I have long thought that the most effective way to bring about significant social and environmental change is to have it underpinned by bright and successful business minds and leaders. There is a growing network of people — including the leaders of many FTSE 100 companies building their organisations based on the idea that business is about more than making a profit. It’s about higher purpose. It is these guiding principles and best business practices that we have come to call “conscious capitalism.”
What is conscious capitalism?
To me, conscious capitalism builds on the foundations of capitalism. When we think of capitalism in simple and benign terms: it is merely the co-existence of free markets and free people or economic and political freedom. It combines voluntary exchange, entrepreneurship, competition, freedom to trade and the rule of law. When mixed with trust, compassion, collaboration and value creation they create a powerful entity, something which businesses are now embracing. This is not just exciting but significant as it means that much of the red tape tied up in conventional philanthropy can be bypassed.
Unique among all the species on this planet, we human beings are wired to create value and trade with each other. This is in our very nature. The evidence is overwhelming; whenever humans have enjoyed unencumbered freedom, we have prospered, our numbers have grown, and we have lived longer, happier and more peaceful lives. When our natural urges to interact and trade freely with others have been suppressed, we have regressed.
That is astounding progress, not just for a fortunate few but most of humanity. We, therefore, hold these truths to be self-evident: business is good because it creates value, it is ethical because it is based on voluntary exchange, it is noble because it can elevate our existence and it is heroic because it lifts people out of poverty and creates prosperity.
“Free enterprise capitalism is the most powerful system for social cooperation and human progress ever conceived. It is one of the most compelling ideas we humans have ever had. But we can aspire to even more.”
The pillars guiding and underlying a business
There are four pillars guiding and underlying a business that practices this newish philanthropic war cry:
- Higher Purpose – Recognizing that every business has a purpose that includes, but is more than, making money. By focusing on its Higher Purpose, a business inspires, engages and energizes its employers, stakeholders and competitors.
- Stakeholder Orientation – Recognizing that the interdependent nature of life and the human foundations of business, a business needs to create value with and for its various stakeholders (customers, employees, vendors, investors, communities, etc.). Like the life forms in an ecosystem, healthy stakeholders lead to a healthy business system.
- Conscious Leadership – Human social organizations are created and guided by leaders – people who see a path and inspire others to travel along the path. Conscious leaders understand and embrace the Higher Purpose of business and focus on creating value for and harmonizing the interests of the business stakeholders. They recognize the integral role of culture and purposefully cultivate conscious culture.
- Conscious Culture – This is the ethos – the values, principles, practices – underlying the social fabric of a business, which permeates the atmosphere of a business and connects the stakeholders to each other and to the purpose, people and processes that comprise the company.
All these ties into creating a way of thinking that better reflects where we are in the human journey, the state of our world today, and the innate potential of business to make a positive impact on the world.
Conscious businesses have trusting, authentic, innovative and caring cultures that make working there a source of both personal growth and professional fulfillment. They endeavor to create financial, intellectual, social, cultural, emotional, spiritual, physical and ecological wealth for all involved. The evidence is mounting that such businesses significantly outperform traditional businesses in financial terms, while also creating many other forms of well-being.
Ultimately conscious businesses create lasting value as the world evolves to even greater levels of prosperity, helping millions of people flourish and lead lives infused with passion, purpose, love and creativity.