual or moral values that we teach. I am a member of the Baha’i Faith, and I founded this vacation school as a service to the children and society, and not to convert anybody to my religious beliefs. Baha’is believe that everybody has the responsibility to independently seek truth and make their own decision.
You told me about the importance of the religious views. How do your religious views connect with your private life?
For me there is no difference between my private life and my religious views. To be a Baha’i, means that I try to live my life in accordance with spiritual values. We also work for social change.
In my understanding, there is no difference between the spiritual values of the Baha’is, and the Christians and the Jewish believers. They are essentially the same. We believe in one God. And I think that belief in God must include putting our values and principles into action — every day.
Ukraine is now Christian country. Communists did not believe in God. This is another big change, and another reason for optimism. The more we live our values, the happier we are, and the better our society. This is not easy; it can be a goal for our life.
So, for me, there is no real division between private life, business life, family life, religious life. It is all, just “life”.