Conscious Capitalism: Evolving the Narrative of Business

By Jarrett A. Luckett

From April 12 through April 14, hundreds of professionals from across the world came together to deepen their practical application of conscious capitalism (CC).

Conscious capitalism exists to utilize business to elevate humanity. Raj Sisodia is a distinguished professor of global business at Babson College and co-author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller, “Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business.” As a keynote speaker at the conference, he said: “It hasn’t been government, religion or nonprofits that has lifted people out of poverty. It has been business.” Have you ever thought about what has lifted people out of poverty?

Conscious capitalism is based on four tenets:

  • Higher purpose: Although profit is very important, business can have a greater focus than making money. Why a company is in existence should be more than to make a profit.
  • Stakeholder orientation: Recognizing the interdependent nature of life and business, thereby creating value for customers, employees, vendors, investors, the community, etc.
  • Conscious leadership: Conscious leaders embrace a higher purpose and focus on creating value for all stakeholders.
  • Conscious culture: This connects the stakeholder to each other and to the purpose, people and processes that comprises the company

Packing a ballroom with a massive amount of energy, over 600 attendees gathered in Chicago to learn about how to practically apply this conscious approach to business. Half were at their first national CC event and over 20 were from outside of the United States including Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica and the U.K.

After talking to many attendees, it was evident that people and companies want to be driven by more than profit. Work teams came together, CEOs brought key staff and if some CEOs could not attend the event, they sent staff so they could learn and bring back content.

Many business owners said that after being in business for years, they were tired of the main focus being simply about profit. Directors, supervisors and managers attended because they want to be better leaders and inspire their teams.

With five keynote speakers and over 30 practicums, there was a lot to learn! What can over 600 attendees do help businesses become more conscious? Sisodia said: “We must change the narrative of business.” But how to do this? Here are four themes that emerged from the conference on ways to change the narrative of business:

  1. Business is not fundamentally bad: Sisodia gave an example of how business leaders are portrayed in movies. How many movies have you seen where the business executive is a kind and loving person who cares about more than making the company money? Not many times, right? Business people are not villains and business is not bad.
    We have to change the way that we view and speak about business, recognizing the positive impact that it can have on the world.
  2. Personal growth and development: John Mackey, co-founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, spoke at the conference and emphasized that personal development is vital to becoming a conscious leader and developing a conscious company. Self-awareness is a vital key to becoming a great leader, Mackey said, and most people do not have a great degree of knowing and understanding themselves. Mackey closed his keynote stating: “Set time aside for self-awareness. If we can lead ourselves, then we can possibly lead others.”
  3. Do it: If individuals and companies want to become more conscious in their approach to business then they have to take action. They have to find ways to make changes within themselves as individuals and find ways to evolve their business into a company that is known for their conscious approach. Sisodia mentioned the every MBA student knows about Whole Foods, Costco, Patagonia and Southwest. Whether it is a large or small company, evolving our approach to business will no longer make these case study companies the minority examples of conscious business.
  4. Grow the conversation: Talk to colleagues, your staff, and people that you meet at networking events about changing the narrative of business. Talk to people about what you are doing and the changes that you are making personally as you work to become a conscious professional. Talk about what your company is doing. Like Cory Blake from Round Table Companies says, “Vulnerability is sexy.” So get vulnerable and don’t just share the good that has come from learning and growing in conscious capitalism. Talk about the challenges, the struggles, and mistakes. Talking seems so simple but it is effective and we do not need a business model to have a conversation.

Like Raj Sisodia said, business is not fundamentally bad. It does a lot of good in the world but many business are not on the path of consciousness. We are an ecosystem, intertwined by our existence and actions. Our approach to business is going to make an impact on all stakeholders. That impression is going to affect how stakeholders view business as a whole, thus creating the narrative of business.

Let’s evolve the narrative from being viewed as villains and demonstrate the heroic nature of business.  What are you going to do going forward, to evolve the narrative of business? To start, you can share this article with your team, your friends, and on social media.

Images courtesy of Conscious Capitalism 

Based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Jarrett A. Luckett is the Co-founder and Director of the first Conscious Capitalism Chapter in Wisconsin. He has a background in healthcare including organization development. Currently sitting on the board of Exploit No More, he is actively involved in anti-human trafficking efforts and speaks at conferences. In his free time he likes to watch race cars and eat pizza. You can reach him at jarrett.luckett@gmail.com or on twitter @sirluckett.