Conscious Capitalism: Put Your Heart into Your Business
Sometimes it feels like our world is falling apart; global warming, global storming, extreme poverty, the glass ceiling, and racism highlight a list that could go on and on. It also seems that many of our political leaders are failing to recognize their role as global stewards. But all is not lost. It is time for you at home and at work to step up and change things.
What does that mean? Let’s start with who you are. I’m assuming you want to live a meaningful and purposeful life while respecting all people and the environment. (If that isn’t the case, stop reading this article!) I’m also assuming you would want to do this at work as well as at home. Did you know that you could work for companies that share your core values?
Enter Conscious Capitalism
As University of Virginia Darden School of Business professor and former trustee at Conscious Capitalism, Inc., R. Edward Freeman put it, “We need red blood cells to live (the same way a business needs profits to live), but the purpose of life is more than to make red blood cells (the same way the purpose of business is more than simply to generate profits).”
The Conscious Capitalism website explains it as follows; “Unlike some businesses that believe they only exist to maximize return on investment for their shareholders, Conscious Businesses focus on their whole business ecosystem, creating and optimizing value for all of their stakeholders, understanding that strong and engaged stakeholders lead to a healthy, sustainable, resilient business.” Stakeholders are everyone connected to the business; “…employees, customers, suppliers, funders, supportive communities…”
Does Conscious Capitalism Work?
John Mackey, a successful business leader is an example of someone who created a company that lives and breathes conscious capitalism and its tenets; and it has worked. Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, has led the growth of his firm to Fortune 500 status. Fortune magazine has selected Whole Foods as a “Best Company to Work For” for 17 consecutive years. Does this strategy work?
Amazon recently offered to buy Whole Foods for $13.4 billion dollars. I’m not suggesting that the only reason for the generous offer was the way Whole Foods has run its company based upon its values. However, it would be remiss to leave that out as a contributing factor, which has likely been overlooked in the barrage of news coverage that highlights Amazon as going toe-to-toe with Walmart.
Can You Do Well By Doing Good?
I recently met with Raj Sisodia at the Conscious Capitalism 2017 Conference in Philadelphia. He is the Olin distinguished Professor of Global Business and a Whole Foods Market Research Scholar in Conscious Capitalism at Babson College. He is also the author of many books, including Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business, which he co-authored with Mackey. As a keynoter, Sisodia stressed that the businesses that focus on their values of social good for all will also be the companies that will perform the best.
When we discussed the Whole Foods-Amazon purchase, Sisodia had interesting insights. “I think that we have to not only look at Amazon’s impact on Whole Foods, but also the impact of Whole Foods and its culture of Conscious Capitalism on Amazon.” He does warn, however, “…that we need to protect companies from opportunistic takeovers that can kill the soul of a company. Conscious companies need protection from that kind of attack, and unfortunately, Whole Foods did not have these mechanisms in place.”
Mackey’s personal holding in Whole Foods is less than one percent, according to Sisodia. “He is a man that has been walking the walk without a personal agenda. He has neither taken a salary for 10 years nor any stock options.” But all of this can be lost. Sisodia goes on to suggest that, “One way to get some protection is to become a B Corporation. There are other ways, as well. Google and Facebook have different classes of shares which have a much higher voting value, so the founders cannot lose control of the company to a raider who may not share their vision for the company, its employees, and its customers.” He does add, “…that his hope and expectations are that Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon will embrace the legacy of conscious capitalism that Mackey has woven into the fiber of his company.”
Millennials Are Putting A Stake In The Ground
Millennials are speaking out about the fact that they want to work for a company that shares their values around treating employees, customers, and the environment in a fair manner. Deloitte has conducted a series of studies surrounding this topic. “…we asked Millennials, ‘What are the most important values a business should follow if it is to have long-term success?’ They responded that businesses should put employees first, and they should have a solid foundation of trust and integrity… Attention to the environment and social responsibilities were also mentioned by a significant number of Millennials.”
We, as individuals, need to take matters into our own hands and cannot rely on our government to do the right thing, right now. We can find our voice and work for companies who are conscious capitalists; vote with our money and buy from these companies and we can let our leaders know that they need to lead by looking out of the windshield and not the rearview mirror. This is the only way forward for a sustainable world.
As Will Marre posted in RealLeaders, “Be unafraid and relentless in the advocacy for a better business, healthier and happier employees, enriched customers and a sustainable future in order to create profitable growth.” For everyone.
(reprinted from Forbes)