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Pope Francis has raised the ultimate sustainable development questions: Whose moral code should prevail, to what degree and with what possible tradeoffs?

It was predictable. In response to “Laudato Si”, opponents and supporters of climate-change action yesterday vigorously reinforced their positions (“In the Footsteps of Other Popes, Francis Seeks Worldly Change”). Monitor the UN global conference next week for potential progress. [Read More: Global Compact+15: Business as a Force for Good]

Technically, it won’t be on the agenda.

But at “Global Compact#15: Business as a Force For Good” at United Nations headquarters June 23-25, the encyclical will undoubtedly be the prevailing undertone for the meeting of some 500 leaders of companies, investors, academia, civil society, labor and governments with this mission:

“Marking the UN Global Compact’s 15th anniversary, Global Compact + 15 … will show how the private sector is taking action and partnering to advance social priorities, with an emphasis on the United Nations global agenda for sustainable development to be released later this year (the Sustainable Development Goals –SDGs).

Not incidentally, one of the key sessions next week is “Caring for Climate”, the planned extension of the UN’s well established (2007) initiative to advance the role of business in addressing climate change.

Consider how the Pope’s fundamental systemic challenge relates to this upcoming Global Compact meeting — and indeed, to the in-draft post-2015 sustainable Development Goals:

“It is not enough to balance, in the medium term, the protection of nature with financial gain or the preservation of the environment with progress. Half-way measures simply delay inevitable disasters. Put simply, it is a matter of redefining our notion of progress.” [Emphasis added].

The root issue here is whether the current global economic system can be adjusted materially to accommodate the macro changes Francis forcefully recommends. It calls for an  evolution in global economics in which expanded sustainable development — private sector partnerships with governments and non governmental organizations —  must be central.

Some opponents scoffs at “Laudato Si”. Example: Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources: “No, I’m sorry, it’s a political issue. Most people have their minds made up on this issue, so any more rhetoric about the issue doesn’t add a heck of a lot more to it.”

Politics devoid of moral discourse? (Apparently, never mind societal changes such as the role of Pope John Paul II in the fall of the Soviet Union).

A more nuanced climate-change response from Thomas Pyle of the free-market group Institute of Energy Research: “The application of affordable energy makes everything we do — food production, manufacturing, health care, transportation, heating and air conditioning — better.”

Finally, UN Secretary general Ban Ki-Moon: “I thank, deeply, Pope Francis for taking such a strong stand on the need for urgent global action. His moral voice is part of a growing chorus of people from all faiths and sectors of society speaking out for climate action.”

With the need to better reconcile such fundamental and powerful views on global society, “Business as a Force for Good” will be worthy of attention. Business in Society will report on its highlights daily.